Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) or Huang Qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a popular tonic herb. A member of the Legume family, Astragalus has been used medically for centuries. Grown in various regions in China, Japan and Korea, with the most medicinally potent variety hailing from northern China.
The roots of mature plants (3+ years old) are used to treat a variety of conditions such as suppressed immune function from various cancer treatments, Cancer, Kennel Cough (Bortetella bronchiseptica), Bladder infection, Urinary Tract Infection, Hyperthyroidism in cats and Hypothyroidism in dogs, Demodex Mange, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, Liver disease, heart disease, horses suffering from the effects of a suppressed immune system caused by Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPA), chronic immune problems, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (FIV) , Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), Cushing’s Disease, and bacterial and viral infections in aquarium fish, just to name a few.
Astragalus has anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, making it one of my first choices for the treatment and prevention of various infections. Containing antioxidants (protecting against cell damage), Astragalus helps the body reduce the damage done by free radicals. It also contains an alkaloid called Swainsonine which has been shown to stop the spread of melanoma, a type of skin cancer. It also contains polysaccharides which are thought to play an important role proper function of the immune system. The components in Astragalus do not attack cancer cells directly, they work to enhance the body’s own natural immune defenses to fight against the development of cancer.
When asked about what herb I would recommend for boosting a dogs immune system, I always suggest Astragalus first. I give it as a dietary supplement to both of my dogs to keep their immune system in tip top shape. Not only is it a good immune booster when taken orally, it’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent choice topically for wound care. Matter of fact it’s one of the main herbs in our Organic Healing Salve, along with Calendula, Oregano, Plantain and Catnip.
You can purchase Astragalus Root in many different forms such as sliced, shredded, powder, tincture and capsule/tablet. Make sure to buy from a reputable source and buy only organic products ensuring there are no unwanted chemicals and other potential contaminants. Also make sure to use only Astragalus membranaceus.
The dosage is dependent on the form you choose. Since most people like the convenience of capsule or tablet form that is what I will focus on. Most labels include suggested dosages with one problem, the dosage suggestions are for humans. There really is no definitive formula for converting human to animal dosages, only a general guideline. Since most dosages for humans are based on an average weight of 150 lbs, first off you need to know your pet’s weight. For instance if your dog weighs 50 lbs and the labels reads “Give 3 capsules twice daily” you would give 1 capsule two times daily. If your dog weighs 25 lbs you would give ½ of a capsule twice daily etc. Remember this is a general guideline and adjustments either way may be needed.
Astragalus is considered a category 1 or “safe” food herb. Animals with an overactive immune system or autoimmune disease should use Astragalus only under the guidance of a Holistic veterinarian.