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Astragalus the First Emperor Amongst Chinese Herbs - Information and Benefits

The first emperor of China who united the many warring states was called. "The Yellow Emperor". The color yellow has long been held as the color of the emperor in China as a result. Among the long list of Chinese herbs, there is one that shares this distinctive name. Astragalus propinquus is the First Emperor of herbs in Chinese medicine and a prominent member of the Chinese materia medica.

What is it?

Astragalus is a large genus of Chinese herbs and small shrubs. It belongs to the subfamily Faboideae under the legume family Fabacaeae. They grow in temperate regions across the Northern Hemisphere. General characteristics include hairy stems, fragrant flowers, and leaves made of between twelve and eighteen leaflets. These plants generally stand at around 16 inches (or approximately 40 centimeters) at peak height, and grow all year round. In the West, they are known by the names milk-vetch, loco weed, and goat's-thorn.

One particular species of the Astragalus group is Astragalus propinquus. It is also scientifically known as Astragalus membrenaceus. This is the particular species used as Chinese herbs. It is known by several names in the Chinese pharmacopeia : yellow leader, yellow emperor (as previously mentioned), Northern leader, and green dragon, among other names with no English translation. The term yellow comes from the yellowish flowers, and th name green dragon comes from the long green stems of the plant. It flourishes in plots of sandy soil with excellent drainage and lots of sunshine. The roots can rot if the soil does not drain sufficiently, so those who plan to raise this plant should be aware.

This is a leading herb

Astragalus is one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese herbal medicine. It is the roots that are used in medicine, so these plants are usually harvested only after a few years. The roots are dried and then either ground into a powder or sliced. Either form is then used to make soup or steeped to make medicinal tea. As with other Chinese herbs, Astragalus is often mixed with other herbs to make a holistic medicine for the patient.

Astragalus, particularly A. propinquus, has long been used by the Chinese for accelerating healing and treating the common ailment diabetes. Proven health benefits include boosts to the immune system by increasing interferon production and stimulating immune cells (macrophages). Interferon signals the body to start fighting foreign cells. Macrophages are cells that swallow foreign cells whole and digest them, rendering them harmless. Astragalus has also long been a valued Chinese herb for its properties of improving the performance of the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, and the adrenal glands.


More benefits traditionally attributed to this plant are : increased metabolism, sweating, and reduction of fatigue. The boosts to the immune system produces effects like increased resistance to infections, bolstered defenses against common colds and flu, alleviation and curing of allergies. Recent studies have shown that a compound in the Chinese herb A. propinquus roots called TA 65 has anti-aging properties and even anti-cancer capabilities. The First Emperor of China sought and failed to achieve eternal youth, and yet it seems that his herbal namesake holds the key to exactly that!


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