Probably almost as soon as they began to stand upright on two legs, early human beings began to wander what caused sickness and if they could cure it. Somewhere along the line back in the mists of time, they found that certain herbs and roots cured aches, pains, disease and other ailments, or at least alleviated their symptoms. They may have found that other herbs and roots, when ingested with food or boiled and steeped and prepared as a tea, helped the health, giving them the hearty constitutions they needed to hunt massive prehistoric animals like cave bears and mastodons, and survive the harsh ice ages winters. In fact, our ancestors’ use of medicinal herbs and roots and other natural plants now serves as the basis for our modern medicine.
One plant that we know contains health benefits is the astragalus. This plant is found in northern China and the elevated regions in the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. In China, it is known as Huang qi, or milk vetch. When a Chinese medicine man or woman collects astragalus for its health benefits, this wise person knows to use the plant’s roots for medicinal purposes, even though the astragalus is a member of the pea family. The medicine man or woman would collect the roots in the spring and then let them dry for an astounding four to seven years before using astragalus for its health benefits. And Chinese medicine men and woman, herbalists, doctors, and others have been practicing healing with astragalus for over 4,000 years!
So what is so great about the health benefits of astragalus that it has been in use as a medicinal plant for over 4,000 years? Astragalus is thought to perform many good works that help the body maintain optimal health. This can include strengthening metabolism and digestion, raises metabolism (for quicker digestion and easier weight loss), strengthening the immune system (for fending off disease and healing from illness more quickly) and healing wounds and injuries. If you were to visit an herbalist and inquire about the health benefits of astragalus, they might explain to you that astragalus helps the body maintain its normal balance, which is a very important health care topic in Eastern medicine. For instance, astragalus helps the body maintain its energy, and remain healthy and well even when faced with a host of attacks from physical, chemical and biological sources.
For example, if you visited a herbalist because you were simply feeling under the weather, but were not exhibiting symptoms of any specific disease or condition, then herbalist might recommend the health benefits of astragalus because it builds stamina and vitality in the body. When the body is stressed, either due to physical factors or even due to stress in the brain, it is more prone to attacks to the immune system. It is much easier for someone battling a 9 to 5 job he hates, an unhappy home life, and a irritating boss to get sick than it is for someone who lives a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. For that reason, an herbalist might recommend that the stressed out person take astragalus in order to fortify his immune system against attack. Astragalus is even thought to help the body respond to other cures. For example, if a patient were undergoing intensive treatment for cancer, an herbalist might recommend that her or she supplement that treatment with a regimen of astragalus.
Of course, if you plan to take astragalus, be sure to consult your primary care physician. While astragalus, being a natural substance, has few side effects, it can interfere with prescriptions such as diuretics, Phenobarbital, beta-blocers and anticoagulants for the blood. Be safe and not sorry and check with your doctor before adding another treatment if you are already being treated with medication.