Herb of the Month

Scientific names: Astragalus membranaceus,
Astragalus membranaceus var. mongholicus.

Common names: Astragalus also is known as
huang chi and huang qi.

Safety rating:
●...No safety concerns despite wide use. No side
effects reported, even in high dosages.  Follow
label recommendations.

What is Astragalus?

The genus Astragalus is an enormous group of
more than 2,000 species distributed worldwide,
commonly known as milk vetches. The Chinese
species A. membranaceus and the related A.
mongholicus are thought to be varieties of the
same species. Both are perennial herbs native to
the northern provinces of China and are cultivated
in China, Korea, and Japan. The dried root is used
medicinally. Astragalus roots are sold as long
pieces, which have a tough, fibrous skin with a
lighter interior. Some products are produced by
frying the roots with honey, although the untreated
root itself has a sweet, licorice-like taste.

What is it used for?

Traditional uses

Astragalus root is a very old, well-known drug in
traditional Chinese medicine, and currently is
official in the Chinese Pharmacopeia. It is used in
China principally as a tonic and for treatment of
diabetes and nephritis. It is an important
component of Fu-Zheng therapy in China, where
the goal is to restore immune system function.
There is extensive Chinese literature on the drug.


The most common use of astragalus root in herbal
medicine in the US is as an immunostimulant to
counteract the immune suppression associated
with cancer therapy. This use is based on limited
observations made in laboratory research.


A second use of astragalus root in the US is for
HIV infection. A series of reports from China claim
that treatment with herbal mixtures including
astragalus can aid a small fraction of HIV patients.

Other uses

Astragalus often is recommended for the
prevention of the common cold.

What is the recommended dosage?

Typical recommendations call for 2 to 6 g of the
powdered root daily.

How safe is it?

The root appears to be safe.

Information regarding safety and efficacy in
pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


Astragalus may have immunostimulating effects.
Therefore, astragalus possibly may interfere with
the immunosuppressive effects of cyclosporine
and the cortisone class of drugs. Avoid taking
astragalus at the same time as these, or other
immunomodulating, drugs.


Astragalus. Review of Natural Products.
factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2005. Available
from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April
16, 2007.

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