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Updated on October 29, 2007
Astragalus membranaceus
Astragalus membranaceus

Astragalus, also known as Huang Qi, is one of the most treasured and commonly used herbs in Chinese medicine. Loosely translated, Huang Qi means yellow energy or yellow leader. This comes from the yellow color of the root, which is native to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Mongolia. It is being cultivated in other parts of the world now, as it's popularity and reputation are growing.

Astragalus is gaining the respect of western health practitioners as research is pointing to its use in a number of applications.

Immune stimulation formulas generally will contain astragalus, and for good reason. Preliminary studies are finding that better than a thousand years of using astragalus to fight and prevent illness was right.

The studies have found that astragalus seems to be working on the immune system by several different fronts.

Astragalus increases the level of certain immune cells in our systems that can fight microbes and viruses. These include the macrophages. Macrophages are the ones you learned about in school. They circulate around your system waiting to find a bacterium (or other microbe). When they find one, they, in the simplest of terms, engulf it and eat it up!

Our bodies also make something called "killer cells" aka- T-cells. These cells are critical and if we can do anything to keep their levels up, we should. These cells again, float around waiting to find something that "doesn't belong" and then, they attack. What doesn't belong includes not only viruses, but cancer cells. What most people don't realize is that we are potentially developing cancer daily. Scary right?

We have abnormal cells forming all the time. It is the killer cells taking them out and keeping them from running amok, thereby keeping us safe and cancer free.

Most of us have heard of interferon. Many, however, don't know that our bodies secrete interferon. Interferon is an amazing substance that has the capability of restricting a virus's replication. A virus cannot do as much damage if it cannot replicate itself unchecked.

Astragalus has shown amazing stuff in studies where interferon is concerned. Those taking astragalus had a marked increase in their production of interferon. Even more amazing, the elevation remained for two months after the patients stopped their supplementation of astragalus.

Astragalus is obviously then used as an immune booster and to fight colds and flu. Many use it during cold and flu season as a daily preventative or tonic to keep their immune system strong. This would be an especially good idea if you are one of those who are prone to upper respiratory infections, have asthma, or COPD.

Astragalus is used as a supportive therapy in cancer patients. It enhances the immune system which is so important for those receiving chemotherapy. It is also important due to the action of those killer cells discussed earlier. Additionally, one study has shown astragalus to have a protective effect on the liver.

A typical dose for an adult in capsule form would be 1,000 mg three times per day. In tincture form, 20-30 drops three times per day. For children, purchase a product specifically for children and follow label directions. Some people have difficulty with bloating or loose stools while using astragalus. Try lowering the dosage, if this does not work, or more serious side effects occur, discontinue use. Astragalus is a very safe herb however.

Astragalus is not going to cure cancer, the common cold, or the flu. It may however be a strong weapon in the arsenal to fight them. In my mind, anything that can build the immune system is like an insurance policy on the future.


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    • cnpankhurst profile image


      6 years ago from Ireland

      This is a great article. It is easy to read and understand and it helped me no end in understanding the relationship between the herb and interferon. Thanks.


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