6 Benefits of Astragalus Root + How To Use It

Heather Dessinger

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Astragalus tea on kitchen counter.

For thousands of years, the golden roots of the astragalus plant have been revered for their ability to support immune function, longevity, energy levels and more. It’s got a mild, nutty, slightly sweet flavor that works well in teas and soups, making it easy to incorporate into your daily routine. 

Astragalus’ Chinese name, huáng qí, means “yellow leader” because the yellow root is considered one of the most important herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

I’ll cover what makes it so special below, but first I want to remind you that none of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA, this article is not medical advice, and it is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. Please talk with your healthcare provider about any herbs you are considering. 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive in.

What is astragalus root? ^

Also known as milk vetch, the astragalus plant creates beautiful flowers, but only the roots are considered beneficial. 

There are actually over 2,000 species of astragalus, but only two are used therapeutically — Astragalus membranaceus (synonym Astragalus propinquus) and Astragalus mongholicus. These are the ones you want to look for when considering a supplement, tea or tincture.

Both contain bioactive compounds that work synergistically together, including:

  • Immune supporting and antioxidant-rich polysaccharides such as astragalans I, II, and III. Hot water draws out more polysaccharides than alcohol, so astragalus is often consumed in tea or soup rather than as a tincture. However, other compounds are better extracted by alcohol, so there are benefits to the tincture form, too. (If you’re curious about why, you can learn about the differences between teas, decoctions, tinctures and more here.)
  • More than 40 saponins, including the potent antioxidants known as astragalosides (there are seven of them – I, II, II, IV, V, VI, and VII). These antioxidants are thought to support the integrity of the respiratory tract. One study also found that astragaloside IV may play a role in supporting wound healing. (1)
  • Flavonoids, which are thought to support heart health, longevity, and more.
  • Terpenes, which are antioxidants that help protect against cellular damage. 

It’s also rich in potassium and magnesium, which is often called “The Magic Mineral,” plus vital trace minerals like copper and manganese.

astragalus benefits

6 Health Benefits of Astragalus Root ^

Together, the constituents listed above give astragalus its therapeutic properties. Let’s take a look at some of the most well-researched benefits.

1. Supports Immune Function ^

Astragalus appears to strengthen both nonspecific and specific immunity.” – Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman, FNIMH, AHG

One of the wonderful things about astragalus is that it’s classified as an immune modulator, meaning that it helps to encourage balance in both underactive (immune compromised) and overactive (autoimmune disease) systems. (2)

“It is extremely safe and well tolerated, and it is particularly useful for supporting the immune system,” writes Donald R. Yance, CN, MH, RH(AHG). (3)

He also writes: 

“I classify astragalus as a secondary adaptogen, not a primary adaptogen, because it does not have a direct or profound effect on the neuroendocrine system. However, for persons under immunological stress (from chemotherapy, surgery, traveling, lack of sleep, or debilitation due to an acute infection) I consider it a primary adaptogen.” (3)

Studies suggest that it supports our reticuloendothelial system, which is a diffuse system of cells that destroys pathogens via eating them (phagocytosis). (2)

Like many herbs, modern research seems to support traditional use. For example, “In China, astragalus has enjoyed a long history of use in traditional medicine” to support “Wei Qi, or ‘defensive energy,’ or in Western terms, the immune system.” (3)

Because of these properties, astragalus is a favorite herb to include in tinctures and teas when extra immune support is needed.

2. Supports Energy Levels ^

Astragalus “is also regarded as a potent tonic for increasing energy levels.” (3)

This may be due to its positive impact on the mitochondria, which serve as the “batteries” that power our cells. (4) It makes sense when you consider that mitochondria burn oxygen for fuel, and researchers have found that astragalus increases “oxygen uptake and the systemic utility of oxygen.” (5)

Also, as I shared in this post on rebooting our body’s stress response, when we get stuck in stress mode, our bodies “steal” a hormone called pregnenolone to make extra cortisol. Pregnenolone is often called the “mother hormone” because it’s used to make all kinds of hormones – estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and, of course, cortisol.

