The benefits and uses of Astragalus/Huang Qi/Milk Vetch Root
Astragalus Membranaceus, or Huang Qi, in Chinese, is also called milk vetch root or locoweed. It is a very useful tonifying herb in Chinese and Western herbal medicine. Even in large doses, it is non-toxic. It can be added to stews, soups, chai tea, anything that simmers for about 15 minutes. Just remove the herb before serving, as it is a bit too woody to eat. It is also available in a granulated form that can be stirred in to any tea, and is an ingredient in many Chinese herbal formulas. It is available at Shuswap Acupuncture Clinic.
Its many benefits include:
The ability to stimulate certain immune functions while depressing others; it is used as an overall body tonic used to strengthen digestion, increase metabolic activity, and stimulate the immune system and is highly beneficial for fatigue, low vitality, and frequently recurring infections. Useful for HIV/AIDS, diabetes, immune suppression due to cancer treatments, lupus and myasthenia gravis. To normalizes the function of the heart and kidneys, it is best used long term, on a daily basis.
Angina, atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure and heart attack - Chinese clinical studies have found that astragalus improves circulation after a heart attack by increasing the action of the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber.
Bladder infections - treats infections caused by Proteus, which can cause kidney stones.
Burns - astragalus increases the body's production of the immune-system chemical interleukin-2 IL-2. It also releases polysaccharides that act in the same way as important antibodies, complementing their production by the immune system.
Cancer - increases the activity of lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells, an immune system component. Astragalus alone is effective in preventing depletion of white blood cells during chemotherapy. In studies in China, astragalus improves recovery time from both chemotherapy and radiation.
Common cold – used during cold season, it reduces the number of colds caught and shortens the duration of those that are caught. Increases the body's production of interferon, which helps to protect against viruses invading the cells, helps the macrophages, immune cells that kill of viruses, to become faster and more efficient. Don’t take it while you have a cold.
Diabetes – A clinic study for the eye disease called diabetic retinopathy showed improvement in 82% of participants.
HIV/AIDS - stimulates the activity of T-helper cells depleted by AIDS without stimulating the activity of T-suppressor cells, which would deactivate them.
Infertility - astragalus seed is used to treat infertile men; studies show that it increases sperm motility.
Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis - stimulates the natural killer (NK) cells without stimulating the detrimental components involved in rheumatoid arthritis- the B cells, and increases the immune system's production of interferon, which stimulates the creation of proteins that prevent viral infection.
Myasthenia gravis - Although astragalus is often an immune stimulant, it is an immune suppressant in the treatment of myasthenia gravis.
In Chinese medicine terms, it:
Tonifies the Spleen and augments the qi, which results in lack of appetite, fatigue, and diarrhea.
Raises the yang qi of the Spleen and Stomach, for prolapse disorders such as uterus, stomach, or rectum, or uterine bleeding.
Augments the protective qi, stabilizes the exterior, for deficiency with spontaneous sweating, frequent colds, shortness of breath, and can produce a therapeutic sweat when diaphoretics do not work.
Tonifies the qi and Blood for post partum fever due to qi and Blood deficiency, and recovery stage from severe loss of blood.
Promotes urination and reduces edema, for edema from deficiency.
Promotes the discharge of pus and generates flesh, for chronic ulcerations and sores due to deficiency that have formed pus but have not drained or healed well.
For wasting and thirsting disorder (diabetes), numbness of the limbs, paralysis, pain.
Cautions with taking astragalus:
For best results, do not use during acute infection, or during colds and flu, especially if there is fever or a skin infection.
It can prevent side effects from Cibalith-S, Eskalith, Lithobid, Lithonate and Lithotabs, all forms of lithium used in the treatment of bipolar mood disorder. It is incompatible with prescription medications often given after a heart attack. As much as 2% of astragalus root is made up of coumarins, which are blood thinners. Not for patients on warfarin, immunosuppressive therapy such as people with autoimmune diseases and organ transplants.
Balch, Phyllis. Prescription for Herbal Healing
Bensky, Dan. Materia Medica
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods