Astragalus membranaceus-Astragalus

Family: Leguminosae

Other Names: Milk-vetch root, huang qi, Astragalus propinquus

hazardsmallMany members of this genus, Astragalus contain toxic glycosides. All species with edible seedpods can be distinguished by their fleshy round or oval seedpod that looks somewhat like a greengage.  A number of species can also accumulate toxic levels of selenium when grown in soils that are relatively rich in that element. Toxic doses may result in neurological dysfunction leading to paralysis . Should be used cautiously in immunosuppressed patients.


Native to China as a vetch it can tolerate most soil types and sun levels although it likes good drainage in the soil.

Description of Astragalus:

Astragalus membranaceus is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in). 
It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera. It can fix Nitrogen. 

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. Needs full sun. It prefers dry soil.

I, Doronenko [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Cultivation of Astragalus:

Astragalus requires a dry well-drained soil in a sunny position. Prefers a sandy slightly alkaline soil. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c. There is some disagreement over the correct name for this species, with several authorities seeing it as part of A. penduliflorus. The Flora of China treats it as a sub-species of A. mongholicus, as A. mongholicus dahurica. Plants are intolerant of root disturbance and are best planted in their final positions whilst still small. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. Many members of this genus can be difficult to grow, this may be due partly to a lack of their specific bacterial associations in the soil.

Propagation of Astragalus:

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. A period of cold stratification may help stored seed to germinate. Stored seed, and perhaps also fresh seed, should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in hot water before sowing – but make sure that you do not cook the seed. Any seed that does not swell should be carefully pricked with a needle, taking care not to damage the embryo, and re-soaked for a further 24 hours. Germination can be slow and erratic but is usually within 4 – 9 weeks or more at 13°c if the seed is treated or sown fresh. As soon as it is large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.


Culinary uses:

none known

Astragalus_membranaceus_botanicalMedicinal uses:

Actions: Immunomodulator, Adaptogen, Antibacterial, Cancer, Cardiotonic, Diuretic, Febrifuge, Hypoglycaemic, Hypotensive, Pectoral, Tonic, Uterinetonic, Vasodilator.

Part Used: Root.

Indications: Benefits of Astragalus have been known since ancient times in Traditional Chinese Medicine, for treating and healing diabetes, and to improve the functioning of the lungs, adrenal glands and the gastrointestinal tract, to increase metabolism and sweating, promote healing, and reduce fatigue. It has become an important remedy in the west since its effects upon the immune system came to light. As the power of immunological research is focused on medicinal herbs a whole new array of effects are being discovered. The polysaccharides in Astragalus have been shown to intensify phagocytosis of reticulo-endothelial systems, stimulate pituitary-adrenal cortical activity and restore depleted red blood cell formation in bone marrow. Astragalus is also one of the herbs known to stimulate the bodies natural production of interferon. The therapeutic potential offered is very exciting. The conclusion being drawn by most western herbalist’s is that Astragalus is an ideal remedy for anyone who might be immuno-compromised in any way. Has been examined for use in AIDS.

An extract of A. propinquus called TA-65 can activate telomerase, extending the lengths of the shortest telomeres which protect the terminal DNA at the ends of all chromosomes

Preparations & Dosage:

Decoction: put 1 teaspoonful of the root into a cup of water, bring to boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Esoteric uses of Astragalus:
none known
The chemistry:

Constituents: Glycosides, Polysaccharides, choline, betaine, rumatakenin, [[beta]]-sitosterol

Citations from the Medline database for the genus Astragalus:

Astragalus, Chai ZN [Effects of Codonopsis pilosular-Astragalus injection on the cyclicnucleotide levels and phosphodiesterase activity in platelets]

Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih (1984 Aug) 4(8):486-7 (Published In Chinese)Chai ZN [Effects of Codonopsis pilosulae-Astragalus injection on superficial activity and ultrastructure of platelets]

Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih (1984 Aug) 4(8):484-5 (Published In Chinese) Chang CY Hou YD Xu FM [Effects of Astragalus membranaceus on enhancement of mouse natural killer cell activity]

Chung Kuo I Hsueh Ko Hsueh Yuan Hsueh Pao (1983 Aug) 5(4):231-4 Chen LJ Shen ML Wang MY Zhai SK Liu MZ [Effect of Astragalus polysaccharides on phagocytic function in mice(author’s transl)]