Ultimate Herbals Guide: Astragalus

Ultimate Herbals Guide: Astragalus

Your Herb Guide to Astragalus

What is Astragalus?

Native to China, astragalus has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine – a whole medical system that originated in China based on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of qi and imbalance in the forces of yin and yang. Practices such as herbs, meditation, massage, and acupuncture seek to aid healing by restoring the yin-yang balance and the flow of qi.

In the United States, the herb gained popularity in the 1980s.

There are actually over 2,000 species of astragalus; however, the two related species Astragalus Membranaceus and Astragalus Mongholicus are the ones primarily used for health purposes.

This Herb Guide provides everything you need to know about the herb Astragalus: it’s common names, how and why it’s used, whether it works and what it works for best, research conducted, whether it’s safe to use as an herbal dietary supplement, and the potential side effects and cautions. An herb, in general, is a plant or part of a plant which includes the flowers, leaves, bark, fruit, seeds, stems, and roots of the plant, used for its flavor, scent, or potential therapeutic properties.

Common Name – Astragalus, Bei Qi, Huang Qi, Ogi, Hwanggi, Milk Vetch

Latin Names - Astragalus Membranaceus, Astragalus Mongholicus

What health conditions is Astragalus commonly thought to treat?
  • Historically, astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine, usually in combination with other herbs, to support and enhance the immune system.
  • It is still widely used in China for chronic hepatitis and as an adjunctive therapy in cancer.
  • It is also used to prevent and treat common colds and upper respiratory infections.
  • Astragalus has also been used for heart disease.
How is Astragalus used as an herbal dietary supplement?

The root of the astragalus plant is typically used in soups, teas, extracts, or capsules. Astragalus is generally used with other herbs, such as ginseng, angelica, and licorice.

What the Science Says

Does Astragalus work to help the conditions it’s commonly known to treat? Prove it!
  • The evidence for using astragalus for any health condition is limited. Results from small or preliminary studies suggest that astragalus may benefit heart function and help the immune system fight infections.
  • A few studies have shown potential benefits for using astragalus – in combination with another herb, glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum)-as an adjunctive therapy for cancer. In general, however, these studies were not well designed.
  • Currently, researchers are studying the effects of astragalus on the body, particularly on the immune system.

Side Effects and Cautions

Is Astragalus safe to take as an herbal dietary supplement?
What should I be careful of while supplementing my diet with Astragalus?
  • Astragalus is considered safe for most adults. Its possible side effects are not well known because astragalus is generally used in combination with other herbs.
  • Astragalus may interact with medications that suppress the immune system, such as the drug cyclophosphamide taken by cancer patients and similar drugs taken by organ transplant recipients.
  • People should avoid using astragalus species such as “locoweed” that grow in the United States, as these other species may have different effects and side effects.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors