Astragalus membranaceous or Astragalus

Article by Erika Kerzon

Although Astragalus membranaceous or Astragalus, is an unfamiliar herb to many, it has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years1. In China it goes by the name of “Huang Qi” meaning yellow leader, which refers to its yellow appearance. It strongly tones the spleen and the lungs and repletes chi energy, the body’s life force and protective energy. Largely, Astragalus is known to strengthen the immune system and helps the body ward off illness.

Astragalus is a notable immune system builder and it has been reported that it increases the production of white blood cells, in particular T cells and macrophages2. Many who are prone to catching the common cold have taken astragalus and find that they do not become ill in subsequent cold and flu seasons. Hou et al found that giving healthy volunteers 8 grams of Astragalus for 2 months allowed blood cells to increase their interferon-inducing, or disease fighting ability than those that did not receive the herb. However, those with an autoimmune disease should not take this herb as it can make that condition worse and exacerbate symptoms.

The main active ingredients or parts of Astragalus with the most pharmacological activity are acetyl astragaloside I and astragalosides I-VIII3. Astragaloside IV is of particular interest as it has been found to lengthen telomeres, or the ends of our chromosomes. Each time our cells replicate a small part of the telomere is lost, this is what many scientists contribute to aging and cell death. Therefore, Astragalus serves as an anti-aging and longevity tonic.

Image courtesy of Andrey Zharkikh

This herb has also been noted to have significant anti-diabetic effects. The antioxidants formononetin and calycosin have been found to activate receptors in the pancreas that stimulate insulin production. In addition, continuous use of Astragalus has been shown to improve glycemic control, lower levels of triglycerides in the blood and lessen insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.

There are also significant cardiovascular effects that this herb has on the human body. It has been shown to lower blood pressure without having any effect on cardiac rate and output4. This was accomplished by lowering total peripheral resistance. Astragalus has also been shown to decrease plaque build-up in the walls of arteries through the flavonoid antioxidants present.

In conclusion, astragalus is a wonderful herb to include in your wellness regimen, especially if you are looking for a boost in your immune system. It can easily be found at local health food stores and online.

About the author:

I’m Erica and I have been a registered nurse for two years and received my Biology degree from The University of Colorado Denver. I am originally from Colorado but have spent the last five months on an organic farm in Kaui. I love all things herbalism and natural healing and have healed myself from hypothyroidism and chronic fatigue. Love to listen to podcasts, surf, watch documentaries and educational Youtube videos, do yoga, and be outdoors.




  1. “Brief History of Astragalus Herb.” Brief History of Astragalus Herb.p., 16 July 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
  2. Block, Keith I., and Mark N. Mead. “Immune system effects of echinacea, ginseng, and astragalus: a review.” Integrative cancer therapies3 (2003): 247-267.
  3. Lamoreux, George. “Ultimate Immunity with Astragalus- Episode 23.” Audio blog post. The Chinese Herb Health and Longevity Show. N.p., 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 1 Mar. 2017.
  4. Bratkov, Viktor M. et al. “Flavonoids from the Genus Astragalus: Phytochemistry and Biological Activity.” Pharmacognosy Reviews19 (2016): 11–32. PMC. Web. 1 Mar. 2017.

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