Astragalus tragacantha ssp. vicentinus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Galegeae
Subtribe: Astragalinae
Genus: Astragalus
Type species
Astragalus onobrychis

Acanthophaca Nevski
Aragallus Neck. ex Greene
Astenolobium Nevski
Astracantha Podlech
Atelophragma Rydb.
Barnebyella Podlech
Batidophaca Rydb.
Biserrula L.[Note 1]
Brachyphragma Rydb.
Cnemidophacos Rydb.
Contortuplicata Medik.
Cryptorrhynchus Nevski
Ctenophyllum Rydb.
Cystium Steven
Didymopelta Regel & Schmalh.
Diholcos Rydb.
Diplotheca Hochst.
Erophaca Boiss.[Note 1]
Geoprumnon Rydb.
Gynophoraria Rydb.
Hamosa Medik.
Hedyphylla Steven
Hesperastragalus A. Heller
Hesperonix Rydb.
Holcophacos Rydb.
Homalobus Nutt.
Jonesiella Rydb.
Kentrophyta Nutt.
Kiapasia Woronow ex Grossh.
Lonchophaca Rydb.
Microphacos Rydb.
Mystirophora Nevski
Neodielsia Harms
Oedicephalus Nevski
Onix Medik.
Ophiocarpus (Bunge) Ikonn.
Orophaca (Torr. & A. Gray) Britton[Note 1]
Oxyglottis (Bunge) Nevski
Phaca L.
Phacomene Rydb.
Phacopsis Rydb.
Phyllolobium Fisch. ex Spreng.[Note 1]
Pisophaca Rydb.
Podlechiella Maassoumi & Kaz. Osaloo[Note 1]
Poecilocarpus Nevski
Pterophacos Rydb.
Sewerzowia Regel & Schmalh.
Thium Steud.
Tragacantha Mill.
Xylophacos Rydb.

Astragalus (As-trá-ga-lus) is a large genus of about 3,000 species[1] of herbs and small shrubs, belonging to the legume family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. The genus is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Common names include milk-vetch (most species), locoweed (in western US, some species; although most locoweeds are not genus Astragalus but in related genera)[2] and goat's-thorn (A. gummifer, A. tragacanthus). Some pale-flowered vetches are similar in appearance, but vetches are more vine-like.



Astragalus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the following case-bearers of the genus Coleophora: C. astragalella (feeds exclusively on A. glycyphyllos), C. cartilaginella (feeds exclusively on Astragalus), C. colutella, C. euryaula (feeds exclusively on Astragalus), C. gallipennella (feeds exclusively on A. glycyphyllos), C. hippodromica (feeds exclusively on A. gombo), C. onobrychiella (feeds exclusively on Astragalus), C. polonicella (feeds exclusively on A. arenarius) and C. vicinella.

Traditional uses

Astragalus propinquus (also known as Astragalus membranaceus) has a history of use as a herbal medicine and is used in traditional Chinese medicine.[3]


The biotechnology firms Geron Corporation and TA Therapeutics of Hong Kong have been working on deriving a telomerase activator from it. The chemical constituent cycloastragenol (also called TAT2) is being studied to help combat HIV, as well as infections associated with chronic diseases or aging.[4] However, the National Institutes of Health states: The evidence for using astragalus for any health condition is limited. High-quality clinical trials (studies in people) are generally lacking. There is some preliminary evidence to suggest that astragalus, either alone or in combination with other herbs, may have potential benefits for the immune system, heart, and liver, and as an adjunctive therapy for cancer.[5]

Supplement use

Extracts of Astragalus membranaceus are marketed as life prolonging extracts in humans. A proprietary extract of the dried root of Astragalus membranaceus, called TA-65, 'was associated with a significant age-reversal effect in the immune system, in that it led to declines in the percentage of senescent cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells after six to twelve months of use.'[dubious ][6][unreliable source?] In October 2010, Intertek/AAC Labs, an ISO 17025 internationally recognized lab, found the largest component of TA-65 to be Cycloastragenol.[7] Telomerase activation was feared to pose an increased risk of cancer because telomere shortening is a mechanism that limits cell proliferation. However, short telomeres result in chromosome instability, hence there is also a potential mechanism for telomere lengthening to protect against cancer (as distinct from mutation-induced activation).[8]

Side effects

Astragalus may interact with medications that suppress the immune system, such as cyclophosphamide.[5] It may also affect blood sugar levels and blood pressure.[5] Some Astragalus species can be toxic. For example, several species that grow in the United States contain the neurotoxin swainsonine.[5]

Ornamental use

Several species, including A. alpinus (bluish-purple flowers), A. hypoglottis (purple flowers) and A. lotoides, are grown as ornamental plants in gardens.


