Milkvetch roots

Chinese: 黄芪

Pinyin: Huáng Qí

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenLung

Scientific name: Astragalus membranaceus

Use of milkvetch roots (Huang Qi) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities and smaller roots, dry and cut into sections.

Dosage: 9 - 30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Wei Qi and stops perspiration. Tonifies the Spleen Qi and the Yang Qi of the Earth Element. Tonifies the Qi and Blood. Expels pus and assists in the healing of wounds. Helps to regulate water metabolism in the body and reduce edema.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which milkvetch roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Anorexia Diarrhea Rectal prolapse Abnormal uterine bleeding Albuminuria Acute nephritis Diabetes Night sweats Uterine prolapse Edema

Contraindications*: Should not be used for case of Excess or Deficiency of Yin with Heat signs and should not be used when there is Stagnation of Qi with painful obstruction.

Common TCM formulas in which milkvetch roots are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind milkvetch roots (Huang Qi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), milkvetch roots are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Qi tonics are typically sweet and they tend to enter the Spleen and Lungs because these organs are most involved with the production of Qi.

Furthermore milkvetch roots are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that milkvetch roots tend to help people who have too much "cold" in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much cold in their body are said to either have a Yin excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition milkvetch roots can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Milkvetch roots also taste Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like milkvetch roots tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such milkvetch roots are thought to target the Spleen and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on milkvetch roots (Huang Qi)

Milkvetch root can improve the immune function of patients with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.1

An extract of A. propinquus called TA-65 may activate telomerase, extending the lengths of the shortest telomeres which protect the terminal DNA at the ends of all chromosomes.2

Huanglan Granule (containing milkvetch root) has obvious inhibitory effect on rubella virus, both in vitro and in vivo, it can also raise the immunity of organism.3

Calycosin (the major bioactive chemical in the dry root extract of Radix astragali) exhibits promising effects for the treatment of tumors, inflammation, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases.4

The polysaccharides, saponins, and flavonoids of Radix astragali, and the whole extract of Radix astragali have been widely reported with their anticancer effects in preclinical studies and showed a potential application as a adjunctive cancer therapeutics with the activities of immunomodulation, anti-proliferation and attenuation of adverse effects induced by cytotoxic therapy.5

Radix Astragali could significantly relieve the clinical symptoms such as hidrosis and palpitation, regulate the immune function of Graves disease patients, playing an important role in the adjuvant therapy for Graves disease.6


1. Jiang D, Wang X, Su Q, Jiang S, Yuan F, Zhang C, Gong F, Dong Q, Shi J, Chen B. (2015). Milkvetch root improves immune function in patients with acute exacerbation of COPD. Biomed Mater Eng. , 26 Suppl 1:S2113-21. doi: 10.3233/BME-151517.

2. Harley, C. B.; Liu, W.; Blasco, M.; Vera, E.; Andrews, W. H.; Briggs, L. A.; Raffaele, J. M. (2011). "A Natural Product Telomerase Activator As Part of a Health Maintenance Program". Rejuvenation Research. 14 (1): 45–56. doi:10.1089/rej.2010.1085.

3. He Y, Hao XP, Yang D. (2008). Clinical and experimental study on effects of huanglan granule in inhibiting rubella virus]. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 28(4):322-5./small>

4. Gao J, Liu ZJ, Chen T, Zhao D. (2014 ). Pharmaceutical properties of calycosin, the major bioactive isoflavonoid in the dry root extract of Radix astragali. Pharm Biol. , 52(9):1217-22. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2013.879188.

5. Jung Y, Jerng U, Lee S. (2016). A systematic review of anticancer effects of radix astragali. Chin J Integr Med. , 22(3):225-36. doi: 10.1007/s11655-015-2324-x.

6. Wu J, Liu DF, Chen Y. (2011). Effects of Radix Astragali on IL-1beta, TNF-alpha and antigen expression of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in patients with Graves disease. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 31(11):1487-90.