How we think about individual herbs – Huang Qi, Astragalus

Huang Qi.
Pharmaceutical name: Radix Astragali Membranacei
Properties: sweet, slightly warm
Channels entered: Lung, Spleen
Actions and indications: Tonifies the Spleen and augments the qi: for Spleen deficiency presenting with lack of appetite, fatigue, and diarrhea.
Raises the yang qi of the Spleen and Stomach: for prolapse disorders such as prolapsed uterus, stomach, or rectum; also for uterine bleeding.
Augments the protective qi and stabilizes the exterior: for deficiency with spontaneous sweating, as the herb stabilizes the protective qi.
It also tonifies the Lungs and is used for frequent colds or shortness of breath. Depending on the combination of herbs, it may be used for excessive sweating associated with qi, yang, or yin deficiency. Its action in stabilizing the exterior may be used to produce a therapeutic sweat when diaphoretics do not work.
Tonifies the qi and blood: for post partum fever due to qi and blood deficiency. Also used in the recovery stage from severe loss of blood.
Promotes urination and reduces edema: for edema from deficiency.
Promotes the discharge of pus and generates flesh: for chronic ulcerations and sores due to deficiency that have formed pus but have not drained or healed well.
Also, in appropriate circumstances, for wasting and thirsting disorder, numbness of the limbs, paralysis, and painful obstruction.

Major combinations:
With renshen for general debility, reduced appetite, fatigue, and spontaneous sweating due to qi deficiency.
With fuzi for spontaneous sweating due to yang deficiency.
With baizhu for weakness, lassitude, and loose stools associated with Spleen qi deficiency.
With danggui for blood deficiency due to severe bleeding with such symptoms as fatigue, low-grade fever, irritability, and thirst in patients with a weak, deficient pulse and other signs of qi and blood deficiency. This combination may also be used for chronic nonhealing sores, and for painful obstruction, numbness, and parasthesias due to qi and blood deficiency.
With shengma and chaihu for weak and sunken Spleen qi, as found in cases of rectal prolapse and uterine prolapse and excessive uterine bleeding.
With fangfeng and baizhu for spontaneous sweating due to weak protective qi and deficiency of the exterior.
With Radix Stephaniae Tetrandrae <I>(han fang ji)<R> for numbness, pain, and swelling of the face and extremities, sweating, sensitivity to wind, and reduced urination and other symptoms associated with wind edema. Add fuling and guizhi for swelling of the extremities associated with superficial floating edema.
With guizhi for numbness and painful obstruction of the musculature due to qi and blood deficiency, as well as the protective and nutritive qi.
With muli and Semen Tritici Aestivi Levis for sweating that occurs during the day but worsens at night.
With sheng di huang and huang bai for night sweats due to yin deficiency.
With danggui taoren and honghua for sequelae of wind-stroke with qi deficiency and blood stasis.

Cautions and contraindications:
Because this herb raises the yang, tonifies the qi, and stabilizes the exterior, it should not be be used in cases of exterior excess, qi stagnation, damp obstruction, food stagnation, yin deficiency with heat signs, or skin lesions either in their early stages or where there is heat toxin.

9-30g; in exceptional cases, 30-60g. Dry-fry or honey-fry to tonify the qi and raise the yang; use raw for abscesses and other conditions. Good quality is long, thick, and sweet. It should be hard yet cotton-like, and have few striations.

Excerpted from the most popular contemporary English resource, Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, 3rd edition, Dan Bensky et al, Eastland Press