If too many of our resources are directed toward making cortisol, it can impact levels of other hormones that are needed for energy. Low estrogen, testosterone and DHEA are all associated with decreased energy levels. (6) (7) (8)

Herbs like astragalus help the body maintain energy levels by making it more adaptive to stress, which means it can devote more energy to making various hormones instead of loads of cortisol. Here’s a guide to getting started with adaptogens.

3. Optimizes Your Biological Age ^

In one study, researchers found that a compound within astragalus positively influences production of the telomerase (hTERT) enzyme. (9)(10) This enzyme maintains or lengthens telomeres, which is significant because telomeres directly impact cellular aging.

Telomeres are sometimes compared to the plastic ends on shoelaces that prevent them from fraying, only instead of protecting laces they protect our DNA. Here’s how an article in Scientific American explains it:

Telomeres consist of up to 3,300 repeats of the DNA sequence TTAGGG. They protect chromosome ends from being mistaken for broken pieces of DNA that would otherwise be fixed by cellular repair machinery. But every time our cells divide, the telomeres shrink. When they get short enough, our cells no longer divide and our body stops making those cells. 

The faster the telomeres shrink, the more quickly we age at a cellular level. By helping to maintain telomere length, astragalus is thought to support optimal aging.

4. Seasonal Allergy Support ^

This small, double-blind, placebo controlled study found that taking astragalus for six weeks was helpful for easing symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. 

Other herbs and supplements may be beneficial, too – I’ve covered them in this article on natural remedies for seasonal allergies

5. Supports Heart Health ^

​Astragalus is thought to support cardiovascular health in a few ways: 

  • Flavonoids and other compounds such as astragaloside IV can help relax blood vessels, allowing them to widen. This effect can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. (11)
  • Astragalus supports “oxygen uptake and the systemic utility of oxygen.” (5)
  • Helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels (12)

6. Antioxidant Support ^

Our bodies break down toxins via oxidation – a process that transforms them into water-soluble compounds that can be flushed out of the body. Oxidation produces free radicals, which can damage tissues and accelerate aging unless they are neutralized by antioxidants. 

Astragalus provides antioxidant support in two ways by: 

  • Directly supplying the body with antioxidants
  • Supporting the production of superoxide dismutase, a potent antioxidant. (13)

Possible Benefit: May Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels ^

A 2016 meta-analysis suggests that astragalus may support healthy blood sugar metabolism for some people. (14) However, more studies are needed to confirm this effect.

Astragalus is often taken daily (or nearly so) during cold and flu season to support healthy immune function. It can be used alone or combined with complementary adaptogens such as licorice root, ginseng, reishilion’s maneshizandra berry and cordyceps, among others. 

I include it in my adaptogen chai tea recipe and take it as a tincture as needed for energy or immune support.

In terms of how much to take, herbalist Rosalee de la Foret writes that “Astragalus works best when taken in higher amounts for a long period of time. I recommend 15-30 grams of the dried root daily.” (16) In terms of tablespoons, that’s approximately 5-10 tablespoons. 

Medical Herbalism recommends between 10-30 grams, or about 3-10 tablespoons. 

You’ll find instructions for making astragalus tea and tincture below, as well as how to incorporate it into nourishing soups.

Glass teapot filled with astragalus tea

Astragalus Recipes ^

Roots take a little coaxing to release their therapeutic properties, so astragalus is best prepared as a long-simmered tea (decoction). In Adaptogens: Herbs For Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, ethnobotanist David Winston and herbal expert Steven Maimes recommend 1-3 cups per day.

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Astragalus Tea Recipe ^

Astragalus has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years to support immune function, energy levels, & more. Because roots take a little coaxing to release their therapeutic properties, astragalus is best prepared as a long-simmered tea (decoction).
Here's how to brew it.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Steeping Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 1
Calories
Author Heather Dessinger

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place roots and water in a pot, cover, and bring to a low simmer.
  • Continue simmering for 10-20 minutes, then remove from heat.
  • Allow the decoction to steep for one hour, then strain and serve. 

Notes

 
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How To Make Astragalus Tincture ^

Although water is better at extracting the valuable polysaccharides found in astragalus, alcohol is better at extracting terpenes and other valuable constituents. For that reason some people opt for both water and alcohol-based extracts.

