Astragalus Introduction

Asteragalus is a member of the Leguminosae family of plants, the herb grows to between 60 and 150 cm in height. Astragalus is a plant that has been revered for its ability to enhance the function of the immune system. According to traditional chinese medical theory Astragalus is useful for tonification of the Qi, and Blood as well as assisting in the functions of the Spleen and Stomach organs. Energatically, Astragalus is considered to have sweet and warming characteristics.[1]

Astragalus Food Sources

Parts Used

Astragalus membranaceous radix (Root).

Astragalus Uses


Enhancing Immune System Function

The main modern use for Astragalus is to enhance the function of the immune system. Astragalus saponins have demonstrated an ability to increase the activity of natural killier (NK) cell activity that had been inhibited by steroidal drugs. Astragalus has been used to protect the function of Macrophages and other white blood cells that have been injured by administration of a carcinogenic substance. Astragalus can also increase the adhesion to of neutrophils to the lining of the endothelium of the blood vessels, this is an important step in the body’s response to injury. Astragalus has also been able to correct the imbalance that can occur in some viral infections such as Herpes Simplex Keratitis which can improve the immune response to such infections It appears that much of the ability of Astragalus to modify immune response has to do with several of its polysaccharide fractions including Astragaloside I-III, these constituents have improved NK cell activity in cancer patients and SLE patients as well as having killer cell inducing capacity in AIDS patients. [2-7]


Astragalus has the ability to enhance the effectiveness of Interferon, a chemical that is released by the body in response to viral infections. Astragalus has been shown to have a slight ability to enhance the response of mouse interferon to infection with parainfluenza virus and Newcastle virus as well as the ability to inactivate the surface antigens of Hepatitis B virus. Studies on the antiviral activity of Astragalus suggest that it acts in concert with interferon to alleviate symptoms of viral infection.[8-10]

Cardiovascular conditions

An isolated extract of Astragaloside IV (one of the active constituents of Astragalus), as shown promise in reducing the damage that is incurred in a focal ischemic event such as a stroke. It was found that the volume of areas of infarctions that were induced in mice were much smaller when the mice were treated with extracted Astragaloside IV than in controls. In Studies on the effects of Astragalus have shown that it can exert a mild anti-hypersensive effect in certain people, this is likely due to the content of the neurotransmitter GABA in the herb. One of the consequences of Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a negative impact on the functioning of the immune system, these patients often have problems with lung and other infections. Astagalus injections have been used to enhance the immune function of patients with various stages of CHF with improvements in such parameters as IgG, IgA, IgM and T-cell subsets.[11-13]


One study found that an extract of Astragalus was able to improve several measures of male fertility such as: average viability, progressive motile spermatazoa, velocity, path velocity, and the strength of movement. It is possible that Astragalus would be a useful addition to a regemine to increase male fertility.[14]

Astragalus Dosages

  • 10-30 grams of the the decocted dried root per day.
  • 4-8ml of 1:2 tincture.
  • Capsules: 1500mg Dry material Three times per day.

Astragalus Toxicities

Astragalus has a very low potential for toxicity when used at recommended doses, individuals allergic to plants in the Legume family should avoid Astragalus. Astragalus should also be avoided during acute infections and in autoimmune disease.


[1] Kerry and Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London UK: Churchill-Livingston, 2000) 273-9.

[2] You L, Zhou Y, Zhang RQ et al.Zhonngghuo Mianyinxue Zazhi 1990;6(1):60-63.

[3] Jin R, Mitsuishi T, Akuzawa Y et al. Kitakanto Med J 1994;44(2):125-133.

[4] Hao Y, Qiu QY, Wu J. [Effect of Astragalus polysaccharides in promoting neutrophil-vascular endothelial cell adhesion and expression of related adhesive molecules] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2004 May;24(5):427-30.

[5] Mao SP, Cheng KL, Zhou YF.[Modulatory effect of Astragalus membranaceus on Th1/Th2 cytokine in patients with herpes simplex keratitis] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2004 Feb;24(2):121-3.

[6] Chu DT, Sun Y, Lin JR. Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih: 1989;9(6):351-354.

[7] Chu DT, Lin JR, Wong W. CHung Hua Chung Liu Tsa Chih 1994;16(3): 167-171.

[8] Institute of Epidemic Prevention, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Studies on Epidemic Prevention 1976;3:204.

[9] Zheng MS et al. Chin Trad Herbal Drugs 1987;18(10):459-461.

[10] Zhou QJ, Chinese medicinal herb in the treatment of viral hepatitis. In:Advances in Chinese materials research. World Scientific, Singapore, 1985, p 216.

[11] Luo Y, Qin Z, Hong Z, Zhang X, Ding D, Fu JH, Zhang WD, Chen J. Astragaloside IV protects against ischemic brain injury in a murine model of transient focal ischemia. Neurosci Lett. 2004 Jun 17;363(3):218-23.

[12] Liu ZG, Xiong ZM, Yu XY. [Effect of astragalus injection on immune function in patients with congestive heart failure] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2003 May;23(5):351-3.

[13] Hikino H, Funayama S, Endo K. Planta Med 1976;30(4):297-302.

[14] Liu J, Liang P, Yin C, Wang T, Li H, Li Y, Ye Z. Effects of several Chinese herbal aqueous extracts on human sperm motility in vitro. Andrologia. 2004 Apr;36(2):78-83.


Astragalus Root Products