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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

AstragalusAstragalus, Other

aka Chinese Milk Vetch, Membranous Milk Vetch, Milk Vetch
(Astragalus membranaceus)
[huang-qi] (Mandarin) and [bok kee] (Cantonese)

DRUG INTERACTIONS: There has been some apparent enhancement of alpha-recombinant-interferon-1 and interferon-2 in clinical studies. Also enhancement of acyclovir in studies of mice. Can offset or minimize the immunosuppressant activity of cyclosporine and corticosteroids. May help to reduce liver damage caused by stilbenemidine. May enhance activity of interleukin-2.

CONTAINS: Based on 0% moisture content per 100 grams: Very high in crude fiber (20%), dietary fiber (60%), Magnesium (500mg), silicon (2.0mg) and zinc (0.50mg)
High in ash (8%) and iron (2.0mg).
Average in: Chromium (0.10mg), fat (2.0%), riboflavin (0.25mg), selenium (0.10mg), sodium (40mg), and thiamine (0.20mg)
Low in: Calcium (350mg), calories (0.60g), cobalt (0.25mg), phosphorus (65mg), potassium (800mg), and protein (9.0%)
Trace amounts of manganese, niacin, vitamin A.
Also: Aromatic compounds (essential oil, bitter compounds), saponins (not characterized, flavonoids, rutin, quercetin and others), and mucilaginous compounds (polysaccharides, gum: 10%).
Water content when fresh is 84%, water content when air dried is 6 to 7%.

Bitter extracts are diuretic, antiseptic and antispasmodic. One study shows that these extracts stimulate activity of white blood cells (an important component of the immune system). Extract from plant helped restore normal immune function in cancer patients with impaired immunity (Dr. G. Mavligit at University of Texas in Houston). Appears to restore normal immune function.
Polysaccharides have been shown to intensify activity of certain white blood cells, stimulate pituitary-adrenal cortical activity, and restore depleted red blood cell formation in bone marrow. Known to stimulate body's natural production of interferon. Useful for those immuno-compromised in any way.
One study of patients with low NKCs (natural killer cells) were given injections of astragalus extract for 4 months. Compared with those who did not receive the extract, their NKC activity increased substantially; other components of their immune systems were stimulated and their symptoms improved.
In a study by the Chinese, 10 people whose heart muscles were infected by Coxackie B virus (causes the heart inflammation known as myocarditis) received injections of astragalus extract for 3 to 4 months. NKCs rose 11 to 45%. They also showed increased levels of alpha- and gamma-interferon (45%). Symptoms improved.
In one study done at the University of Texas at Houston, astragalus completely restored the immune function of cells taken from cancer patients.

Milk vetches (Leguminosae family) are used medicinally and for food and fodder in many parts of the world.
A. membranaceus is an important herb in both Ayurvedic and Chinese systems of medicine and is considered on a par with ginseng as a tonic. It is a perennial legume native to northern China and Mongolia. Fern-like fronds of leaves grow about 6 inches long. The branched tap root is about 8 inches long. Seed pods resemble minature soybeans. It contains bitter principles that are thought to be responsible for its folk medicine claims. In Chinese medicinal philosophy, it is said to enhance the "metal element" which has to do with the body's immune system. Compounds have not been characterized, but crude extracts of the root have shown a variety of important properties. This is Asia's answer to the North American Echinacea plant. Other immune boosting herbs with similar action are echinacea and boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) (Also: Ligustrum lucidum and Glycyrrhiza glabra [licorice]).

PROPAGATION: By seed in spring or autumn.
NEEDS: Sandy, slightly alkaline soil in full sun.
HARVEST: Roots harvested in autumn at 4 to 5 years. Before completely dry cut into thin diagonal slices or slice lengthwise. Roots dried for use in decoctions, powders, and tinctures as well as being a staple ingredient in Chinese soups.
PART USED: Root; dried root is jet black on surface; inner tissues of a white outer ring enclose a pale yellow inner core. Used in Chinese medicine sometimes after roasting with honey.