Ethnobotanist David Winston and herbal expert Steven Maimes suggest  40-80 drops of a 1:5 tincture, three times per day. Here’s how to make a 1:5 tincture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce dried astragalus root (by weight)
  • 5 ounces of 60 proof or higher alcohol  (by volume)

Instructions:

Place astragalus root and alcohol in a jar and cover. Place in a dark cabinet and allow the mixture to infuse for six to eight weeks, shaking occasionally.

Another option is to purchase pre-made astragalus root tincture and follow the instructions on the label after talking with your healthcare provider.

Adding Astragalus To Soup ^

Traditionally, sliced astragalus root is often simmered in soups for 15-30 minutes, then removed before serving. It’s fine to use cut and sifted astragalus, too, but more challenging to sift out.

Using Astragalus Root Powder In Smoothies ^

Ground astragalus root can be added to smoothies – 1-3 teaspoons is a good place to start.

Frequently Asked Questions ^

Below are answers to the most common questions I’ve received over the years. If you don’t see your question mentioned, please leave it in the comments below!

Does astragalus have any side effects?

In Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, Donald R. Yance, CN, MH, RH(AHG) describes it as “extremely safe and well tolerated.” In fact, it has been used in combination with some therapies to reduce negative effects.

However, the Botanical Safety Handbook classifies astragalus as a Safety Class 1B herb, which means it may alter how medications affect the body. Interactions have not been proven, but they are biologically plausible. For example, due to its immune supporting properties, astragalus may counteract immune suppressing drugs. It may also increase the effect of blood pressure or blood sugar lowering medications.

This safety rating only applies to the two varieties that are cultivated for therapeutic purposes – Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus. Certain varieties, such as A. lentiginosis or A. mollissimus (locoweed), are toxic and should be avoided.

Can children take astragalus?

“Astragalus is also a great tonic herb for small children. It can be added to an adaptogenic formula for immune support as a preventative medicine when children are in school or when the weather changes.” (3)

Is astragalus safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

Though it is a Safety Class 1B adaptogen, no studies are available on the safety of using astragalus during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is generally considered safe and appropriate for “young, old, weak, strong, and even small children and infants (dosage would need to be adjusted accordingly).” (3)

Though renowned herbalist Susun Weed does not mention breastfeeding specifically, she does recommend it to postpartum mothers whose children were born by cesarean. (9)

best glass teapots

Teapot Recommendations ^

Anytime I post about the benefits of a particular herbal tea I’m sipping on, I’ll get a ton of comments like “Love that herb so much but seriously TELL ME ABOUT THAT TEAPOT.”

So I put together a list of my top five favorites, including a few that are stovetop safe. You’ll find it here.

Have a question about astragalus? Please leave a comment below!

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This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Sources

1. Chen, X et. al. (2012) The healing and anti-scar effects of astragaloside IV on the wound repair in vitro and in vivo

2. Hoffman, David (2003) Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices Of Herbal Medicine

3. Yance, Donald (2013) Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism

4. Xing-Tai, Li (2012) Mitochondrial Protection and Anti-aging Activity of Astragalus Polysaccharides and Their Potential Mechanism

5. Chen, Kung-Tung et. al. (2002) Reducing fatigue of athletes following oral administration of huangqi jianzhong tang

6. Mauvais-Jarvis, Franck (2013) The Role of Estrogens in Control of Energy Balance and Glucose Homeostasis

7. Ernst, Holly (2018) What happens when a woman has low testosterone?

8. Harding Medical Institute. DHEA: An Important Hormone for Good Health

9. Bernardes de Jesus, B (2011) The telomerase activator TA-65 elongates short telomeres and increases health span of adult/old mice without increasing cancer incidence

10. Ping, Liu et. al. (2017) Anti-Aging Implications of Astragalus Membranaceus (Huangqi): A Well-Known Chinese Tonic Tian, H et. al. (2016) 

11. Qiu, Li-Hong et. al. (2017) Vascular protective effects of Astragalus membranaceus and its main constituents in rats with chronic hyperhomocysteinemia

12. Wang, Deqing et. al. (2012) Study of the effects of total flavonoids of Astragalus on atherosclerosis formation and potential mechanisms

13. Huang, Wei Min et. al. (2013) Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of Astragalus polysaccharide on EA.hy926 cells

14. Tian, H et. al. (2016) The effect of Astragalus as an adjuvant treatment in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A (preliminary) meta-analysis

15. de la Foret, Rosalee (2020) Herbs for Immunity

16. Weed, Susun (2008) Childbearing & Mothering After A Cesarean

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About HEATHER

Heather is a holistic health educator, herbalist, DIYer, Lyme and mold warrior. Since founding Mommypotamus.com in 2009, Heather has been taking complicated health research and making it easy to understand. She shares tested natural recipes and herbal remedies with millions of naturally minded mamas around the world. 

