Milk vetch root

Chinese Name: Huang qi
Medical Name: Radix Astragali seu Hedysari
Latin Name: Astragalus membranaceus (Fisch. ex Link.) Bunge., and Astragalus mongholicus Bunge., of the family leguminosae.
Origin: Root, sliced and dried.
Taste: Sweet

Quotes from Chinese historical sources

THE HERBAL CLASSIC OF SHEN NONG: "Useful particularly for ulcers and persistent sores, expelling pus and stopping pain, countering strokes, leprosy, piles and impotence. It can nourish depleted qi, and is effective for many diseases in children."

THE BAG OF PEARLS: "Milk Vetch Root is sweet, mild and rich in yang energy. It has five main functions: first, it cures internal organs of deficiencies of vital energy and weakness; second, it nourishes the spirit; third, it strengthens the spleen and stomach; fourth, it removes fever from the body; fifth, it acts against growths inside the body by ejecting pus, stopping pain, and invigorating the circulation."

Western Research

Vascul Pharmacol. 2007 Apr;46(4):278-85.
Effects of Astragalus membranaceus and its main components on the acute phase endothelial dysfunction induced by homocysteine.
Zhang BQ, Hu SJ, Qiu LH, Zhu JH, Xie XJ, Sun J, Zhu ZH, Xia Q, Bian K.
Department of Cardiology, The First Affiliated Hospital, College of Medicine, Zhejiang University, No. 79, Qingchun St, Hangzhou 310003, Zhejiang, P.R. China.
OBJECTIVE: This study was designed to investigate the effects of Astragalus membranaceus (AM) and its main components, astragalus saponin (ASP), astragalus polysaccharide (APS) and aminobutyric acid (GABA), on homocysteine (Hcy) induced acute impairment of vascular tone and to explore whether the antioxidant mechanism was involved in AM protective effect. METHODS: Inhibitory effects of Hcy and protective effects of AM and its main components on endothelium-dependent relaxation of aortic rings were determined by isometric tension recordings and nitric oxide signaling was assayed with (125)I-cGMP RIA Kit. Furthermore, generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in endothelial cells was detected using 5-(6)- chloromethyl-2',7'-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate (CM-H(2)DCF-DA). RESULTS: Hcy significantly inhibited endothelium-dependent relaxation to acetylcholine (ACh) in a dose-dependent manner, and decreased cGMP levels increased by ACh in aorta. Furthermore, superoxide dismutase (SOD), AM, and ASP markedly attenuated inhibition of vasorelaxation and downregulation of cGMP level by Hcy, and APS exerted a tendency to reverse both of the depressive responses, while GABA had no similar effects. Additionally, partially impaired relaxation by Hcy was completely blocked due to the presence of N(omega)-nitro-l-arginine-methyl ester (l-NAME), which could not be further altered by treatment with AM, ASP, APS or GABA. Finally, Hcy significantly increased intracellular ROS levels in endothelial cells as measured by CM-H(2)DCF-DA fluorescence. SOD, AM, ASP, and APS, but not GABA, inhibited Hcy-stimulated ROS generation. CONCLUSION: This study demonstrated that AM and ASP, potently protected endothelium-dependent relaxation against the acute injury from Hcy through nitric oxide regulatory pathways, in which antioxidation played a key role.

Zhongguo Dang Dai Er Ke Za Zhi. 2006 Oct;8(5):376-8.
Effects of astragalus membranaceus on TH cell subset function in children with recurrent tonsillitis [Article in Chinese]
Yang Y, Wang LD, Chen ZB.
Department of Pediatrics, First People's Hospital of Yulin, Yulin, Shangxi 718000, China.
OBJECTIVE: To observe the TH cell subset function in children with recurrent tonsillitis (RT) at the remission stage and to study the effects of astragalus membranacus (AM) on TH cell subset function. METHODS: The peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 27 children with RT at the remission stage were stimulated with either phytohemagalutinin (PHA) (RT-PHA group) or PHA together with AM (RT-AM group) and were then cultured in vitro for 48 hrs. The samples from 21 healthy children stimulated with PHA were used as the Control group. The levels of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and interleukin-4 (IL-4) in the supernatants of PBMC were detected using ELISA. RESULTS: The IFN-gamma level and the ratio of IFN-gamma/IL-4 in the RT-PHA group were statistically lower than those in the Control group (P < 0.01). The level of IFN-gamma and the ratio of IFN-gamma/IL-4 in the RT-AM group were markedly higher than those in the RT-PHA group (P < 0.01), but were significantly lower than those in the Control group (P < 0.05). There were no differences in the IL-4 level among the three groups. CONCLUSIONS: TH1 cell subset dysfunction may exit in RT children at the remission stage, suggesting that TH1 cell subset dysfunction plays an important role in the pathogenesis of RT. AM can improve TH1 cell subset function and therefore shows an important significance in treating RT.

