Astragalus ( latin: Astragalus Membranaceus ), is often found in China under the names huáng qí (chin: 黄芪) which translates to yellow emperor, referring to the yellow colored roots. It also comes with the name běi qí, (chin: 北芪), meaning Northern leader.This is attributed to the fact that the plants flourishes more in North China over the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. Astragalus is a perennial plant, approximately 16 inches tall, that is native to the northern and eastern parts of China as well as Mongolia. It has hairy stems with leaves made up of 12 to 18 pairs of leaflets. The root is usually harvested from 4-year-old plants.
There are more than 2.000 species of Astragalus worldwide. However, the Chinese Astragalus is the only one studied chemically and pharmaceutically. In some European countries it comes also under the name tragacanth and is hard to find. Tragacanth is the name of the gum of the plant which is used in medicine as well as textiles. Shen Nung, who is regarded the founder of Chinese botany, had classified Astragalus as one of the most superior herbs in his classic treatise ( Shen Nung -Pen Tsao Ching circa 100AD). It has been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years in conjunction with other herbs for the treatment of numerous ailments.