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Astragalus membranaceus (also known as A. Propinquus) is member of the large group of plants called vetches, which includes peas and beans. This species of astragalus grows naturally in China, Korea and Japan as well as in the Olympic Mountains range in Washington state. It has been used in Chinese medicine (as Huang Qi), often in combination with other herbs, to strengthen the body's immune system, support the liver, and in the treatment of hepatitis, diabetes, hyperthyroidism and for the treatment of several kinds of cancer.

Alternative Medicine Review reported that milk-vetch root (Astralagus canadensis) "stimulates the immune system by increasing the number of stem cells in bone marrow and lymph tissue, triggering immune cells to a heightened state."

When used as an immune system enhancer, astragalus membranicus extracts appear to stimulate the response of NK and T (killer) cells and the production of interferons by the immune system. Astragalus also appears to enhance the effects of interferons.

As an adaptogen, astralagus may modify and improve the body's response to stress through action on the adrenal cortex. The triterpenoid saponins (astragalosides) contained in astralagus preparations are molecules that are similar to steroid hormones and may mimic the action of these compounds. It may also enhance cellular oxygenation of the heart and cerebrovascular tissue and so improve stamina and endurance.

A number of biotechnology companies* have been working on deriving a telomerase activator from A. membranicus, which may be a significant anti-aging compound. In a recent news release Geron Corporation and Rita Effros from UCLA also discussed the possibility of another extract of astralagus they call TAT2 (Cycloastregenol), which may be of value in combatting HIV as well as infections associated with chronic diseases or aging. This may be comparable with another anti-aging compound derived from astralagus called TA-65.

*Geron Corporation, TA Therapeutics, Terraternal, RevGenetics

Traditionally, the dosage is powdered dried root or decoction in the range of 10-30 g/day. While astragalus appears to have independent activity, it seems to be most effective when used in conjunction with other herbs such as ginseng.





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