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Friday, June 22, 2007


Astragalus, the root of Astragalus membranaceus (Fisch.) Bge. and other Astragalus spp., can be used raw or cured. Astragalus is a qi (energy) tonic, with healing, antiviral, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulating, and diuretic properties. The raw version has traditionally been used most commonly for spontaneous/night sweating, edema, painful joints, chronic sores/abscesses, nonhealing wounds and ulcers. Cured astragalus has traditionally been used for general weakness, fatigue, lack of appetite, diarrhea due to spleen deficiency, rectal prolapse, and uterine bleeding. Other, more modern uses include colds and flu, diabetes, stomach ulcer, neurodermatitis, and AIDS.

Documented use of astragalus root in China dates back at least two thousand years. It is one of the major qi (energy) tonics, being used in countless formulas as well as in various soup mixes. Although the raw and cured roots are distinctly different entities, some of their uses often overlap. Most of the above listed properties and uses have a documented scientific basis, some more extensive than others.

The chemistry and pharmacology of astragalus have been extensively studied mainly by Chinese, Japanese, and European researchers. It contains many types of chemical components. The ones found to be pharmacologically active so far include polysaccharides, triterpene glycosides, and flavonoids, none of which alone account for the overall properties of astragalus. Other pharmacological effects not listed above include hypotensive, vasodilating, improvement of learning and memory, liver protectant, and increase in stamina.

Astragalus, in combination with other traditional Chinese herbs (e.g., licorice), is now widely used for its beneficial immunologic effects, especially in AIDS treatment by alternative health care physicians.

Astragalus is an herbal food with over two thousand years of safe use history. It contains a wide variety of both conventional (amino acids, minerals, etc.) and non-conventional (flavonoids, polysaccharides, triterpene glycosides, sterols, etc.) nutrients. It can serve as a source for both types of nutrients to help our body cope with the hardships of our modern lifestyle.

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including astragalus on pages 5-6. For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit http://www.earthpower.com/.

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