The family of Astragalus has been reviewed by Rios and Waterman, indicating that the toxicities vary from one species to another.[9]

Selected species

(See external references)

  • Astragalus acutirostris – Sharpkeel milkvetch
  • Astragalus agnicidus – Humboldt County milkvetch
  • Astragalus agrestis – Field milkvetch, Purple milkvetch, Cock's-head
  • Astragalus albens – Cushenbury milkvetch
  • Astragalus albertii
  • Astragalus alopecuroides
  • Astragalus alpinus – Alpine milkvetch, mountain locoweed
  • Astragalus amphioxys – Crescent milkvetch
  • Astragalus ampullarioides – Shivwits milkvetch
  • Astragalus andersonii – Anderson's milkvetch
  • Astragalus angustifolius
  • Astragalus annularis
  • Astragalus anserinus – Goose Creek milkvetch
  • Astragalus anxius – Troubled milkvetch
  • Astragalus applegatei – Applegate's milkvetch
  • Astragalus arenarius
  • Astragalus aristatus
  • Astragalus asymmetricus – San Joaquin milkvetch
  • Astragalus atratus – Owyhee mourning milkvetch
  • Astragalus atropilosulus
  • Astragalus austiniae – Austin's milkvetch
  • Astragalus azizi
  • Astragalus baionensis
  • Astragalus balearicus – Balearic milkvetch
  • Astragalus barrii – Barr's milkvetch
  • Astragalus bernardinus – San Bernardino milkvetch
  • Astragalus bibullatus – Limestone-glade milkvetch
  • Astragalus bicristatus – Crested milkvetch, Two-crested milkvetch
  • Astragalus bidentatus
  • Astragalus bisulcatus – Two-groove milkvetch
  • Astragalus boeticus
  • Astragalus bolanderi – Bolander's milkvetch
  • Astragalus brachycalyx
  • Astragalus brauntonii – Braunton's milkvetch
  • Astragalus breweri – Brewer's milkvetch
  • Astragalus californicus – California milkvetch
  • Astragalus canadensis – Canadian milkvetch
  • Astragalus casei – Case's milkvetch
  • Astragalus centralpinus
  • Astragalus christianus
  • Astragalus cicer – Wild Lentil, Chickpea milkvetch
  • Astragalus cimae – Cima milkvetch
  • Astragalus clarianus syn. Astragalus claranus – Clara Hunt's milkvetch, Napa milkvetch
  • Astragalus clevelandii – Cleveland's milkvetch
  • Astragalus coccineus – Scarlet milkvetch, scarlet locoweed
  • Astragalus congdonii – Congdon's milkvetch
  • Astragalus crassicarpus (caryocarpus) – Ground-plum, Buffalo Plum
  • Astragalus cremnophylax – Sentry milkvetch
  • Astragalus crotalariae – Salton milkvetch
  • Astragalus curtipes – Morro milkvetch
  • Astragalus danicus
  • Astragalus deanei – Deane's milkvetch, Dean's milkvetch
  • Astragalus debequaeus – Debeque milkvetch
  • Astragalus depressus
  • Astragalus desereticus – Deseret milkvetch
  • Astragalus didymocarpus – Two-seeded milkvetch, Dwarf white milkvetch, white dwarf locoweed
  • Astragalus douglasii – Douglas's milkvetch
  • Astragalus echinus
  • Astragalus eriocarpus
  • Astragalus ertterae – Walker Pass milkvetch
  • Astragalus exscapus
  • Astragalus filipes – Basalt milkvetch
  • Astragalus frigidus – American milk-vetch, Arctic milkvetch
  • Astragalus funereus – Funeral Mountain milkvetch
  • Astragalus galegiformis
  • Astragalus gambelianus – Gambel's dwarf milkvetch, dwarf locoweed
  • Astragalus gibbsii – Gibbs' milkvetch
  • Astragalus gilmanii – Gilman's milkvetch
  • Astragalus gilviflorus – Plains milk-vetch, Plains orophaca
  • Astragalus glycyphyllos – Wild Liquorice, Licorice milkvetch
  • Astragalus gummifer
  • Astragalus holmgreniorum – Holmgren locoweed
  • Astragalus humillimus – Mancos milkvetch
  • Astragalus hypoglottis – Field milkvetch, Purple milkvetch, Cock's-head
  • Astragalus hypoxylus - Huachuca Mountain milkvetch
  • Astragalus illyricus – Illirian milkvetch
  • Astragalus inversus – Susanville milkvetch
  • Astragalus inyoensis – Inyo milkvetch
  • Astragalus iselyi - Isely's milkvetch
  • Astragalus jaegerianus – Lane Mountain milkvetch
  • Astragalus johannis-howellii – Long Valley milkvetch
  • Astragalus kentrophyta – Spiny milkvetch
  • Astragalus layneae – Widow's milkvetch
  • Astragalus lemmonii – Lemmon's milkvetch
  • Astragalus lentiformis – Lens pod milkvetch
  • Astragalus lentiginosus – Freckled milkvetch, mottled locoweed, speckled locoweed, spotted locoweed
  • Astragalus leontinus
  • Astragalus leucolobus – Bear Valley woollypod, Bear Valley milkvetch
  • Astragalus loanus - Glenwood milkvetch
  • Astragalus lotoides
  • Astragalus lusitanicus
  • Astragalus malacus – Shaggy milkvetch
  • Astragalus massiliensis
  • Astragalus miguelensis – San Miguel milkvetch
  • Astragalus missouriensis – Missouri milkvetch
  • Astragalus mohavensis – Mojave milkvetch
  • Astragalus mollissimus, woolly locoweed, stemmed locoweed
  • Astragalus monoensis – Mono milkvetch
  • Astragalus monspessulanus
  • Astragalus montii
  • Astragalus naturitensis – Naturita milkvetch
  • Astragalus nevinii – San Clemente Island milkvetch
  • Astragalus newberryi – Newberry's milk-vetch
  • Astragalus norvegicus
  • Astragalus nutans – Providence Mountains milkvetch
  • Astragalus nuttallianus – Smallflowered milkvetch
  • Astragalus nuttallii – Nuttall's milk-vetch
  • Astragalus obscurus – Arcane milkvetch
  • Astragalus onobrychis
  • Astragalus oocarpus – Descanso milkvetch, San Diego milkvetch
  • Astragalus oophorus – Egg milkvetch
  • Astragalus osterhoutii – Osterhout milkvetch
  • Astragalus oxyphysus – Mt. Diablo milkvetch, Diablo locoweed
  • Astragalus pachypus – Thickpod milkvetch
  • Astragalus panamintensis – Panamint milkvetch
  • Astragalus pauperculus – Depauperate milkvetch
  • Astragalus penduliflorus
  • Astragalus phoenix – Ash Meadows milkvetch
  • Astragalus platytropis – Broadkeel milkvetch
  • Astragalus pomonensis – Pomona milkvetch, Pomona locoweed
  • Astragalus propinquus (syn. A. membranaceus) – Huang qi
  • Astragalus pseudiodanthus – Tonopah milkvetch
  • Astragalus pulsiferae – Ames' milkvetch
  • Astragalus purshii – Pursh's milk-vetch, Woolly-pod milkvetch, woolly-pod locoweed
  • Astragalus pycnostachyus – Marsh milkvetch
  • Astragalus rattanii – Rattan's milkvetch
  • Astragalus robbinsii – Robbins' milkvetch
  • Astragalus sabulonum – Gravel milkvetch
  • Astragalus scaphoides – Bitterroot milkvetch
  • Astragalus sclerocarpus – Sicklepod milkvetch
  • Astragalus sempervirens
  • Astragalus shevockii – Shevock's milkvetch, Little Kern milkvetch
  • Astragalus shinanensis
  • Astragalus shiroumaensis
  • Astragalus sinicus – Chinese milkvetch, Zi yun ying ( 紫雲英 )
  • Astragalus sirinicus
  • Astragalus spatulatus – Tufted milk-vetch, Draba milkvetch
  • Astragalus speirocarpus – coilpod locoweed
  • Astragalus spinosus – Spiny milkvetch
  • Astragalus subvestitus – Kern County milkvetch
  • Astragalus tener – Alkali milkvetch
  • Astragalus tennesseensis – Tennessee milk vetch
  • Astragalus tidestromii – Tidestrøm's milkvetch
  • Astragalus traskiae – Trask's milkvetch
  • Astragalus tricarinatus – Triple-ribbed milkvetch
  • Astragalus trichopodus – Santa Barbara milkvetch, coast locoweed, Southern California locoweed
  • Astragalus tridactylus – Foothill milk-vetch
  • Astragalus tragacanthus
  • Astragalus umbraticus – Bald Mountain milkvetch
  • Astragalus vesicarius
  • Astragalus vogelii
  • Astragalus webberi – Webber's milkvetch
  • Astragalus whitneyi – Balloon-pod milkvetch
  • Astragalus zionis – Zion milkvetch

