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      Astragalus:  A Chinese immune system booster, heals burns and abscesses, offsets adverse effects of cancer therapy, protects the heart against viral damage. Used as a tonic in traditional Chinese medicine. It is a member of the legume, or bean, family. It has sweet-tasting roots (the parts used medicinally).

Researchers in the United States and China have begun to believe that Astragalus may very well live up to its 2,000-year-old reputation as an immune system booster.  It is one of the most commonly used herbs in all of Chinese medicine to build up the vital energy, or qi (pronounced "Chee"),  It's used to promote urination, speed healing of burns and abscesses and generally bolster the body's resistance to disease.  Chinese healers also use astragalus to treat the common cold, arthritis, weakness, diarrhea, asthma and nervousness. Sometimes they pan-roast the roots in honey or use them as an ingredient in soup.  In Chinese hospitals, astragalus is used to help people with cancer recover from the immune system wipeout caused by chemotherapy.

Astragalus is available at many health food stores in the form of capsules, teas and tinctures. The herb has not been known to cause any dangerous side effects, but some people have reported loose stools or abdominal bloating. If you experience any unpleasant symptoms, cut back your dose or discontinue use.

There are many flowering plants in the astragalus family, including native American species that are toxic when eaten by cattle. (Ranchers call the plant locoweed because of its effect on their herds' behavior.) The particular herb known as astragalus in Chinese medicine is a species called Astragalus membranaceus.

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