Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are a health care professional

honeypot link



Laura Shane-McWhorter

, PharmD, University of Utah College of Pharmacy

Reviewed/Revised Jan 2023

Astragalus, a perennial plant that is native to China, Mongolia, and Korea, has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine Traditional Chinese Medicine Originating > 2000 years ago, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a medical system based on the philosophy that illness results from improper flow of the life force (qi). The movement of... read more . It is commonly combined with other herbs and used for many conditions.


Astragalus is said to be useful for many conditions, including upper respiratory infections, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, and chronic kidney disease.

It is also said to strengthen the immune system and prevent physiologic and psychologic stress.

Astragalus is used topically to improve blood flow and speeding wound healing.


There are no high-quality studies in people demonstrating that astragalus is effective for treating any health condition (see NIH: Astragalus).

A systematic review of astragalus for treating chronic kidney disease included 22 studies that involved 1323 participants, of whom 241 were on dialysis. Overall, study quality was low. This analysis found that astragalus, as an adjunctive treatment to conventional therapies, offers some promising effects in reducing proteinuria and increasing hemoglobin and serum albumin. However, because of the suboptimal study quality, definitive conclusions could not be made based on available evidence (1 Reference Astragalus, a perennial plant that is native to China, Mongolia, and Korea, has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It is commonly combined with other herbs and used for... read more ).

Adverse Effects

Adverse effects from astragalus are uncommon, but rash, itching, nasal symptoms, or stomach discomfort may occur.

Astragalus might make the immune system more active, which can worsen the symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Astragalus should not be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Animal studies suggest that astragalus can be toxic to the mother and fetus.

Drug Interactions

Astragalus may interact with medications that suppress the immune system. Astragalus may increase immune system activity and thereby may decrease the effectiveness of medications that suppress the immune system, such as those used after organ transplant or to treat cancer.

Astragalus may decrease excretion of lithium, which may result in increased lithium blood levels and thus possible serious adverse effects.

(See also table .)


  • 1. Zhang HW, Lin ZX, Xu C, Leung C, Chan LS: Astragalus (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (10):CD008369, 2014. Published 2014 Oct 22. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008369.pub2

More Information

The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
Albuked , Albumarc, Albuminar, Albuminex, AlbuRx , Albutein, Buminate, Flexbumin, Kedbumin, Macrotec, Plasbumin, Plasbumin-20
Eskalith, Eskalith CR, Lithobid
NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz!