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Astralagus is Milk Vetch

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Food as Herbs, Health, and Medicine

Winter Volume: 2016 Issue: 23(4) page(s): 13-14

Also called ‘locoweed,’ this Chinese tonic herb has been used for several thousand years for those with weaknesses and overall reduced vitality. More recently, it has been prescribed for severe common colds and for those with cancer. It is popular for both.

At Chinese herbal emporia, it can be found as a root, in liquid form, and as a powder, alone or in combination with other herbs, potions, and medicines. The traditional herbal practitioners (TCM doctors) we spoke to, said a single dose in between nine and thirty grams taken alone. They add that it is also good for all types of fatigue, shortness of breath, chronic diarhea, and many viral and bacterial complaints.

The Chinese call it huang qi, or ‘yellow leader.’ It is discussed since its publication in the Divine Husband’s Classic of Materia Medica and around and in use since the first century CE or even longer.

Recently it is being prescribed in herbal emporia as bundles of its roots, those also for cancer patients. Often in combination with other herbs, it is said to be warming and replenishing of one’s qi. Those same TCM doctors say they use it for protection of the body from outside environmental influences, particularly for those causing colds who are not fighting off diseases.

This herb does lower blood pressure, is said to be a diuretic, increases urination, and reduces thirst. It is often the herb of choice for upper respiratory infections because it fights them by increasing production of white blood cells and interferon.

In the United States it is often given to cancer patients undergoing chemo and/or radiation. Doctors have learned they recover faster when used with other cancer medications. Some of them are also giving it to heart patients for relief of angina pain.

We recommend you not self-diagnose because there are some two thousand species of this genus, some annuals and others perennials. Therefore, taking the incorrect species, such as one intended for the kidney or liver, or one that is toxic, will not help but rather hinder one’s recovery. TCM practitioners have told us that when a wrong species and/or an incorrect dosage is given to grazing animals, it does induce bizarre or ’loco’ behavior. That is why it is called ‘locoweed.’ There have been some fatalities even among very large animals.

Though traditional Chinese herbal pharmacies have and sell this herb with no prescription, and there are cases of debilitated folk getting better, taking Astragalus membranaceus should only be done when in the care of a licensed medical physician.

This herb is on a par with ginseng and said to be warming and replenishing of qi. TCM medical personnel teach their patients to boil this major component of zheng fu therapy in combination with other herbs for controlled amounts of time, and in controlled amounts.

A. gummifer is in this family of herbs and is the source of a natural water-soluble sap in common use. Called 'gum tragacanth,' it has been used for thousands of years to treat persistent coughs. It is also used as an aphrodisiac.
Grass Carp and Sea Vegetables
1/2 pound grass carp fillet
1/4 cup dried sea vegetables, soaked for ten minutes, then chopped
6 slices fresh ginger, shredded
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce

1. Place grass carp on a heat-proof plate and put the sea vegetables and shredded ginger on top.
2. Mix the heated oil and the soy sauce, and sprinkle on top of the fish filet. Cover with plastic wrap and steam for five to six minutes, then uncover and serve.
Ginseng Chicken Astragalus Soup
1 three to four pound young chicken, cut in quarters, internal organs discarded
1 cup glutinous rice, soaked overnight
4 dried milk vetch root slices boiled in four cups of water fr one hour, then drained
3 scallions, knotted
1 one-inch piece ginseng, sliced thinly
1 head garlic, all cloves peeled
4 to 6 red jujubes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Rnse and dry chicken pieces with paper towes.
2. Drain rice and the milk vetch, saving three cups of water from each
3. Put chicken pieces in the drained waters, add scallion knots, and simmer for forty minutes, then discard skin and bones from the chicken pieces and cut meat into one-inch pieces.
4. Add rest of the ingredients and simmer half an hour longer Serve with or without garlic cloves.
Astragalus Pork Soup
2 puonds pork ribs, cooked for ninety minutes in four cups of water or in a meat broth
1 pre-mixed herbal soup pack, optional
30 goji berries
1/2 cup rice
15 dried longan, pitted
1 Chinese yam, peeled and diced
4 dried red dates, pitted
3 dried slices astragulus roots
10 astragulus seeds, optional
1. Cook herbal packer items, if using, with all the other herbal items.
2. Remove and discard all herbs and cut meat off the bones into half-inch pieces, and discard all bones, putting meat back into the soup, then serve.
Astraguus Fish and Broccoli Soup
1 astragalus root slices boiled in six cups of water for one hour, then discard the roots, and reserve the liquid
2 fresh Chinese black mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced thin
1 cup one-inch pieces of a white fish, skin and bones discarded
2 Tablespoons cornstarch mixed with same amount of cold water
1 cup small broccoli flowerettes
1 tomato, skin removed and discarded, and diced
2 Tablespoons goji berries
1. Using the liquid from the roots, add the mushrooms and simmer for twenty minutes, then add the fish and the cornstarch mixture, and bring to the boil and stir.
2. Next add the broccli, tomato, and goji berries and simmer five more minutes, then serve
Astragalus and Greens
3 Tablespoons astragalus seeds, soaked overnight, then boiled for half an hour, and drained
1 cup bak cai stems, slivered, then boiled ofr five minutes in three cups of water, then drained
1 cup bak cai leaves blanched, then sliced thinly
2 Tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
2 Tablespoons Shao Xing vinegar
2 ablespoons granulated sugar
1. Mix prepared seeds and greens, and toss wel, then cover and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
2. Add both vinegar amounts and the sugar, toss again. Then serve.

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