Astragalus - Astragalus membranaceus, Astragalus membranaceus var. mongholicus
2007-02-06 15:20:35
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Herb Name
The broad term
refers to the specific plants Astragalus membranaceus, Astragalus membranaceus var. mongholicus. Although it is commonly sold in stores as Astragalus, one may also find it sold as Huang-Qi or Milk-Vetch root. Do not confuse this with Ma-Huang, or ephedra which is associated with weight-loss and has been linked to sudden heart failure. 
Astragalus is a flowering plant native to Asia. According to historical and archaeological evidence, astragalus has been used effectively in Chinese medicine for at least 1,000 years. Specifically, the Chinese have historically used astragalus to lower Blood pressure, increase endurance, and also as a diuretic. In the west, astragalus is used by herbalists for slightly different purposes. From a clinical perspective, astragalus is used primarily to treat upsets in the digestive system. For example, astragalus is thought to ease bloating, gas, and Diarrhea. Astragalus is also thought to help speed the healing of cuts and wounds. For people with a head or chest cold, astragalus is thought to help temper the excessive production of phlegm. Astragalus is also thought to be a powerful immune-system booster and is most effective on the common cold and chronic hepatitis. Astragalus has also been indicated for treatment of allergies, chronic fatigue, Anemia, shortness of breath, and Fever. Traditionally, astragalus has also been used to help with stomach ulcers, uterine bleeding and a prolapsed uterus, however, these conditions can be very serious and you should see your doctor for treatment.
Herb Description
Some herbal medicines have not been taken very seriously by the scientific and medical community, but astragalus is not one of those. Research conducted in the United States concluded that astragalus supplements help speed recovery from chemotherapy and extend the life expectancy of those same people. In China, research on astragalus has found that the herb may provide a good benefit for people with Heart disease. The research focused on the antioxidant properties of astragalus and found that astragalus could relieve symptoms of Heart disease and improve heart function. Lastly, there has been some evidence that astragalus can strengthen the immune systems of people with AIDS. The results of the studies concerning astragalus and AIDS are inconclusive as of yet. One of the things that makes astragalus such a great treatment option, besides the fact that it seems to actually work, is that it has very few side effects.
Herb Make-up
Astragalus is a sort of wildflower, native to the northern and eastern China and Mongolia. In terms of looks, the flowers almost resemble the cowslip or the bluebells found in the south eastern United States, except the flowers of astragalus are pink and white, not blue and are much larger. Also, the astragalus plant itself is much larger than a cowslip; it can grow to be a foot and a half high and has hairy stems, almost like a large dandelion or a milkweed. 
The herb is made up of the flowering top part of the plant, including the leaves and the stems as well as the root. The root is considered the medicinal part of the plant. Traditionally, the roots of four-year-old plants are used for their medicinal properties. The root is dried and powdered for use. There are no known medicinal uses for the stems, leaves, or flowers of the plant.
Method of Intake
There are several ways in which astragalus can be used. One can take a Tincture of the dried root. You can also make a liquid tea-like drink out of the root. In clinical setting, researchers generally use an injectable form of astragalus. In health food stores, in addition to the tinctures and teas, you should also be able to find astragalus in ready-to-swallow capsules. Also, astragalus can also be purchased as an ointment that you would place on your skin. The way in which you take astragalus is totally dictated by your preference, although injections can only be had in a clinical setting. Also, if you are using astragalus to treat a cut, scrap, or wound, the best method of intake is the ointment, as taking it orally may not do much for your cuts. When it comes to choosing between the oral methods of intake, however, the choice is yours.
Astragalus can be taken by both children and adults. The method of intake determines the dosing levels. If you are going to make a tea with the dried root, you should be using between 3 and 6 grams of the dried root for every 12 ounces of water. In capsule form, the recommended dosage is 100 to 150 mg. If you are looking at ointments for use on cuts or scraps, look for those ointments that contain 10% astragalus. In the Tincture form, you should be looking for a 1:5 ratio astragalus to the suspending liquid. AS stated previously, children can take astragalus, but you must be very careful to adjust the dosages. The adult dosages are based on an average adult weighing 150 lbs. If you have a child who weighs 75 lbs, you will want to halve the amount of astragalus for the proper dosing.  You will also want to make sure that the child in question does not have a Fever
Astragalus may be helpful in treating:
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular
  • Immune Disorders
One of the great things about astragalus, as opposed to many other herbs, is that there have been no reported negative side effects. With many herbs, especially in large doses, one can expect a headache or some mild nausea. In all the studies with astragalus however, researchers have been unable to find any negative side effects.   That being said, pregnant and breast-feeding women should consult their doctors before using astragalus.
Although there are no known side-effects resulting from the use of astragalus, there is a possibility for drug interaction. If you are on any sort of anti viral medication, you should consult your doctor before taking astragalus. In addition, if you are on an immunity suppressing drug, like those taken to reduce the risk of organ refection after a transplant, you should not take astragalus as its immune boosting properties could counter act the astragalus
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