Astragalusis known as Astragalus membranaceus, milk vetch, huang qi (Chinese), ogi (Japanese), and hwanggi (Korean). Astragalus is the chief energy tonic of traditional Asian medicine. A graceful, flowing plant with long stems bearing paired, pointed leaves and purple flowers, the astragalus is harvested for its roots that are white when dug out of the ground but become yellow as they are dried. Astragalus is especially useful for strengthening the body against viral infections of the respiratory tract and heart through stimulation of interferon production in the body. Studies show that it has helped cancer patients immune systems regain normal function.
Astragalus root is derived from a perennial plant that grows in northern China and Mongolia. The herb is a staple of Chinese medicine, where it has been used for centuries to boost the immune system and treat a variety of ailments. The major chemical components of astragalus root are polysaccharides, flavonoids saponins and a series of triterpene glycosides known as "astragalosides". Some of these are known to be biologically active, and may play roles in preventing/treating certain diseases. A great deal of research on astragalus has been conducted in China. Chinese studies indicate that astragalus may ameliorate the effects of cancer chemotherapy and improve the quality of life. Astragalus root appears to induce production of interferon, a chemical that is an essential part of the immune system and has been widely studied for its ability to fight the development of cancer.