China is a unique country. The Chinese gathered knowledge and accumulated ancestors’ experience in different spheres of life for thousands of years, and now they do not let all the wisdom lie on the bookshelves and get dusty – they still use it effectively and safely irrespective of the change of life rhythm, new millennium and the progress in computer technologies. He is wise, who can combine the old and the new. The Chinese succeeded in that.
Traditional medicine of China is the most vivid example to prove all the said above. Chinese herbalists gained respect not only in their homeland, but all over the world. Nowadays, whenever we want to try the alternative way of curing the disease, we usually do it with the help of Chinese herbs and recommendations of Chinese herbalists.
One of the most precious herbs, discovered, studied, and used by herbalists of China, is Astragalus. It belongs to the Fabaceae family (it is a bean family), a genus of multiple species, some of which are poisonous (the cases of poisoning pigs with some members of this family are known). However, Astragalus membranaceus is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and has proved its positive influence on human health. It is also known as Milk vetch, Huang qi, Milk vetch root, Goat’s horn, Green dragon, Yellow emperor, etc.
Astragalus membranaceus is a sprawling perennial legume, about 16 inches high. It has a hairy stem, leaves made up of 12-18 leaflets, and aromatic flowers, which are produced in late May or June. In late June beaked legumes (“pea pods”), covered with small hairs, are formed. The seeds are said to be viable for six years and they tend to geminate better if lightly scratched (scarified) with fine sandpaper. However, it is a root that is used in medicine. For this purpose it is usually harvested on the fourth year of the life of a plant.
Astragalus is indigenous to the northern and eastern parts of China and some areas of Mongolia. It prefers sunny places and sandy, well-drained soils. Although regular garden soil will also suit, in that case a good drainage is needed to prevent the crown rot.
The Chinese use the dried sliced or powdered root of the plant to boost the immune system, to increase the body resistance to the infections, to heal the allergies, and to raise and renew the vitality. Usually, teas and tinctures are made combining Astragalus with Echinacea, Ginseng, and Codonopsis. The preparations are believed to work best for preventing the diseases, not for curing them.