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19 thoughts on “6 Benefits of Astragalus Root + How To Use It”

  1. I want to make sure I understand correctly. You could use this for prophylactic immune support, but if you become sick, stop using it?

    Reply
    • Yes, that is typically what is recommended. Just like we have a sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system that needs to stay balanced, our immune system can either be TH1 or TH2 dominant. Based on what I’ve read it seems that while astragalus is excellent at supporting immune activity, it may be too stimulating if the immune system is already activated in a specific situation.

      Reply
      • 5 stars
        Heather I love all your posts & sharing. As a Mother (& now Grandmother) I have been reading your shares for many yrs. As a midwife ( now retired) x 50+ yrs. I have recommended you to new Mothers. I have used your walnut latte drink recipe on 100’s of Mothers (with great feedback), a powerful adaptogen filled nutritional comforting postpartum drink & enjoyed it myself in the pp period. I often say after a birth….” now the hard work begins.”

        All to say I’m a big fan & I speak too for the many Mommas that have enjoyed your presence in the world.

        Reply
    • Love this article. I am hoping to use a product containing Astragalus for helping boost kids immune system (Deep Immune by St Francis Herb farm). Understanding that it shouldn’t be taken while sick if a child is sick and on antibiotics how soon can astragalus be started? Should the antibiotic be done and all symptoms of illness gone or can it be started as soon as they are showing signs of feeling better. I certainly don’t want to give it until appropriate . Goal is to prevent future colds and use of antibiotics. This is the first time ever using antibiotics and want to do what I can to help my kids strengthen their immune system for the rest of winter!

      Reply
  2. I have been diagnosed with estrogen positive breast cancer twice. My naturopathic doctor suggested I take Astragalus to rebuild my immune system and reduce the stress I have been experiencing. Does astragalus increase estrogen in the body?

    Reply
    • My go to book, The Botanical Safety Handbook created by the AHPA, doesn’t mention astragalus unfortunately. Another Botanical Safety Handbook (edited by Michael McGuffin) lists it as a class 1 herb, which is the safest rating possible. However, I don’t know enough about their rating system to know if class 1 herb ever have contraindications for pregnancy. (In the handbook I usually use class 1A herbs have no known contraindications for pregnancy or breastfeeding.)

      Reply
  3. 3 ticks in 3 weeks and my mom brain wants to pop! Two dog ticks were found on my 6 yr olds scalp about 3 weeks ago when she woke up and then 3 days ago I found I deer tick on her scalp when she woke and complained of a sore on her head. Huge mom sigh! I’m reading like crazy to educate myself. Last night I read from Dr. Elise Song and she mentioned Astragulas per Stephen Buehner (he is a new name to me) so now I hopped on your site to read about ticks and saw this post!!! Any suggestions on a dosage for kids or do you know anything about this as a help to tick bites/ infection prevention? I want to do what I can to help her body. Dr. Mark Hyman just did an interview recently and didn’t mention Lyme and cysts yet I’m seeing ppl in a FB post mention cysts and Lyme. I’m trying to stay ahead of the game and be protective but it’s such a multiple shade of gray topic.

    Reply
  4. Could you grind it finely in a spice grinder and bake it in cookies? I am trying to think of ways to get my older kids to ingest it? Would the baking it impact it negatively? Or do you not recommend actually eating it?

    Reply
  5. Hi,
    I’ve just bought some astragalus powder. Can I stir it into tea? I hate smoothies. I wish I had found you before I bought it. Also, if I can just stir it into my tea, is 1-3 teaspoons adequate? And how many times a day should I drink it?

    Thanks so much for your help and kindness.

    Reply
  6. 5 stars
    Thanks for the recipe, can this be stored in the fridge and taken over a period of days, or is it important to make it fresh daily? Cheers!

    Reply