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Brand: Frontier Bulk
Common Name: Astragalus Root
Astragalus root comes from a perennial plant that is found across much of northern China and Mongolia. The herb is a staple of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), where it has been used for centuries as a superior tonic.
Botanical name: Astragalus membranaceus (Fisch. Ex Link) Bunge
Common name: Astragalus
Synonyms: Membranous milkvetch, Huang qi
The Plant: Astagalus is one of the largest genus of flowering plants, containing over 2,000 species. These members of the legume family are found all over the world (400 of them in the United States) in many sizes and shapes. Astragalus herb is a sprawling perennial that grows 1 1/2 feet tall and has small, yellow, pea-like flowers. The plants are generally four years old before the long, woody root is dug and dried in the sun.
"Huang qi," the pinyin name for astragalus is derived from Huang, meaning yellow (taken from the internal color of the root) and qi, meaning leader, which refers to the importance of astragalus root as a leading Chinese herbal tonic. This leading, or superior, tonic herb has been known and valued in China for more than 2,000 years. Astragalus grows naturally across a wide swatch of China, but the Chinese consider the cultivated root superior to the wild. When planted in a well-drained soil, the plants are easy to grow once the seeds germinate.
Constituents of Note: The polysaccharides in astragalus are important in the protecting qualities of the herb. Flavonoids and triterpene saponins are also significant classes of constituents.
Quality: Large, straight roots with a yellowish core are considered the highest quality. Astragalus from China is usually prepared in long slices of root and it is seen in many grades with each successive, lower grade composed of slightly shorter, narrower or less straight slices. Astragalus has a faint aroma and a woody, sweet, mild flavor.
Regulatory Status: Dietary supplement
Directions: To make an astragalus tea, simmer roots for 30 minutes. Use one teaspoon of herb per each cup of water. (When using slices break them into pieces to estimate quantity, it is not important to be exact with this herb). Drink one to three cups a day.
Add a slice or two of astragalus along with ginger root to a warming winter soup, such as chicken noodle, or hot and sour or spicy coconut Thai dishes.
Suggested Uses: Astragalus is a traditional Chinese tonic and adaptogen and is considered one of the most valued of the tonic herbs. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), it is sometimes recommended for young adults while ginseng is recommended for older persons. The protective energy of the body, Qi is composed of outer energy (Wei Qi) and inner energy (Ying Qi) Astragalus is believed to strengthen Wei Qi while ginseng strengthens Ying Qi. A good all encompassing strengthening blend would include both astragalus and ginseng.
Caution/Safety: The Botanical Safety Handbook* classifies Astragalus Root as:
Class:1 herbs which can be safely consumed when used appropriately
Magic Chicken Soup
When I start getting that achy, sore-throat feeling, I make a hot, gingery soup that always warms me up and makes me feel better. I vary this soup according to what I have on hand, as I usually am making it when I can't plan ahead.
1 small chicken (or 2 pounds deboned, skinless chicken pieces)
3 astragalus root slices
3 bay leaves
2 to 4 whole red chilies
water to cover and cook chicken (2 to 3 quarts)
1 ounce dried shitake mushrooms
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup chopped carrot
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons tamari
1 piece (2 inches) of fresh ginger, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
3 cups bok choy or other Chinese cabbage, chopped
juice of one lemon
Garnish: 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaf chopped (optional)
Place the chicken, astragalus, bay leaves and chili peppers in a large soup pot. Cover with water and cook until tender (about an hour). Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool.
Rinse shiitakes under cool water to remove any grit, then place in a small bowl and cover the mushrooms with hot water to soften (15 minutes).
Add onions, carrot, celery, tamari and drained, chopped mushrooms to stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove chicken from the bone and add it — along with the ginger, garlic, and parsley flakes — to the soup. Continue simmering another five minutes.
Remove astragalus and bay leaves from soup and discard. Add bok choy and lemon juice to the pot. Stir well, taste and adjust seasonings, if desired. If soup is not as spicy as you would like, add cayenne powder, ¼ teaspoon at a time. Serve piping hot and garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.
Chef Suggestion: This soup can be made without chicken. Add chicken broth powder to the veggies while they're cooking, to get a richer broth.
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