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Borrego Milkvetch up close.jpg
A. lentiginosus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Galegeae
Subtribe: Astragalinae
Genus: Astragalus
Type species
Astragalus onobrychis[disputed ]

Over 3,000 species, see List of Astragalus species

  • Acanthophaca Nevski
  • Acanthyllis Pomel
  • Ailuroschia Steven
  • Alopecias Steven
  • Ammodytes Steven
  • Anaphragma Steven
  • Ankylobus Steven
  • Astenolobium Nevski
  • Astracantha Podlech
  • Astragalina Bubani
  • Astragaloides Adans.
  • Atelophragma Rydb.
  • Aulosema Walp.
  • Barnebyella Podlech
  • Batidophaca Rydb.
  • Brachyphragma Rydb.
  • Caryolobium Steven
  • Chondrocarpus Steven
  • Cnemidophacos Rydb.
  • Contortuplicata Medik.
  • Craccina Steven
  • Cryptorrhynchus Nevski
  • Ctenophyllum Rydb.
  • Cymbicarpos Steven
  • Cystium Steven
  • Cystopora Lunell
  • Didymopelta Regel & Schmalh.
  • Diholcos Rydb.
  • Dipelta Regel & Schmalh.
  • Diplotheca Hochst.
  • Euilus Steven
  • Euprepia Steven
  • Feidanthus Steven
  • Geoprumnon Rydb.
  • Glandula Medik.
  • Glaux Hill
  • Glottis Medik.
  • Glycyphylla Steven
  • Gynophoraria Rydb.
  • Halicacabus (Bunge) Nevski
  • Hamaria Fourr.
  • Hamosa Medik.
  • Hedyphylla Steven
  • Hesperastragalus A.Heller
  • Hesperonix Rydb.
  • Hippomanica Molina
  • Holcophacos Rydb.
  • Homalobus Nutt.
  • Hypoglottis Fourr.
  • Jonesiella Rydb.
  • Kentrophyta Nutt.
  • Kirchnera Opiz
  • Lithoon Nevski
  • Lonchophaca Rydb.
  • Macrosema Steven
  • Medyphylla Opiz
  • Microphacos Rydb.
  • Myctirophora Nevski
  • Myobroma Steven
  • Neodielsia Harms
  • Oedicephalus Nevski
  • Onix Medik.
  • Onyx Medik.
  • Ophiocarpus (Bunge) Ikonn.
  • Orophaca Britton[Note 1]
  • Oxyglottis (Bunge) Nevski
  • Pedina Steven
  • Phaca L.
  • Phacomene Rydb.
  • Phacopsis Rydb.
  • Philammos Steven
  • Physondra Raf.
  • Picraena Steven
  • Pisophaca Rydb.
  • Podlechiella Maassoumi & Kaz.Osaloo[Note 1]
  • Podochrea Fourr.
  • Poecilocarpus Nevski
  • Proselias Steven
  • Psychridium Steven
  • Pterophacos Rydb.
  • Rydbergiella Fedde & Syd. ex Rydb.
  • Saccocalyx Steven
  • Sewerzowia Regel & Schmalh.
  • Solenotus Steven
  • Stella Medik.
  • Tium Medik.
  • Tragacantha Mill.
  • Triquetra Medik.
  • Xerophysa Steven
  • Xylophacos Rydb.
Fruits and seeds of Astragalus hamosus

Astragalus is a large genus of over 3,000 species[2] of herbs and small shrubs, belonging to the legume family Fabaceae and the subfamily Faboideae. It is the largest genus of plants in terms of described species.[3] The genus is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Common names include milkvetch (most species), locoweed (in North America, some species)[4] and goat's-thorn (A. gummifer, A. tragacantha). Some pale-flowered vetches (Vicia spp.) are similar in appearance, but they are more vine-like than Astragalus.


Most species in the genus have pinnately compound leaves.[5] There are annual and perennial species. The flowers are formed in clusters in a raceme, each flower typical of the legume family, with three types of petals: banner, wings, and keel. The calyx is tubular or bell-shaped.[6][7]


Astragalus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including many case-bearing moths of the genus Coleophora: C. cartilaginella, C. colutella, C. euryaula, and C. onobrychiella feed exclusively on Astragalus, C. astragalella and C. gallipennella feed exclusively on the species Astragalus glycyphyllos, and C. hippodromica is limited to Astragalus gombo.


The genus was formally described in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum.[8]

The name Astragalus is Greek, an old name for this group of plants which were believed to have a positive effect on goat milk production.[9]

Selected species[edit]


Traditional medicine[edit]

Astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine over centuries to treat various disorders, but there is no high-quality evidence that it is effective or safe for any medical purpose.[11][12]

Phytochemicals and supplements[edit]

Extracts of astragalus root include diverse phytochemicals, such as saponins and isoflavone flavonoids, which are purported in traditional practices to increase lactation in nursing mothers.[13] There is no valid clinical evidence to indicate such use is effective or safe for the mother or infant.[13] Dietary supplement products containing astragalus extracts may not have been adequately tested for efficacy, safety, purity or consistency.[13] The root extracts of astragalus may be used in soups, teas or sold in capsules.[11]

Side effects and toxicology[edit]

Although astragalus supplements are generally well tolerated, mild gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, and allergic reactions may occur.[11][13] Because astragalus may affect regulation of blood sugar and blood pressure, it may be risky for people with blood disorders, diabetes, or hypertension to use it as a supplement.[11] Astragalus may interact with prescribed drugs that suppress the immune system, such as medications used by people being treated for cancer or recovery from organ transplants.[11]

Some astragalus species can be toxic, such as those found in the United States containing the neurotoxin, swainsonine, which causes "locoweed" poisoning in animals.[11] Some astragalus species may contain high levels of selenium, possibly causing toxicity.[11]

Ornamental use[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b This may actually be a valid genus.


  1. ^ "Astragalus L." Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  2. ^ "Astragalus L." Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  3. ^ Frodin, David G. (2004). "History and Concepts of Big Plant Genera". Taxon. 53 (3): 753–76. doi:10.2307/4135449. JSTOR 4135449.
  4. ^ "Astragalus (Locoweed) flowers". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  5. ^ Taylor, Ronald J. (1994) [1992]. Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary (rev. ed.). Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Pub. Co. p. 100. ISBN 0-87842-280-3. OCLC 25708726.
  6. ^ Xu, Langran; Podlech, Dietrich. "Astragalus". Flora of China. Vol. 10. Retrieved 9 December 2018 – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  7. ^ "A Guide to the Common Locoweeds and Milkvetches of New Mexico". New Mexico State University. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Astragalus L." International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  9. ^ Wilhelm, Gerould; Rericha, Laura (2017). Flora of the Chicago Region: A Floristic and Ecological Synthesis. Indiana Academy of Sciences.
  10. ^ USDA, Agricultural Research Service, National Plant Germplasm System. 2018. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN-Taxonomy). National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland Accessed 17 September 2018
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "Astragalus". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US National Institutes of Health. 29 November 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  12. ^ Su, Guobin; Chen, Xiankun; Liu, Zhuangzhu; Yang, Lihong; Zhang, La; Stålsby Lundborg, Cecilia; Wen, Zehuai; Guo, Xinfeng; Qin, Xindong; Liang, Jueyao; Liu, Xusheng (1 December 2016). "Oral (Huang qi) for preventing frequent episodes of acute respiratory tract infection in children". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 12: CD011958. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011958.pub2. PMC 6463872. PMID 27905672.
  13. ^ a b c d "Astragalus". Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed), National Library of Medicine, US National Institutes of Health. 3 December 2018. PMID 30000951.

External links[edit]