Herb: Huang Qi


Latin name: Astragalus membranaceus


Family: Leguminosae



Medicinal use of Huang Qi:

Huang Qi is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. The root is a sweet tonic herb that stimulates the immune system and many organs of the body, whilst lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It is particularly suited to young, physically active people, increasing stamina and endurance and improving resistance to the cold - indeed for younger people it is perhaps superior to ginseng in this respect. Huang Qi is used especially for treatment of the kidneys and also to avoid senility. The plant is often used in conjunction with other herbs such as Atractylodes macrocephala and Ledebouriella seseloides. The root contains a number of bio-active constituents including saponins and isoflavonoids. It is adaptogen, antipyretic, diuretic, tonic, uterine stimulant and vasodilator. It is used in the treatment of cancer, prolapse of the uterus or anus, abscesses and chronic ulcers, chronic nephritis with oedema and proteinuria. Recent research in the West has shown that the root can increase the production of interferon and macrophages and thus help restore normal immune function in cancer patients. Patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy recover faster and live longer if given Huang Qi concurrently. The root of 4 year old plants is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The plant is antipyretic, diuretic, pectoral and tonic. Extracts of the plant are bactericidal, hypoglycaemic and hypotensive. Cardiotonic, vasodilator.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

Habitat of the herb:

Dry sandy soils. Mountain thickets.

Propagation of Huang Qi:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. A period of cold stratification may help stored seed to germinate. Stored seed, and perhaps also fresh seed, should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in hot water before sowing - but make sure that you do not cook the seed. Any seed that does not swell should be carefully pricked with a needle, taking care not to damage the embryo, and re-soaked for a further 24 hours. Germination can be slow and erratic but is usually within 4 - 9 weeks or more at 13C if the seed is treated or sown fresh. As soon as it is large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry sandy soils. Mountain thickets.

Known hazards of Astragalus membranaceus:

Many members of this genus contain toxic glycosides. All species with edible seedpods can be distinguished by their fleshy round or oval seedpod that looks somewhat like a greengage. A number of species can also accumulate toxic levels of selenium when grown in soils that are relatively rich in that element.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.