Huang Qi (Astragalus Root)
Astragalus Membranaceus; Astragali Radix
A popular qi tonic (especially the wei qi), these large roots of Astragalus are sweet and slightly warm in energy. Our roots are cut from long robust plants with a nice yellow colored pith, that possess a nice sweetness when chewed.
Sweet, slightly warm
Astragalus is a shrubby legume with pea-like, pastel flowers that produce small pods, and it is native to Mongolia and northern China. Many of the more than 2500 species of plants in the genus Astragalus produce similar fruits. This herb's name comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "anklebone." The Greeks used animal anklebones as dice, and the Astragalus pods, when dry, rattle with a sound like rolling dice.
Astragalus membranaceus has thick, fibrous roots. When the dark brown skin of the roots is peeled away, the inner portion is a pale, yellowish core. The herb's Chinese name is Huang Qi, which means "yellow leader," and refers to inner color of the root and also its status as one of the most important tonic herbs in Chinese Medicine.
The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing or The Divine Husbandman's Classic of the Materia Medica, a first century A.D. herbal compendium that documents 365 medicinal plants, provides the first written reference to its use. Many ancient Chinese herbalists revere huang qi for its ability to stimulate the body's Qi or vital protective energy which it believed to help fight fatigue and strengthen immunity.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), astragalus root is often mixed with other herbs to prepare herbal remedies. The primary use for hundreds of years has been in fu zheng therapy, an herbal treatment designed to support and enhance body's natural defenses.
Astragalus is considered to be an adaptogen in Western herbal medicine, an herb that helps protect the body against physical, mental and emotional stress by supporting and strengthening the immune system.
Astragalus membranaceus is a perennial herb that grows to about 2 feet. Huang Qi grows in the northwest of China in the region that ranges from the Sichuan mountains to the Xinjiang plains. Its growing region also extands to the east and south to the Shangdong Peninsula. The growing region crosses into Russia as well. Astragalus prefers the habitats of thin, open wood; the forest edges; grasslands; and shrub thickets.
As a member of the pea family, astragalus seeds have hard, impermeable encasements. This hard seed coat can be lightly sanded with sandpaper or file and then soaked overnight in water to facilitate germination before planting. Huang Qi grows best in full sun, in deep, well-drained and slightly alkaline soil.
Astragalus roots, that resemble tongue depressors, can be harvested by hand or via machine, in the fall season of the 4th or 5th year. After the roots are harvested, they are dried in shade and, then, sliced laterally along their length. Almost all Astragalus root production for medicinal purposes comes from Chinese herb farms.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Astragalus is often combined with other herbs or plants in a tea, tincture or capsule. It is also used in Chinese culture as a food and pieces of the dry root is added to soups, teas and other recipes.
RECIPE: Astragalus Butter
In a double boiler, gently warm 1 cup tahini and 7 tablespoons of pumpkin seed butter (available at health food stores). Stir in 3 tablespoons powdered Astragalus root. Add 3 tablespoons sesame oil and stir to smooth consistency. (If too stiff, add up to 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.) This peanut butter substitute will keep 2 weeks in the fridge.