Astragalus is a genus of plants and shrubs native to most temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. At present, most are considered weeds, such as milk-vetch and locoweed, though alpine milk-vetch and cock's head are cultivated for ornamental uses, thanks to their blue and purple blooms, which resemble the right-angled trumpet-like orchid blooms in shape. This genus is currently being explored for the medicinal properties of its roots as well.
Immune System Booster
Astragalus root contains a short chain sugar molecule called an astragaloside which has been found to boost the immune system in ways similar to high levels of vitamin C. Astragaloside acts as both an antioxidant and a super-oxidative. What super-oxidatives do is promote the bone marrow in the human body to produce more white blood cells. This serves to help the body fight off all sorts of potential infections, such as the flu, colds and fevers.
Respiratory System Treatment
There are several examples of the chemical group known as saponins found in astragalus root. These act to stimulate the vili of the lungs and tissue of the bronchial pathways, which help treat breathing difficulties caused by asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis. The other effect of saponins are to help regulate the sodium-potassium pump of the heart, allowing for a stronger, more steady heartbeat. They also act on the atria ventricular node of the heart, which is often responsible for arrhythmias and heart flutters when this node is overactive. Saponins depress the means by which the atria ventricular node works to treat heartbeat disorders.
Cancer and Kidney Disease
Astragalus root helps to reduce the toxic effects of chemotherapy, though how is not yet known. Likewise, this root inhibits the stomach's production of acid, which is beneficial in the treatment of gastric cancers. Finally, the diuretic properties of Astragalus root can aid in the treatment of kidney disease. Normally, a diseased kidney begins to produce proteinuria, a protein which is toxic to the kidneys and increases the rate at which they degrade. Diuretics such as astragalus root force the kidneys to release both high quantities of sodium and fluid through the urinary tract, taking the proteinuria with it.