Used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a Qi tonic – the vital life force, or energy, present in the body, astragalus has finally made its way westward.
Ten or twenty years ago, if you wanted to support your immune system you popped a chewable vitamin C tablet, swigged some orange juice or maaaybe drank down some Emergen-C (if it was exam week and if you could find it). My, how times have changed. In such a relatively short period of time, our understanding of immunity and how to strengthen it has grown tenfold, and the options along with it. These days we’re less likely to swig OJ than we are to whip up a coconut oil-fueled tonic rich in adaptogens – it’s pretty amazing if you think about it. The variety of foods we’ve come to understand as supportive to our systems are plentiful, with more discovered daily, and so many of them backed by thousands of years of Ayurvedic and traditional usage. Among these full-body supporters is astragalus.
What is astragalus?
Derived from the root of a plant in the pea family that grows in Mongolia, Korea and China, astragalus is most often found as a golden-hued powder. While over 2,000 species of astragalus exist, only two are used medicinally: astragalus membranaceus and astragalus mongholicus. Astragalus is a powerful adaptogen — helping the body adapt to stressful situations and the demands of everyday life, helping in turn to build and strengthen immune function, in this way astragalus lives up to its reputation as a life force-strengthening Qi tonic.
What are the benefits?
The main beneficial compounds in astragalus are saponins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides. With their combined ability to support the immune system, provide antioxidative functions and provide antimicrobial and antiviral properties, these compounds play a vital role in astragalus’ potency. As an adaptogen, astragalus encourages the body to balance and adapt, working with the system to adapt to everyday stress. The polysaccharides and saponins in astragalus could protect the body against inflammation, in turn aiding immune response and strengthening the system against colds and flu.
How to use astragalus:
While the taste is slightly bitter, a 2g serving of astragalus blends fairly seamlessly into your morning coffee, tea, cocoa, smoothie or oats. You can also toss it into granolas or energy ball recipes, or try the soothing tonic below:
8 oz nut milk
1 tsp raw honey
½ tsp grated ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cardamom
1 tsp – 1 tbsp coconut oil
Place all ingredients in a small pot and heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming but not boiling. Transfer to a blender and blend on high for 30 seconds. Pour into a mug and sprinkle with cinnamon. Sip slowly and enjoy!
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