Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)

Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)

Botany, Geographical Distribution, and Horticultural Information of Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)


Astragalus, belonging to the family Leguminosae, is a large genus comprising approximately 2,900 species. Astragalus membranaceus, also known as Astragalus propinquus, is notable for its high medicinal and nutritional value. The plant typically has stems ranging from 60–150 cm in height, covered in villous. It features pinnately compound leaves with leaflets that are ovate-lanceolate or elliptic, measuring 7–30 mm in length and 4–10 mm in width. These leaflets are white villous on both surfaces. The plant produces racemes axillary flowers with striated bracts below and an ovary that is hairy with an ovary stalk. The pods are membranous, swollen, ovate-tortuous, long-stalked, and black pubescent.

Geographical Distribution:

Astragalus membranaceus is widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, South America, and Africa, but is rare in North America and Oceania. It is commonly used as an ethnomedicine in the Russian Federation, Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and China. The plant thrives in environments such as sunny grasslands, thickets, and mountain slopes. Its roots are harvested for medicinal purposes, typically when the plant is 4–5 years old. The best harvesting period is from late October to mid-November, with harvesting recommended on sunny days to ensure the quality of the active ingredients.

Horticultural Information:

Astragalus membranaceus flowers from June to August and produces fruits from July to September. For horticultural purposes, the plant is harvested in autumn or spring, with the roots being the primary focus. After harvesting, the roots are cleaned, cut off, and dried in the sun until they reach a 60-70% dryness level. The cleaning method significantly influences the content of active ingredients like astragaloside IV. The plant is also known for its adaptability to various soil types and environmental conditions, making it a versatile species for cultivation.


Astragalus membranaceus contains over 200 compounds, including flavonoids, triterpenoids, polysaccharides, amino acids, alkaloids, and various trace elements. The plant is particularly rich in flavonoids and triterpenoids, with isoflavones being the most abundant flavonoids. These compounds are responsible for the plant’s various pharmacological properties, including antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.

Traditional Uses:

Traditionally, Astragalus membranaceus has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. It is known for supplementing qi, solidifying the surface, benefiting water, supporting toxins, and generating muscles. The plant is used in various classical prescriptions and formulations, often combined with other herbs to enhance its medicinal effects.


Modern pharmacological studies have shown that Astragalus membranaceus has a wide range of immunological activities. It is used as an immunostimulant, antioxidant, hepatoprotectant, diuretic, and expectorant. The plant’s isoflavones are particularly noted for their anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, treatment of heart diseases, treatment of neurological diseases, anti-diabetic, and antioxidant effects.


1. “A review of the botany, phytochemistry, traditional uses, pharmacology, toxicology, and quality control of the Astragalus memeranaceus” –


History, Traditional Herbal & Culinary Uses of Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)


Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), also known as Huang-qi or Milk-vetch root, has a rich history in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dating back thousands of years. It was often combined with other herbs to strengthen the body against disease. In TCM, Astragalus is recognized as an adaptogen, which means it helps protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, or emotional stress.

Traditional Herbal Uses:

Astragalus has been traditionally used for a wide range of health conditions. It is known for its antioxidant properties, which protect cells against damage. The herb is commonly used to protect and support the immune system, preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, lowering blood pressure, treating diabetes, and protecting the liver. It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is sometimes used topically for wound care.

Herbal Medicine Uses:

Astragalus is used for:
– Strengthening the body against disease
– Protecting against cancer and diabetes
– Preventing colds and upper respiratory infections
– Reducing chemotherapy side effects
– Treating heart disease and hepatitis
– Managing kidney disease and seasonal allergies

In the United States, Astragalus has been studied as a potential treatment for people whose immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy or radiation. Studies suggest that Astragalus supplements may help people recover faster and live longer. However, research on using Astragalus for people with AIDS has produced mixed results.

Recent research in China suggests that Astragalus, being an antioxidant, may help people with severe forms of heart disease, relieving symptoms, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving heart function. At low-to-moderate doses, Astragalus has few side effects, but it does interact with a number of other herbs and prescription medications.

Culinary Uses:

While the primary focus on Astragalus is its medicinal properties, it has also found its way into culinary applications, particularly in traditional Chinese cuisine. The root of Astragalus is sometimes used in soups and other dishes, not only for its health benefits but also for its unique flavor. It is often added to broths and stews, contributing to the nutritional value of these dishes.

Plant Description:

Astragalus is a perennial plant, about 16 to 36 inches tall, native to the northern and eastern parts of China, as well as Mongolia and Korea. It has hairy stems with leaves made up of 12 to 18 pairs of leaflets. The root, which is the medicinal part of the plant, is usually harvested from 4-year-old plants.

Medicinal Uses and Indications:

Traditionally, Astragalus has been used for various purposes, including as an adaptogen, for treating anemia, colds and influenza, diabetes, fatigue or lack of appetite from chemotherapy, heart disease, hepatitis, kidney disease, and seasonal allergies. Preliminary studies suggest that Astragalus may have anti-tumor effects, specifically against melanoma and leukemia.