Bitter, sweet, tonic; stimulates immune system, spleen, lungs, liver, circulatory and urinary sytems; antiseptic, diuretic, antispasmodic, carminative; lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels, antipyretic; non-specific immune stimulant, potent anti-viral activity, stimualtes T-cell production.
Definite action = Immune stimulant (bitter principles), diuretic (bitter principles), antiseptic (bitter principles), antispasmodic (bitter principles), carminitive (bitter principles).
Secondary adaptogen. Invigorates vital energy. Strengthens body resistence. Has normalizing effect on body functions. Powerful immune strengthener. Secondary use as a toning diuretic herb in kidney inflammation formulas. Good tonic herb to use throughout the year for aiding digestion as well as promoting immunity.
Has been used to build the immune system in chronic disease, allergies, and recurring infection. Combined with nettles, licorice and calendula flowers for long-term immune building.
Has been used by some herbalists as a tea to be taken for to help prevent and treat arrhythmia.
Probable action = Antitumor and diaphoretic.
Extract stimulates T-cells and restores immune function in cancer patients with impaired function. Supportive therapy for chemo and cancer. Extracts are bactericidal, hypoglycemic and hypotensive.
Has the ability to inihibit cell RNA metabolism and prolong life span of some human lung diploid cell strains.
Helps to protect adrenal cortical function of people treated with radiation or chemo.
In Chinese medicine it is used to invigorate vital energy (chi) and strengthen body resistence and promote tissue regeneration, promote diuresis, and disperse poisons. May prevent the spread of malignant cancer cells to healthy tissue.
Adaptogenic and normalizing effects on nervous system, hormone system,and immune system.
Has been used to treat infections of the mucous membranes of the body, especially the urinary and respiratory tracts.
One of the traditional Chinese materia medica, used as a tonic for upper respiratory functions; has prophylactic effect on the upper respiratory tract infections in chronic bronchitis patients.
Has been used for asthma, hayfever, infections, diabetes, edema, nephritis, ulcers, prolapse of digestive organs, kidney problems, and slow healing skin eruptions.
Said to rejuvenate digestive organs.
Has been used to tone the spleen, and said to be useful in spleen deficiency problems such as poor appetite, fatigue and diarrhea.
Has been used to promote discharge of pus.
Has been especially noted in Chinese medicine for cases of diabetes (root is frequently used in polyherbal prescriptions for diabetes mellitus), and for reducing complications of poor circulation such as as high blood pressure and failure to heal wounds. Hypotensive action due to gamma-aminobutyric acid (0.01-0.09%). RAH (Radix Astragali sev Hedysari).
Has been prescribed for malaria.
As a diuretic has been prescribed for megalospleny.
Has been used for anemia and blood disorders.
Has been used for pneumonia and those at risk for contracting it.
Has been used for thymus repair.
Commonly combined with ginseng to protect against winter colds and viruses; combined with Angelica polymorpha var. sinensis for poor circulation and low energy; combined with Atractylodes macrocephala (Chinese thistle daisy) and Ledebouriella seseloides for allergies and frequent colds; decocted alone with Atractylodes for colds, edema and oliguria (abnormally low exrection of urine).
Has been decocted with Atractylodes and Codonopsis for anorexia, rectocele (prolapse of the rectum into the perineum), uterine prolapse and weakness.
Has been decocted with cassia, jujube and ginger or angelica for arthritic pain and numbness.
Root has been used for cancer, anasarca (generalized massive edema in subcutaneous tissue), diarrhea, dysuria, edema, malnutrition, nightsweats, renitis (inflammation of the kidneys), weakness, boils and nervousness.
Used in the traditional compounds of: Biota and Zizyphus, Ginseng and Licorice, Dong Quai and Peony, Astragalus and Ganoderma, Ginseng and Phaffia, Anemarrhena and Astragalus, Eucommia and Achryanthes, Alisma and Hoelen.
In some parts of the world it is an important folk medicine herb for preventing cancer. Some herbalists prescribe astragalus to people who are undergoing chemo and radiation treatments (should be only under professional guidance).

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
Normal dose is 9 to 15 grams in decoction.
FRESH ROOT = 2 to 4 tbsp
DRIED ROOT = 3 to 6 grams
EXTRACT = 4.5 gram of dried root to 22 ml alcohol and 23 ml water
CAPSULES = 1 to 3 (440mg) daily.
TEA = 1 to 2 tsp dried herb steeped in boiling water.
DECOCTION = 1 to 2 tsp of dried root drunk 3 times daily/ OR: 1 tsp to 8 oz. cold water, simmer 10 to 15 minutes and then strain. For children use 1/2 to 1 cup 3 times daily.
TINCTURE = 2 ml taken 3 times daily. For children use 1/2 tsp 3 times daily.
GLYCERITE = For infants use 20 to 40 drops 3 times daily; for older children use 1/2 to 1 tsp 3 times daily.
In Chinese medicine, those with OBESITY caused by deficient spleen yang use astragalus: 4 to 6 slices of root are boiled in a cup or two of water and 2 to 3 cups are taken daily.
For children undergoing CHEMO or radiation: 4 to 6 capsules daily


NOTE: A. hoantchy, A. mongholicus and A. scaberrimus are synonyms or are related species cited as remedies for cancer, leukemia, and tumors.

Astragalus aborginum
(North American)
No Image Available

The roots were eaten by the Cree and Stone Indians.

