Locoweed (Astragalus bisulcatus)

Locoweed (Astragalus bisulcatus)

High in selenium

At this time of year many people come into the clinic looking
for both an energy- and immune-boosting tonic. One of the
best botanicals for this purpose comes to us from China. No,
not the expensive and widely-known ginseng, but a more
humble, economical herb from the pea family—astragalus.

The Chinese (Mandarin) name for
astragalus is Huang qi. First written
about in China over 5,000 years ago. it
was considered one of the most
important tonic herbs, thus the name
"yellow leaden" Another common name
for this herb is "sweet root" because of
its very sweet, delicious taste.
Current Western applications of
astragalus are primarily for restoring
and strengthening the immune
response, enhancing cardiovascular
function, and increasing vitality.
Western preparations include dried
root for decoction (boiled tea), liquid
extract, tablets, and powdered root.
Standing on guard
As an immune tonic, astragalus
(Astragalus rnembranaceu.s) is considered
an adaptogen (see sidebar),
providing deeper immune-system
support than echinacea.
There have been many ciinieal
studies showing how astragalus not
only boosts the immune system, but
also encourages an increase in immune
cell (T-cells. natural killer cells,
macrophages. immunoglobulin)
activity, production, and function.
Astragalus appears to help trigger
immune cells from a resting state into
heightened activity. The number of
macrophages (cells of the immune
system Ihal ingest foreign antigens to
protect against infection) has been
shown to increase after administering
a decoction of astragalus. The
natural killer cells of the immune
system also have a markedly
enhanced ability to fight intruders
(five- to sixfold).

Matters ofthe heart
As a cardiotonic (an agent that has a
tonic effect on the heart), astragalus
increases the heart's contractions.
Several studies also show that
astragalus offers heart-protecting
effects, including protection against
free-radical oxidative damage.
One study in China of 92 patients
who had insufficient blood supply to
their heart muscle had significant
relief from angina, and the effective
rate of electrocardiogram improvement
was 82.6 percent afler being
treated with astragalus.

in another Chinese study of 20
patients with angina, cardiac output
(the volume of blood being pumped
by the heart, in particular a ventricle)
was significantly increased after they
were given astragalus for two weeks.

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