Top 5 herbs for the winter season #2
Astragalus Membranaceus: Part used- Root
Astragalus Membranaceus is #2 in my Top ‘5’ series of my go-to herbs during cold and flu season. Astragalus is used in both Western herbal medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine to address symptoms associated with upper respiratory infections such as the common cold and flu. Astragalus, a member of the Pea family, is categorized as an immune-modulator. Herbs in this category are capable of modifying the function of the immune system. Due to this action, Astragalus has a wide range of uses; this post focuses on the immune stimulating effect of Astragalus, particularly during this time of the year.
Generally, the root of this plant is used in medicinal preparations to strengthen the function of the immune system aiding in the prevention of colds. The active constituents (ingredients) found in Astragalus activate the immune cells that are responsible for the body's defense system. It is the herb I recommend whenever I am asked "what can I take so that I don't get what's going around"? In my experience, I have found Astragalus to be very effective at preventing colds (and flu) particularly, when taken before the onset of symptoms.
This root can be used in a variety of forms such as a tea, capsules or tincture. Herbal tinctures are medicines where the herb is dissolved or soaked for a period of time in alcohol allowing for the extraction of the herb’s active constituents. These preparations can be quite strong in taste and may not suitable for children or others who must to avoid alcohol, despite the alcohol content being small. An alternative, that works particularly well for Astragalus, and happens to be one of my favorites, is using a glycerite. Glycerites are similar to alcohol-based tinctures in that the herb is dissolved or soaked to extract the medical properties. However, instead of alcohol, glycerine is used. Glycerine is very sweet and pairs well with the naturally sweet flavor of Astragalus. Prepared in this form, it makes giving this powerful, immune-boosting herb to children (and adults too!) easy.
Note: The immune stimulating effect of Astragalus membranceus may not be suitable for all populations, particularly those with autoimmune disease. The use of Astragalus, as with all medications and supplements, should be done under the supervison of your physician.
Jin M, Zhao K, Huang Q, Shang P. Structural Features and biological activities of the polysaccharides from Astragalus membranaceus. International Journal of Macromolecules. March 2014; 64:257-66
Bensky D, Clavey S, Stiger E. (2004). Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press.
Hoffman D. (2003). Medical Herbalism-The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT. Healing Arts Press.
Natural Medicines Database. Last reviewed on May 12, 2017, last updated December 8, 2017. https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.buproxy.bastyr.edu/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=963