Milk Vetch, Chinese Milk Vetch Astragalus sinicus-Use As, Medicinal, Landscape, Gardening
Astragalus sinicus Chinese Milk Vetch Root is huang qi in China. Deep-rooted leguminous plant forms an upright bush with many stems, each thickly covered with tiny pinnate leaves and small arching racemes bearing rows of whitish-yellow flowers. This important Chinese medicinal, when used over many months, is known to rebuild the immune system while combating exhaustion. Long-term tonic use increases stamina and improves resistance to cold temperatures. Harvest 4- to 6-year-old roots in fall. Plant in full sun, 12" apart in deep gravelly well-drained soil. 18â36" tall.
Astragalus is a perennial herb from the pea family that has been used in Chinese medicine for years. Other popular names for the herbal plant are milk vetch or huang-qi. As an adaptogen, the herb is known to boost the immune system and is used for many bodily ailments. The plant itself likes sandy soil and dry roots; it doesn't like its root system to be disturbed either. This can make its first year a difficult one for the gardener, but once the plant is through the young stage, it is easy to grow.
Astragalus Use and Health Benefits
The purported health benefits of astragalus are a bit vague, at least from a scientific standpoint. Astragalus is used to boost the immune system, treat hepatitis, and even treat cancer. It is almost always combined with other herbs, complicating the evaluation of the health benefits of astragalus. Youâll find astragalus as an ingredient in traditional Chinese Medicine preparations such as teas, soups and even capsules (in powered form).
How to grow:
Many people start their seeds in small container indoors in the winter. Seeds should not be planted outdoors until all danger of frost is gone. Most growers keep astragalus in a greenhouse for the first year and then plant them outdoors. However, because the plant does not like its roots disturbed, this can be risky. Taking special care to cover the plants with mulch for the winter of their first year may be a better alternative.
Astragalus plants like sandy, well-drained soil and full sun. They are drought resistant and can be damaged or killed by standing water or being over watered. They don't need much fertilizer, although mixing mulch in the soil when planting will give the astragalus nutrients and improve the soil's drainage.
Harvesting the Root
The root of the plant is what most people grow astragalus for. This is the part of the plant that is used in herbal medicines. Be cautious when growing any plant to ingest. If you are allergic to peas or anything in the Leguminosae family, do not use astragalus. The roots are not harvested from these plants until they are in their fourth or fifth year, and you cannot be certain of the potency of the herb because of the differences in soil.
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