Astragalus: An Adaptogen for Immunity and Energy
Astragalus root is considered a Superior herb in Chinese Medicine.
Superior* herbs are those that can be used regularly and over long periods of time to encourage and facilitate health. Also known as tonic herbs, superior herbs can be thought of as Food Grade medicine. Food as in the stuff you eat to stay alive.
These Food Grade, Superior, Tonic medicines are herbs that are high in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that are needed and used in a wide array of physiological activities in your body. They’re also low in unwanted side effects. Like kale and carrots, they can be used safely, with a wide dosage range without making you sick.
All the chemical and electrical reactions that are happening in your body all day and every day require specific inputs to do their jobs correctly.
For example you need calcium, magnesium, and other minerals for your muscles to function correctly. This includes not only the major skeletal muscles of your arms, legs and trunk, but also the involuntary muscles of your heart, blood vessels, and gastrointestinal tract.
All of these systems require the same minerals to function properly. When minerals are in short supply - because all you eat is burritos or the general mineral content of our soils is way down, your more vital organs will be prioritized. Your heart and lungs get all the goodies, and your less vital organs like your digestive tract and arm, leg and back muscles get cut off from the supply. It’s not super fun but you can survive with reduced function in these ‘non-vital’ organs. Hello constipation and chronic back pain.
Of course you know that the best place to get vitamins, minerals, and all the things you need to function is from food.
You also know it can be challenging to meet that goal. Shopping for, preparing, and cooking enough of the right kinds of foods you need for optimum health is a full time job unto itself. On top of all the other full time jobs you have - mothering, wife-ing, working, familying, adulting, to name just a few.
It’s totally doable to eat this way. It’s easier than ever, especially here in San Diego, to eat 100% organic, free range, pasture-raised, nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, and any variation thereof. I encourage everyone to aim for that. Maybe you’re already there. I’m not, so if you’re pulling it off, I would like you move in with me. I think we have room for one more. Especially if you shop and cook.
But until you do, thank goodness for Superior herbs. I can count on these mineral, vitamin, and phytonutrient rich plants to support my metabolism, endocrine balance, organ function, and stress resilience - even when all I want to eat is burritos. And so can you. Astragalus is one of my favorites because it’s easy to sneak into my family on a regular basis.
What Is Astragalus Good For?
Astragalus is a widely used herb in both Eastern and Western Herbalism.
It’s well known for its ability to strengthen the immune system and help the body fight off infections.
As an adaptogen, astragalus increases your ability to deal with stress, both physically and mentally. It supports your adrenal glands and helps to balance hormones.
It’s good for anyone with chronic lung issues like asthma, cough, shortness of breath or for anyone who frequently gets sick. It’s high in antioxidants making it protective against cell damage. It helps to balance blood sugar, can help regulate blood pressure, and protects the liver from toxic substances and viruses it filters out of your blood.
And it doesn’t even taste bad.
How to Use Astragalus
Astragalus is best used as a tonic herb over long periods of time, helping you to slowly build stamina, strength, and resistance to stress and illness.
Traditionally, the roots are sliced and pressed into long flat sticks. These sticks can be added whole to soups, stews, bone broths, grains and any other food that involves sustained cooking in liquid. Water is the best medium for extracting the polysaccharides and minerals from astragalus that your body uses to fortify your health.
In my experience, astragalus doesn't really alter the flavor of the foods it’s added to. If you are a gourmand with a highly developed palate for the nuances of savory and spice, maybe you’ll be able to taste it. Though if that’s the case, I’m sure you can learn to appreciate the subtle, slightly sweet, and mildly earthy stick flavor astragalus imparts.
Just be sure to take the sticks out before serving it to anyone. Otherwise the jig is up and everyone will know you’re dosing them immune boosting, stress busting herbal magic.
Another way to get the benefits of astragalus, without adding whole sticks to your food, is astragalus powder. I like the one from Sun Potion. It has all the goodness of the root sticks, but is easily blendable into soups, oatmeal, coffee, smoothies, adaptogenic energy balls and anything else you like to consume.
Astragalus is a great entry-level herb. Its mild to non-existent taste makes it easy to sneak into your food regularly, adding it’s immune building, health protecting properties to your everyday life.
*Superior is the name given to these herbs as translated from the Chinese Materia Medica. We also use the terms Tonic, Nutritive, Food Grade and even Superfood to all mean the same thing. These are plants that are super good for you and are safe to use in fairly large doses for prolonged periods of time. Do keep in mind that even too much of a good thing can turn bad. Remember the lady that almost killed herself with bok choy? Don’t be that lady.