Astragalus carolinianus
(N. American)

The roots were gathered in spring or fall and eaten raw or boiled by the Blackfoot tribe of Native Americans.

Astragalus caryocarpus
(N. America)

The plumlike pods were eaten raw or boiled (Montana).

Astragalus complanatus

Used in China as a liver and kidney tonic since the first century A.D.

Astragalus diphysus
(N. America)
No Image Available

The peas are hulled and boiled for food; the pods eaten fresh or boiled, or else dried for winter use (New Mexico).

Astragalus hoantchy
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Regarded as a diuretic, pectoral and tonic and is used for cachexia (wasting diseases and malnutrition), cancer of the uterus, fever, leukemia and malaria.
Used to increase energy and build resistance to disease and weakness. Has warming properties and is tonic to the spleen, kidneys, lungs, and blood. Balances energy of all internal organs.
Helps to neutralize fevers and improve digestion.
Valuable tonic and especially for those under 35.
Specific for all wasting and exhausing diseases because it strengthens the body's resistance and is a valuable diuretic.
For FATIGUE = 2 capsules of equal parts of ginseng and astragalus are taken as needed but not to exceed 8 per day.

Astragalus nitidus
(North America)
No Image Available

Used by the Cheyenne for poison ivy.

Astragalus pictus filifolius
(North America)
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The roots were dug after a rain and eaten as sweets by the Hopi of Arizona.

Astragalus sinicus
[hong hua cai]

Has been used for blenorrhea (profuse mucous discharge from the vagina or urethra), and as an unguent for burns.
Contains canavanine and trigonelline. Seeds contain 36.6% protein and 5.3% fat.

Gum Tragacanth
aka Syrian Tragacanth and Gum Dragon
Astragalus gummifer

The gum is collected from at least 20 species but mainly from A. gummifer which was known and used in ancient Greece. It is a low evergreen or semi-evergreen, umbrella-shaped thorny shrub, hardy to 23 degrees. It is 12 inches high and wide with spiny-stalked, pinnate leaves and axillary clusters of downy, white pea flowersand is found in upland forests and grasslands in the >Middle East and especially in Kurdistan.
It is a mucilaginous herb that has recently been shown to stimulate the immune system and suppress tumors.
It is used mainly as a stabilizing and thickening agent in the food and pharmaceutical industries and in products like toothpaste, processed cheese and candy.
The part used is the exudate (gum) which is collected from 2nd-year plants by incising the stem base. A vertical slit will give a flat ribbon shape piece, and punctures will give tear shapes; these have a horny appearance, are nearly colorless or are faintly yellow and are marked with numerous concentric ridges; flakes will break with a short fracture and are odorless and nearly tasteless; soaked in cold water, they swell and form a gelatinous mass, 8 or 10 percent only, which will dissolve. It is then dried for use as a powder. The portion soluble in water contains chiefly polyarabinan-trigalaetangeddic acid; the insoluble part is called bassorin. Tragacanth also contains water, traces of starch, cellulose and nitrogenous substances, yielding about 3 percent ash.
It is demulcent but because of its incomplete solubility is not often used internally. It is used much for the suspension of heavy, insoluble powders to impart consistency to lozenges, being superior to gum arabic for this purpose. It is also used to make emulsions, mucilages, etc. Mucilage of this, has been used as an application to burns.
It has also been employed at times by manufacturors for stiffening calico; crape, etc. It has been known to be adulterated with Indian Gum (Coplospermum gossypium), acacia, dextrin wheat and corn starch.

Purple Woolly Loco-weed
(Astragalus mollissimus)

Is used in homeopathy for conditions characterized by fullness in the right temple and upper jaw; pain over the left eyebrow, painful facial bones; dizziness; pressive pain in temples; pain and pressure in maxillae; stomach is weak and feels empty; there is burning in the esophagus and stomach.
DOSE is 6th potency.

Yellow vetch
(Astragalus mongolicus)
No Image Available

Cited by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., as the most powerful herb for the immune system. Has been used to counteract the effects of radiation and chemotherapy in both Ayurvedic and Chinese systems of medicine. It is sweet, slightly warm and affects the spleen and lung.
The part used is the root.
Active constituents are: 2'4'-dihydroxy-5,6-dimethoxyisoflavane, choline, betaine, kumntakenin, sucrose, glucoronic acid, and B-sitosterol.
It is diuretic, anydroptic (stops sweating) and is considered a chi tonic. It strengthens digestion, raises metabolism, strengthens the immune system, promotes healing of wounds and injuries.
Has been used to treat chronic weakness of the lungs with shortness of breath, collapse of energy, prolapse of internal organs, spontaneous sweating, chronic lesions and deficiency edema.
Said to be very effective in cases of nephritis that do not respond to diuretics.
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
6-15 grams.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH