I apologize for not updating you for the past couple/few weeks on HerbRally-land. I've been crazy busy with planning events on the MRH side of things. Either way, 'nuff excuses! I wanted to let you know that I just published a brand new monograph by our most prolific author, Krystal Thompson of Hotel Wilderness (check out her blog!).
Here's a sneak peek at it.
“It is in great repute as a tonic, pectoral, and diuretic medicine, the disease for which it is prescribed, therefore, are almost numberless.” - G. A. Stuart, Chinese Materia Medica, 1911
Other Names: Huang Qi (Chinese), Milkvetch, Yellow Leader
Description/Taxonomy: Astragalus is both the common name of the particular herb that we’re going to explore here, as well as the name of the very large genus to which the herb belongs. All belonging to the Fabaceae (legumes, peas, beans) family, the thousands of non-medicinal Astragaluses are often called “milkvetches,“ such as Astragalus canadensis known as Canadian milkvetch, or Astragalus kentrophyta known as spiny milkvetch. These milkvetches include an incredible span of ornamental, edible, and poisonous plants. In addition to being incredibly large and varied, this genus also literally spans across the globe. In Europe there are 133 known Astragalus species, and in North America alone there are 368 (8)! But when we’re talking about medicinal Astragaluses, we’re likely talking about Astragalus propinquus, Astragalus membranaceus, or Astragalus mongholicus. These medicinal varieties are perennial flowering plants with hairy stems that grow to between 16 and 36 inches tall. Their leaves are made up of 12 to 18 pairs of leaflets, and sport small yellow flowers that grow in elongated spikes. These medicinal varieties are native specifically to Mongolia, Korea, and the northern and eastern regions of China.
History, Ethnobotany, and Folklore: Astragalus membranaceus is known in China as Huang Qi, meaning “yellow leader.” This name refers to both the colored interior of the root and the plant’s position of prestige among Chinese medicine practitioners. Astragalus is thought to have been used medicinally in China for at least 2,000 years, with its first text appearance in the TCM classic Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica Classic). This text is the foundation of TCM, and within it herbs were arranged by type of material (herb, tree, etc), and then graded into categories of potency: upper, middle, and lower. Astragalus was listed in the highest class.
No doubt based on this ancient classification, astragalus is still one of the fifty fundamental herbs used in TCM, and listed as an official drug in the modern Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China. Astragalus is administered primarily as a Qi tonic, though daily prescription is also common. It is taken as a tea during times of illness to speed recovery, as well as often administered to tonify the lungs and as support for frequent colds (7). As mentioned before, there are a few different species that are grouped together under the name of common medicinal astragalus, each of which are accepted interchangeably throughout various regions of China.
In 1925, Astragalus membranaceus was introduced to North America through the USDA’s Plant Introduction Office via the Botanical Garden in St. Petersburg (8). However, in his book Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Buhner suggests that astragalus “was not used in Western botanic practice until the tremendous East/West herbal blending that began during the 1960s.” Regardless of when exactly it became widely incorporated, it is now one of the primary immune tonic herbs in the Western pharmacopoeia, and widely available throughout the United States, both as seed and dried, prepared root.
For the whole monograph, CLICK HERE.
I'll be updating you soon-ish on the upcoming herbal events. Hope to see some of you at the upcoming Portland Plant Medicine Gathering!