The Collison Newsletter September 2014





Astragalus membranaceous is a perennial plant, up to a metre tall, which is native to northern and eastern parts of China, as well as Mongolia and Korea. It is also called Huang Qi, Hwanggi, and Milk Vetch. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, often in combination with other herbs, and is considered to be one of the most important herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Chinese name of the herb, Huang Qi, means "yellow leader", because the root is yellow.


The part of the plant that is used medicinally is the root. The root is usually harvested from 4-year-old plants.

Therapeutic Uses

Astragalus is called an adaptoge or an adaptogen. These are important in herbal medicine, as they are believed to help protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, or emotional stress. Adaptogens are herbs (or plants) that decrease cellular stress. They were originally identified in 1947 and, at that time, defined as ".... non-specific remedies that increase resistance to a broad spectrum of harmful factors (stressors) of different physical, chemical and bio chemical natures." The more recent updated definition states that adaptogens are a "new class of metabolic regulators which increase the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factors."

Astragalus contains antioxidants which protect cells against damage caused by free radicals, the by-products of cellular energy. These antioxidants are mainly flavonoids and other polyphenols.

Astragalus has immune-strengthening properties, protecting and supporting this important system of the body. Although more evidence is needed, one of the ways astragalus is thought to work is by increasing the production of immune cells. It is also thought to have both anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Researchers in the Unites States have investigated astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been compromised by chemotherapy or radiation. In these studies, astragalus supplements have been shown to speed recovery and extend life expectancy.

Astragalus also has anti-inflammatory properties.

When astragalus is combined with other herbs it is used to strengthen the body against disease, ie it is used as a tonic.

The combination of these properties makes it a very useful herb to protect the liver and maintain healthy function of this vital organ. It is regarded as a "liver tonic".


Dose of Astragalus

Astragalus root is available as capsules, tablets, powered root, fluid extract and as tincture. A large variety of brands are available from

The capsules and tablets generally contain 500 mg of standardised extract of the astragalus root. The standardisation is to 0.4% 4-hydroxy-3-methoxy isoflavone 7-sug.

The usual adult dose is: 1000 mg of standardised extract two or three times a day. Non-standardised capsules or tablets are not recommended.

Powered root: 500-1000 mg, three or four times a day.

Fluid extract and tincture are the extract in 25-30% ethanol: 3-5ml three times a day.

At the recommended dose, astragalus is essentially free of side effects. It may counteract the immune-suppressing effects of cyclophosphamide, a medication used to reduce the chances of rejection in transplant recipients, as well as corticosteroids. Caution should be exercised in the presence of autoimmune disorders.


*Copyright 2014: The Huntly Centre.

Disclaimer: All material in the website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.

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