Astragalus membranaceus, also known as Astragalus propinquus, is an incredible herb packed with healing gifts. This powerful plant can enhance your health, especially during the cold winter months. In this article, we’ll explore astragalus benefits, uses, safety, recommended dosages, and more. We’ll also share a warming astragalus tea recipe you’re sure to love.
What Is Astragalus?
Astragalus is a sweet, slightly warming tonic herb traditionally used to nourish, energize, and strengthen the body. It’s often compared to ginseng for its adaptogenic qualities, but astragalus tends to be less heating and stimulating.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), astragalus is known as Huang Qi, referring to the yellow color of the roots. It’s considered a Spleen Qi Tonic that enhances energy, digestion, and immunity as well as a Lung Qi Tonic used for frequent colds, breathing issues, and spontaneous sweating.
Western herbalists frequently recommend astragalus for people showing signs of depletion, like fatigue and recurrent illnesses. The roots and polysaccharide extracts have been extensively researched for benefits against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, wound healing, and more. Refer to my previous post: cancer fighting herbs
Astragalus Supports Your Immune System
One of the most impressive astragalus benefits is its ability to modulate and strengthen the immune system. Astragalus has been shown to:
- Reduce the occurrence of common colds and respiratory illnesses
- Inhibit tumor growth
- Enhance immune system activity
Rather than blindly “boosting” immunity, astragalus modulates the immune response. This makes it beneficial for people who frequently get sick in the winter months.
By gently enhancing immune function over time, astragalus helps you fight off pathogens. The herb also balances the immune system for smarter overall operation. Those with overactive immune issues like autoimmunity and seasonal allergies have seen improvement from astragalus as well.
Astragalus as a Lung Tonic
In TCM, astragalus is used as a Lung Qi tonic. Recently, studies have confirmed its protective effects on lung health:
- When combined with pharmaceutical drugs, astragalus helped prevent asthma in children
- Astragalus extracts improved immune function in COPD patients
- Herbal formulas with astragalus alleviated radiation-induced lung damage in cancer patients
Astragalus and Cancer Therapy
Astragalus has a long history in TCM cancer therapies. Today it’s commonly used alongside conventional treatments to enhance immune function. Though research is still early, initial studies on astragalus extracts have shown promising activity against several cancer cell types, including:
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Liver cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Colon cancer
Research also indicates astragalus may increase cancer cell sensitivity to chemotherapy drugs. More research is needed to confirm these effects in humans.
Astragalus Benefits for Diabetes
Early research reveals astragalus may offer therapeutic benefits for those with type 2 diabetes. According to an article published in Frontiers in Pharmacology:
“Astragalus could improve insulin resistance by reducing inflammatory factors in plasma, increasing glucose transport in skeletal muscle, enhancing liver glycogen synthesis, and activating insulin-sensitizing hormone secretion.”
So astragalus may help protect against diabetes complications while improving insulin sensitivity.
Brain Health Benefits
There’s growing interest in astragalus for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. According to one review, astragalus is a promising herb that may:
- Modulate neurotransmitters and receptors
- Provide anti-inflammatory activity
- Inhibit amyloid aggregation
- Repair myelin sheaths
- Promote neurogenesis
- Activate signaling pathways related to brain health
Astragalus for Heart and Liver Health
Studies confirm astragalus can protect and improve heart health. The herb has also been shown to shield the liver from oxidative injury. For liver protection, herbalists often combine astragalus with milk thistle, schisandra, and turmeric.
Astragalus and Kidney Function
One case study found astragalus formulas improved kidney function and kidney size in an elderly woman with kidney failure who wished to avoid dialysis. The herb has also been used alongside drugs to treat nephritis caused by lupus complications.
Using Astragalus for Anemia and Recovery from Blood Loss
Astragalus has long been used to build blood. It can be useful for anemia related to poor digestion. One study showed combining astragalus injections with an anemia drug provided better outcomes compared to the drug alone. In TCM, astragalus aids postpartum recovery and after severe blood loss.
Wound Healing and Skin Health
According to traditional texts, astragalus promotes wound discharge to help chronic sores and ulcerations heal. It also generates new tissue growth. One preliminary study showed topical astragalus extracts may reduce hyperpigmentation.
Astragalus Plant Information
Astragalus is a perennial plant in the pea family. It grows 3-5 feet tall on creeping stems with yellowish white flowers similar to peas. The roots are harvested after 4 years of growth. Astragalus prefers sandy, well-drained soil.
There are over 2000 species in the Astragalus genus, but Astragalus propinquus and Astragalus membranaceus are the main varieties used medicinally. A few other species like A. boeticus may have similar properties.
The long taproots are yellow inside. Herbalists use the root, which is prepared as a powder, cut roots, or in slices.
Is Astragalus Safe?
Astragalus is generally very safe but does have some precautions:
- Due to possible immune stimulation, those taking immune suppressant medications should exercise caution with astragalus.
- Avoid astragalus if you have signs of heat/yin deficiency according to TCM principles.
- Don’t use astragalus during acute illness; it’s best taken preventatively.
- Make sure to use properly identified Astragalus propinquus or membranaceus species. Other astragalus varieties may not be safe.
- Avoid products with artificial yellow root dyes.
How to Take Astragalus
To get the most from astragalus, take it consistently long-term. Traditional dosing is 10-30 grams per day or higher. Concentrated extracts used in research tend to be in capsule or injectable form.
Astragalus can be prepared as:
- Decoction: Simmer sliced roots in water for 20+ minutes to extract the beneficial polysaccharides, then drink the strained tea.
- Powdered herb: Take capsules or mix the powder into food or drinks.
- Tincture: Use a ratio of 1:5 astragalus root to menstruum and take 2-5 mL up to 3 times per day.
- Food: Add astragalus slices or powder to soups, broths, grains, teas, etc. This is an excellent way to get the benefits of astragalus.
Our favorite way to use astragalus is in the following delicious and warming spiced tea recipe.
Astragalus Spiced Tea Recipe
Yield: 3 cups
- 20-30 grams astragalus root, sliced or granules
- 1 Tbsp dried orange peel
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1⁄2 Tbsp cinnamon chips
- 1⁄2 tsp whole peppercorns
- 1-2 cardamom pods
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 1⁄2 cups water
- Add all ingredients to a pan with 2 1⁄2 cups water. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain out the herbs. Add milk and honey to taste and enjoy!
Drink this nourishing tea within 36 hours for best results. It’s the perfect way to get your daily astragalus fix!
Astragalus root is an incredible tonic herb that gently supports many body systems. It enhances immune function, lung health, energy levels, and digestion while protecting the heart, liver and kidneys.
Early research shows astragalus also has potential against type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, wound healing, anemia recovery, and more.
Taken consistently over time, astragalus can promote longevity and improved quality of life. Though more research is needed, this ancient herb remains a mainstay in any herbal apothecary.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the diverse astragalus benefits. Try adding this healthy herb to your routine and let us know your experiences in the comments below!