Other Names Chinese milkvetch, Huang Qi, Milk vetch root, Yellow leader, Yellow emperor, Yellow vetch
Astragalus is a member of the pea family and it looks like a typical pea family member. It can reach up to four feet tall with fern-like foliage, drooping white flowers in the summer, and seed pods in the fall.
History and Folklore
Astragalus has been used in China as a popular herbal tonic for centuries.
There are actually more than 1000 species of vetch worldwide, some are poisonous so make sure you’re getting the right species!
In ancient Greek, astragalos referred to knucklebones, usually from sheep, gaming pieces made from them, and the milkvetch plant. I don’t know the connection.
This is a hardy perennial that grows well in temperate climates. It should be planted in full sun at least a foot apart in slightly sandy, well-drained soil. Rub seeds between to pieces of fine sandpaper before planting in February before moving them out to your garden after the last danger of frost has passed.
Harvesting & Storage
Dig up the roots in autumn of the fourth or fifth year.
Astragalus is a Chi tonic. Chi is the vital force of the body in Chinese lore. Applied to Western traditions, it could be used to increase energy for a variety of applications.
Astragalus strengthens the body’s resistance to disease and increases energy by enhancing cell growth and longevity and stimulating the synthesis of antibodies. It has a tonic effect on the liver, heart, lungs, and kidneys. It lowers blood pressure and increases circulation. It enhances interferon production, preventing viruses from replicating inside the body.
Common uses include; chronic fatigue, cold extremities, chronic autoimmune disorders, Epstein Barr, stress, night sweats, appetite loss, mononucleosis, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers, hepatitis, asthma, arthritis, nervousness, to increase fertility and to aid in the mending of broken bones.
Research has shown effectiveness in enhanced immunity, cardiovascular health, and male infertility and has been used to support cancer therapy.
To protect health on a long-term basis, it is recommended that you take astragalus in a three week on, one week off regimen.
Astragalus is very safe and no adverse side effects have been reported in human or animal studies.
The roots may be cooked in stews (remove before serving) or the powder may be added to various recipes for flavor. It doesn’t make for a tasty tea but gives a nice nutty aroma to savory simmers.
This is a good herb to switch off with echinacea. Many herbs start to lose effectiveness when they are taken for a long period of time.
Astralagus should be avoided during menstruation and when you have acute infections.