Scientific name: Astragalus membranaceus

Common names: Yellow leader

Ayurvedic names:

Chinese names: Huang Quai

Bangladesh names:

Arabic names:    القَتَاد (alqataad)

Rain Forest names:

Family: Leguminosae (pea)

Approximate number of species known: 2000 worldwide, 400 North America

Common parts used: Aerial parts, uncovered roots

Collection: Autumn

Annual/Perennial: Perennial

Height: 60-150cm

Actions: Adaptogenic, antioxidant, cardiotonic, hypotensive, immunostiumant, tonic

Known Constituents: Triterpenoid saponins (astragalosides), flavanoids, polysaccarides, phytoesterols, amino acds (gamma-aminobutyric acid, canavanine)

Constituents Explained: 


One of the 50 fundamental plants in Chinese herbology used medicinally for over 2000 years. 

A member of the pea family it is native to Mongolia and northern and eastern China. 

A low-growing shrub thriving in sandy, well-drained soil with plenty of sunshine. 

Produces hairy stems and leaves divided into twelve to eighteen pairs of leaflets.

Root readily pulls apart and shreds into a million smaller pieces rather like tissue paper. 

A yellow core in the center of the sweet-tasting black root is the medicinal substance.

The roots are harvested in autumn from four-year-old plants in several Chinese provinces and shipped worldwide. 

Traditional Use:

The medicinal varieties of Astragalus are found only in central and western Asia, where it has been extensively tested both chemically and pharmacologically. 

The latex is extracted by making an incision in the trunk and branches of trees growing in the wild.

In China Astragalus is regarded as an adaptogen helping the body adapt to environmental conditions and changes. 

Widely used as a classic energy tonic, it is considered superior to ginseng for young people. It is believed to warm and tone wei qi (a protective energy that circulates just beneath the skin) helping the body to adapt to external influences, especially the cold. 

It raises immune resistance, improves physical endurance, and encourages the body systems to function correctly.

By encouraging blood flow to the surface, the herb is effective in controlling night sweats when taken as a tincture. Fluid retention, and thirstiness are also relieved.

Has been used alone, or in combination with other herbs, to treat liver fibrosis, acute viral myocarditis and other viral infections, heart failure, lung cancer, liver and kidney diseases, and amenorrhea, and boosts the function of the spleen during chronic fatigue, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

Also used to treat anorexia, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, malaria, kidney inflammations, painful urination, prolapsed uterus, uterine bleeding or weakness, edema, water retention, skin ulcers that will not heal, fever, lack of stamina, and generalized weakness.

Taken internally, it is commonly used to strengthen the immune system, especially in such immuno-compromised individuals as those with HIV or during chemotherapy.

Infusions are taken for colds and other infections, to improve heart function especially after a heart attack, to improve memory and learning, to temporarily increase urinary output, and to promote the healing of burns and skin sores.

When the root is dry-fried alone or with honey added, it is taken as a stimulating tonic and eaten with meals.

Clinical Studies:

Recently, plant lectins have attracted great interest due to their various biological activities such as anti-cancer, anti-fungal and anti-viral activities. It was reported earlier concerning anti-proliferation of human cancer cell lines by a galactose-binding lectin (AML), from a Chinese herb, ASTRAGALUS MEMBRANACEUS. In the present study, detailed investigations into the mechanism of such anti-proliferation properties have been carried out.

Mechanism of apoptosis initiation in K562 cells by AML was investigated by morphology, flow cytometry and western blot analysis. The result of the study showed that AML induced apoptosis in a caspase-dependent manner in the chronic myeloid leukemia cell line, K562.

Furthermore, it was observed that cytotoxicity and apoptosis of K562 cells induced by AML were completely abolished in presence of lactose or galactose. The results suggest that AML could act as a potential anti-cancer drug.

Nowadays diabetic nephropathy (DN) has become a serious problem. Astragalus membranaceus is a traditional herb used for thousands of years in China and East Asia for kidney disease. In modern medicine, Astragalus shows significant renal protective effect in DN. A study aimed to systematically review the randomized and semi-randomized control trials to ascertain its role in the treatment of DN.

25 studies comprising 21 RCTs and 4 CCTs were involved including 1804 patients (945 in treatment group and 859 in control group). The result of the study revealed that Astragalus injection had more therapeutic effect in DN patients including renal protective effect (BUN, SCr, CCr and urine protein) and systemic state improvement (serum albumin level) compared with the control group.

It suggests that although of unknown bioactive ingredients and mechanism of renal protection, the role of Astragalus in the treatment of DN can be disclosed and of profound significance.


Huang LH, Yan QJ, Kopparapu NK, Ziang JQ, Sun Y. “Astragalus Membranaceus Lectin (AML) Induces Caspace-Dependent Apoptosis In Human Leukemia Cells.” 2012 February.

Li M, Wang W, Xue J, Gu Y, Lin S. “Meta Analysis Of The Clinical Value Of Astralagus Membranaceus In Diabetic Nephropathy.” 2011 January.

Source material:

Herb Name: Astragalus

Others names: Huang Qi, and Milk-vetch root

Latin name: Astragalus membranaceus

Family: Leguminosae

Common part used: Aerial parts, uncovered roots

Description: Astragalus is a plant with hairy stems that grows in Eastern Asia, including China, Mongolia and Siberia. The plant prefers dry sandy soils with a lot of sun.

Properties: Astragalus is an herb that is extensively used in medicine. Chinese herbalism considers this plant to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. The medicinal properties of this plant include: adaptogen, antibacterial, anti-cancer, cardiotonic, diuretic, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, pectoral, tonic, uterine tonic, and vasodilator.

Contents: Astragalus is rich in antioxidants. The root of the plant contains a number of bioactive constituents (isoflavonoids and saponins). 

Internal use: The root is used in the treatment of cancer, abscesses and chronic ulcers, treatment of the kidneys, prolapsed uterus and anus, and chronic nephritis with edema and proteinuria. Astragalus root stimulates the immune system and various body organs, and lowers blood pressure and blood sugar. The roots can increase stamina and endurance and improve resistance to the cold. Astragalus root can also help to restore normal immune function in cancer patients. The studies show that patients undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy are known to recover faster if given Astragalus concurrently.

External use: Externally, it can be used to treat wounds. 

Essential oil and aromatherapy use: Not noted.

Safety precautions: Astragalus is considered to be safe in low or moderate doses. It can interact with some medications, including immunosuppressant medications and corticosteroids. Pregnant or breastfeeding women need to consult with their doctor before starting the use of this plant.