See also

  • List of the largest genera of flowering plants


  1. ^ a b c d e This may actually be a valid genus.


  1. ^ David G. Frodin (2004). "History and concepts of big plant genera". Taxon 53 (3): 753–776. doi:10.2307/4135449. 
  2. ^ Astragalus (Locoweed) flowers
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Herbal chemical helps combat HIV". United Press International. January 1, 2009. Retrieved January 28, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d Astragalus, NCCAM
  6. ^ Calvin B. Harley, Weimin Liu, Maria Blasco, Elsa Vera, William H. Andrews, Laura A. Briggs & Joseph M. Raffaele (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. 
  7. ^ American Analytical Chemistry Laboratories Analysis Document #100710-236 of TA-65
  8. ^ Keiko Hiyama, Eiso Hiyama, Keiji Tanimoto & Masahiko Nishiyama (2009). "Role of telomeres and telomerase in cancer". In Keiko Hiyama. Telomeres and Telomerase in Cancer. Cancer Drug Discovery and Development. II. Humana Press. pp. 171–180. doi:10.1007/978-1-60327-879-9_7. ISBN 978-1-60327-879-9. 
  9. ^ Rios, J. L.; P. G. Waterman (1998). "A review of the pharmacology and toxicology of Astragalus". Phytotherapy Research 11 (6): 411–418. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1573(199709)11:6<411::AID-PTR132>3.0.CO;2-6. 

External links

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