Astragalus (As-trá-ga-lus) is a large genus of about 3,000 species[1] of herbs and small shrubs, belonging to the legume family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. The genus is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Common names include milk-vetch (most species), locoweed (in western US, some species)[2] and goat’s-thorn (A. gummifer, A. tragacanthus). Some pale-flowered vetches are similar in appearance, but vetches are more vine-like.

Medicinal uses

Main article: Astragalus propinquus

Astragalus propinquus (also known as Astragalus membranaceus) has a history of use as a herbal medicine, and the biotechnology firms Geron Corporation and TA Therapeutics of Hong Kong have been working on deriving a telomerase activator from it.

In a recent news release Geron Corporation and Rita Effros from UCLA discussed the possibility of a herbal extract called TAT2 (Cycloastregenol) to be used to help combat HIV, as well as infections associated with chronic diseases or aging.[3]

Supplement use

Despite lack of evidence and testing, extracts of Astragalus membranaceus are marketed as telophase enhancing and life prolonging extracts. However, no independent tests have confirmed that these supplements activate telomerase in humans. An isolate of a proprietary extract of the dried root of Astragalus membranaceus, called TA-65, ‘was associated with a statistically significant “age-reversal” effect in the immune system, in that it led to declines in the percentage of senescent cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells after six to twelve months of use.’[4] Telomerase activation was feared to pose an increased risk of cancer because telomere shortening is a mechanism that limits cell proliferation. However, short telomeres result in chromosome instability, hence there is also a potential mechanism for telomere lengthening to protect against cancer. To date, studies of drug-induced activation of telomerase (as distinct from mutation-induced activation) have shown no evidence of a cancer-promoting effect.[5]

Astragalus is used in traditional Chinese medicine.[6]

Astragalus propinquus (syn. Astragalus membranaceus[clarification needed]) also known as huáng qí (yellow leader) (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ) or běi qí (traditional Chinese: ), huáng hua huáng qí (Chinese: 黄花黄耆),[2] is a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae. It is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.[3] It is a perennial plant and it is not listed as being threatened.[1]


A. propinquus is used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is used to speed healing and treat diabetes.[4] In western herbal medicine, Astragalus is primarily considered a tonic for enhancing metabolism and digestion and is consumed as a tea or soup made from the (usually dried) roots of the plant, often in combination with other medicinal herbs. It is also traditionally used to strengthen the immune system and in the healing of wounds [5] and injuries.[6] Extracts of A. propinquus are used in Australia as part of a commercially available pharmaceutical MC-S to stimulate production of peripheral blood lymphocytes.

A. propinquus has been asserted to be a tonic that can improve the functioning of the lungs, adrenal glands and the gastrointestinal tract, increase metabolism, sweating, promote healing and reduce fatigue.[7] A mix of Astragali Radix and Salviae Radix, has been used to treat patients with chronic fatigue.[8]

There is a report in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology that Astragalus membranaceus can show “immunomodulating and immunorestorative effects.”,[9]The herbal extract supplementation in drinking water can induce an immune stimulation response in immunosuppressed chickens[10] It has been shown to increase the production of interferon and to activate immune cells such as macrophages.[3]

There is a report in the journal Rejuvenation Research titled A Natural Product Telomerase Activator As Part of a Health Maintenance Program which shows that an extract of Astragalus propinquus, called TA-65®, can activate Telomerase extending the lengths of the shortest Telomers which protect the terminal DNA at the ends of all chromosomes. Telomer loss is associated with errors in cell division and is thought to be the primary cause of aging.

The active constituents of the roots (Radix Astragali) include polysaccharides, triterpenoids (astragalosides) [11] as well as isoflavones (including calycosin and formononetin) along with their glycosides and malonates.[12]

{Information courtesy Wikipedia}