Latin Names – Astragalus membranaceus, Astragalus mongholicus
Native to China, astragalus has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries. While there are over 2,000 species of astragalus; two related species are primarily used: Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus. The root of the astragalus plant is typically used in soups and to make teas, extracts, or capsules.
Historically, astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese healing, usually in combination with other herbs, to support and enhance the immune system. It is still widely used there as an herbal remedy for chronic hepatitis.
Astragalus has also been used as an herbal remedy in the hope that it could help improve common colds and upper respiratory infections.
The evidence for using astragalus for any health condition is limited. Results from small or preliminary studies suggest that astragalus may benefit heart function and help the immune system fight infections. In general, however, these studies were not well designed.
Side Effects and Cautions Summary
- The possible side effects of astragalus are not well known because astragalus is generally used in combination with other herbs.
- Astragalus may interact with medications that suppress the immune system, such as the drug cyclophosphamide taken by cancer patients and similar drugs taken by organ transplant recipients.
- People should avoid using astragalus species such as "locoweed" that grow in the United States, as these other species may have different effects and side effects.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health to help ensure coordinated and safe care. Complementary or alternative therapy should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.
- Astragalus. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed May 10, 2007.
- Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus). Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed May 9, 2007.
- Upton R. Astragalus. In: Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2005:25–30.
For More Information
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
Web site: ods.od.nih.gov
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Astragalus fact sheet Created May 2007, Updated April 2008