As summer winds down and back-to-school is in full force, we are all starting to think about fall and the whole host of illnesses that can lurk around the corner.  That’s why this time of year is perfect for nourishing and supporting your immune system.

One of the best immune system tonics is Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous).   Native to China, Astragalus root has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese Medicine to support immune health, vitality, and overall stamina.  It is also commonly added to traditional Chinese formulas to help the herbs in a formula work harmoniously together. 

Astragalus is a true adaptogen. Adaptogens are a class of herb that help support and nourish your body during times of stress. This can be external life stress (a hectic life can exhaust our immune system) or internal stress within the body, such as illness. Astragalus is an adaptogen with an affinity for the immune system.  It works deeply to support optimum immune health.  But because it works deeply, Astragalus is best taken before and after an active illness rather than during (other herbs are great support for that). A true tonic, Astragalus is safe and gentle enough for the whole family and can be taken long term. In fact, it works best when taken over longer periods.

Astragalus has also been found to help support healthy blood pressure as well as a healthy inflammatory response, making it wonderful support for chronic inflammatory conditions. Its deep nourishing properties make it a good choice for those recovering from surgery or with weak and frail constitutions. Astragalus also helps support and nourish the heart and kidneys.

With its mild flavor, Astragalus is easy to add to food.  In fact, it is an ingredient in many traditional soups in China.  For a delicious way to support immune health, give this immune nourishing broth a try.

Immune Nourishing Broth

This is a basic recipe. Feel free to add and delete to create your own delicious and nourishing soup broth. It can be used as a base to any soup or simply add rice, barley or other grain as a nourishing and light soup.


  • Carcass of a whole organic and/or free-range chicken
  • One large onion (cut in quarters)
  • Two large carrots (cut in to large pieces)
  • 1⁄2 to 1 head of celery stalks (including tops)
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic (depending on taste)
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or half a lemon
  • 5-10 sticks of Astragalus root
  • 1 bunch of fresh poultry seasoning herbs (usually rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, and parsley)
  • Handful of dried Nettles (can use fresh in the spring)


  1. Place in a large stockpot or large crockpot. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover with water.
  2. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to low and let simmer for 3-12 hours. The longer you simmer it the more nutrients you’ll get from the bones.
  3. Strain and use to make any soup.
  4. It will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week or freeze for future use.

Vegetarian version:

  • Use the above recipe but in place of chicken, add turnips, carrot, golden beets and other root vegetables.


  • Add Astragalus root, garlic, nettles, and ginger to water. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and let simmer for 1 hour. Add sliced mushrooms (such as shitake and oyster), kelp flakes, and any other desired veggies. Cook until tender. Take off heat and add miso.

Erin Smith has been working with plants for 25 years and is medical herbalist and ethnobotanist. She is the creator of Plant-Passionate Living™, an interactive program designed to help people find greater health and vitality through a deeper relationship with plants. Erin is Education & Sustainability Manager for WishGarden Herbs.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.