Am J Chin Med. 2005;33(1):127-38
Effects of medicinal herb tea on the smoking cessation and reducing smoking withdrawal symptoms.
Lee HJ, Lee JH.
Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, Dong-eui Institute of Technology, Busan, Korea.
Medicinal herbs (21 species) were screened for the antioxidant activity and nicotine degradation activity (NDA) in vitro. Eleven of them with higher antioxidant activity and NDA were selected for preparation of the medicinal herb tea (MHT) and the effects of MHT on smoking cessation and reducing smoking withdrawal symptoms were evaluated in 100 male human smokers. Among these medicinal herbs, Eugenia aromaticum and Astragalus membranaceus Bunge showed the highest antioxidant activity (IC50 of 30.0 microg/mL) and NDA (1.81), respectively. MHT showed relatively high antioxidant activity (IC50 of 50.6 microg/mL) and NDA (1.23). The urinary cotinine level, a metabolite of nicotine, increased in the first 2 weeks and greatly decreased from the 2nd to 4th week in the MHT taking group, which indicates that MHT accelerates the conversion of nicotine into cotinine. Human groups taking MHT for 4 weeks underwent reduced smoking withdrawal symptoms compared to the non-MHT taking subjects, and 38% of subjects taking MHT succeeded in smoking cessation, while only 12% of non-MHT taking subjects succeeded in quitting smoking.

Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 2002 Jul;22(7):515-7
Clinical study on effect of Astragalus in efficacy enhancing and toxicity reducing of chemotherapy in patients of malignant tumor [Article in Chinese]
Duan P, Wang ZM.
Chengdu First Peopte's Hospital, Chengdu 610016.
OBJECTIVE: To observe the effect of One hundred and twenty tumor patients undergoing chemotherapy were randomly divided into the treated group and the control group. The astragalus-treated group showed a lower progressive incidence, lesser decrease of peripheral WBC and platelet count (P< 0.05), accompanied with other improvements. Astragalus injection supplemented with chemotherapy could inhibit the development of tumor, decrease the toxic-adverse effect of chemotherapy, elevate the immune function of organism and improve the quality of life in patients.

Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 2002 Jun;22(6):453-6
Extracorporeal experimental study on immuno-modulatory activity of Astragalus memhranaceus extract [Article in Chinese]
Wang RT, Shan BE, Li QX.
Department of Immunology, Institute of Basic Medicine, Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang 050017.
Effects of AME on the proliferation activity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and the tumor cell phagocytosis of peripheral blood adherent monocytes (PBAM) were measured by using 3H-TdR incorporation. Effect of the tumor-killing activity of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) was determined by using 51Cr-releasing assay. AME has effect in enhancing human immuno-function and anti-tumor activity, it could be applied in clinical practice for immuno-modulation and tumor treatment.

Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 2001 May;21(5):351-3
Influence of Salvia miltiorrhizae and Astragalus membranaceus on hemodynamics and liver fibrosis indexes in liver cirrhotic patients with portal hypertension [Article in Chinese]
Tan YW, Yin YM, Yu XJ.
Zhenjiang Municipal Third People's Hospital, Jiangsu 212003.
Eighty-four cases of liver cirrhosis were enrolled and divided randomly into two groups, 42 in each. The control group was treated with conventional therapy and the tested group treated with SM and AM. Parameters, including diameter of portal vein and splenic vein (Dpv and Dsv), speed of blood flow in portal vein and splenic vein (Spv and Ssv), quantity of blood flow in portal vein and splenic vein (Qpv and Qsv) as well as liver fibrosis indexes, such as HA, PC III and LN, were determined before, 1, 2 and 3 months after treatment. SM and AM could improve portal hypertension effectively in liver cirrhosis patients, one of the mechanism may be related with the improvement of liver fibrosis.

Zhonghua Shi Yan He Lin Chuang Bing Du Xue Za Zhi 1998 Sep;12(3):269-71
Study on the anti-herpes simplex virus activity of a suppository or ointment form of Astragalus membranaceus combined with interferon alpha 2b in human diploid cell culture [Article in Chinese]
Zhang L, Liu Y, Yu Z.
Biotech Center for New Pharmaceutical Development, Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, State Key Laboratory for Molecular Virology and Genetic Engineering, Beijing 100052.
A study on the anti-herpes simplex virus activity of the suppository or ointment form of Astragalus membranaceus(AM) combined with recombinant human interferon alpha 2b(IFN) was carried out in human diploid cell culture. It is well known that chronic cervicitis is closely related to papillomavirus, cytomegalovirus as well as herpes virus infections. The AM-IFN suppository is suggested to be used in the treatment of cervicitis and the ointment in the treatment of skin herpes.

Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1993 May;13(5):263-5, 259
Effect of Astragalan on secretion of tumor necrosis factors in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells [Article in Chinese]
Zhao KW, Kong HY.
Shaanxi Provincial People's Hospital, Xi'an.
The extracts of Astragalus membranaceus have been further isolated by liquid chromatography. One of the fractions (Astragalan, M.W. 20,000-25,000) could enhance the secretion of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) from human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in vitro. After isolation of adherent and nonadherent mononuclear cells from PBMC, Astragalan increased the secretion of TNF-alpha and TNF-beta respectively. These results suggest further study of Astragalan would promote the application of Astragalan in cancer immunotherapy.