A Nod to Astragalus, the Traveler’s Good Friend

One of the world’s most potent Qi tonics makes for a good companion when feasting on exotic foods…

This post comes from Natalie Shukur.

My Australian friends euphemistically call it “Bali Belly”, but there’s no sugarcoating the horror of picking up a stomach bug whilst traveling. I’ll save you the gory details, but let’s just say that it plays out like food poisoning’s very angry older sister, and it can derail a trip to paradise, especially a paradise like Bali, where (oh the irony), there is so much delicious food on offer. And that’s where astragalus comes in handy.

Such is the price we pay, and the risk we take, to experience new and exotic cultures – ones that teach us so much about the world and the human condition, that broaden our minds and expand our hearts. On my fourth trip to Bali, I decided I was going to use my knowledge of herbalism and natural medicine to fight fire with fire. Arming myself with activated charcoal (a great natural remedy for an upset stomach) wasn’t going to cut it this time. I wanted to err or the side of prevention rather than cure, and my research led me to astragalus, an adaptogenic herb used for centuries in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Astragalus is a perennial flowering plant with a long history as an immune booster and disease fighter. Also called milkvetch root or Huang-qi, it comes from the Leguminosae (beans or legumes) family, and contains saponins (immune system boosters), flavonoids (antioxidants) and polysaccharides (anti-microbial and antiviral), meaning it packs a three-in-one punch. It is known as one of the most potent Qi tonics in the world, boosting overall health (improved skin is a great side effect).

A friend of mine, who is an aid worker in developing countries and often travels to India (another location notorious for getting westerners sick – see “Delhi Belly”), was prescribed astragalus by her naturopath and on a recent trip — while her co-workers were predictably ill, she was happily munching on spicy curry and milky chai without a hint of upset. I was sold. Westerners get sick in these countries from eating the food and drinking the water (and eating food washed in untreated water). The bacteria are foreign, and the sanitation, agriculture and hygiene is different than our systems are used to. It helps to stay clear of raw food (especially salads) and stick to simple cooked, vegetarian food that is made fresh. But, taken as a defense mechanism, astragalus can help to prepare the system for an onslaught of foreign bodies. The trick is to take it for three weeks before your trip to build up the body’s defense mechanism, and then to continue throughout the duration of your trip. You can take it in powder form like these from Sun Potion and Moon Juice (add it to a warm tonic or try this recipe) or in a supplement that includes other powerhouse ingredients.

After a three-week trip that took me from one end of Bali to another, I’m happy to report that it works. Now, I’m arming myself with astragalus every winter to ward of colds and viruses and I won’t travel without fortifying myself with it in advance.

+ How do you build up your body’s defense system? Share in the comments below!

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Will definitely be keeping astragalus in mind for when I next travel… hopefully that’s soon!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

6 years ago

“Third world countries” yikes for that expression!

6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

thank you for calling that out, anonymous. as we should have…the copy has been corrected.

6 years ago

I wasn’t aware that you had to worry about vegetables when traveling to some places. I knew about water, though. Astragalus seems very necessary. I might need this in the winter to help prevent sickness.

6 years ago

Very interesting article, very helpful.


6 years ago

Great post! Thanks!