1. “Astragalus Information | Mount Sinai – New York” –
2. “Astragalus | NCCIH” –


Pharmacological/Medicinal Studies on Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)

1. Overview of Astragalus and Its Pharmacological Effects:

Astragalus, a genus with about 3000 species, is a significant source of herbal drugs. The species of Astragalus, including Astragalus propinquus, have been traditionally used in folk medicine for their cardiovascular, antihypertensive, diuretic, choleretic, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties. The major pharmacological effects of these plants include diuretic, anti-inflammatory, bactericidal, hypotensive, and sedative actions. The active principles in Astragalus spp. are primarily polysaccharides, saponins, and flavonoids .

2. Chemical Composition of Astragalus propinquus:

A detailed study of Astragalus propinquus roots from the Buryatia Republic revealed a rich composition of bioactive compounds. The roots contain phenolic compounds, triterpenes, water-soluble polysaccharides, free carbohydrates, and free amino acids. Chromatographic analysis identified 18 flavonoid compounds, including derivatives of odoratin, calycosin, formononetin, isomucronulatol, and astrapterocarpan. The study highlighted the high content of bioactive compounds in the roots, making them suitable for medicinal use .

3. Anti-Fibrosis Properties of Astragalus Mongholicus:

Astragalus Mongholicus (AM), a variant of Astragalus propinquus, has been investigated for its anti-fibrosis properties. Fibrosis-related diseases (FRD) such as cerebral, pulmonary, cardiac, liver, renal, and peritoneal fibrosis pose significant health challenges. AM and its pharmacological components, including astragaloside IV (AS-IV), astragalus polysaccharide (APS), and astragalus flavone, have shown potential in treating these diseases. AM intervenes in the progression of fibrosis by regulating inflammation, oxidative stress, the immune system, and metabolism .

4. Astragalus Flavonoids Against Hepatic Fibrosis:

A study integrating network pharmacology and experimental validation investigated the effects and mechanism of Astragalus flavonoids against hepatic fibrosis. The flavonoids from Astragalus membranaceus were found to suppress TGF-β1-mediated activation of hepatic stellate cells and reduce extracellular matrix deposition. The molecular docking study showed that these flavonoids have a strong binding affinity for IκB kinase (IKKβ), indicating their potential anti-inflammatory effect in treating hepatic fibrosis .


1. “Pharmacology and Ethnomedicine of the Genus Astragalus” –
2. “Chemical Composition of Astragalus propinquus (Leguminosae) Roots Originated from Buryatia” –
3. “Astragalus Mongholicus: A review of its anti-fibrosis properties” –
4. “Integrating Network Pharmacology and Experimental Validation to Investigate the Effects and Mechanism of Astragalus Flavonoids Against Hepatic Fibrosis” –


Specific Phytochemicals in Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)

The root of Astragalus spp. (Astragali Radix (AR)), contains a variety of bioactive chemical compounds. The major phytochemicals identified in AR include:

1. Astragaloside IV (AG-IV): A prominent compound in AR, known for its therapeutic properties. It is a saponin that has shown potential in various pharmacological activities, including anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects.

2. Ononin: Identified in AR, ononin is a form of isoflavonoid. Isoflavonoids are known for their antioxidant properties and potential health benefits.

3. Calycosin 7-O-β-D-glucoside: Another isoflavonoid found in AR, calycosin 7-O-β-D-glucoside contributes to the herb’s pharmacological profile.

4. Formononetin: This compound is an isoflavonoid present in AR. Formononetin has been studied for its various biological activities, including its role in traditional Chinese medicine.

5. Cycloastragenol: Although not detected in the samples tested in the study, cycloastragenol is a notable compound generally associated with AR. It is an aglycone of AG-IV and has been studied for its potential in delaying cellular aging processes.

These phytochemicals contribute to the wide range of therapeutic applications of Astragalus propinquus, making it a valuable herb in traditional Chinese medicine. The concentrations of these compounds can vary depending on the extraction methods and the source of the herb.


1. “Major bioactive chemical compounds in Astragali Radix samples from different vendors vary greatly” –


Contraindications and Safety of Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)

Forms of Use:

Astragalus is available in various forms, including tinctures, capsules, tablets, injectable forms (in Asian countries), and topical applications for the skin.


The dosage of Astragalus depends on the condition being treated, age, and weight. It is crucial to work with a healthcare provider to determine the safest and most effective dosage.


– At recommended doses, Astragalus is generally safe with few side effects.
– It interacts with other herbs and medications.
– Not enough evidence exists regarding its safety for breastfeeding women.
– People with autoimmune diseases should consult their doctor before taking Astragalus as it may stimulate the immune system / interact with medications that suppress the immune system.
– Long-term use of single adaptogenic herbs is not recommended; rotating among several adaptogens is advised.
– Some Astragalus species can be toxic to livestock and contain potentially toxic levels of selenium.

Possible Interactions:

Immune-suppressing drugs: Astragalus may interfere with drugs that suppress the immune system.

Lithium: Astragalus can affect the body’s ability to excrete lithium, potentially leading to dangerously high levels.


1. “Astragalus Information | Mount Sinai – New York” –

This report provides a comprehensive overview of the contraindications and safety aspects of Astragalus propinquus, highlighting its medicinal uses, recommended precautions, and potential interactions with other medications.