Understanding Growth and Chemical Changes in Medicinal Plants Over Time

Jim Crocker
4th May, 2024

Understanding Growth and Chemical Changes in Medicinal Plants Over Time

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers found the best time to harvest Astragalus roots for medicinal use is around November 6
  • The study identified a key metabolite, isoliquiritigenin, that influences the production of beneficial compounds
  • Optimal harvest timing could improve the effectiveness of Astragalus-based remedies
Astragalus membranaceus var. mongholicus, commonly known as Astragalus, is a plant with a long-standing reputation in both the culinary and medicinal worlds. Researchers from Inner Mongolia University have embarked on a quest to optimize the harvesting time of Astragalus roots to maximize their medicinal potency[1]. This study could help resolve a key issue in the production of herbal medicine: determining the precise moment when the roots contain the highest concentration of beneficial compounds. Astragalus has been the subject of numerous studies due to its potential health benefits. Previous research has indicated that the plant's extracts might have anti-aging properties in fruit flies and could play a role in combating diseases like colorectal cancer by affecting immune cells[2][3]. Another study shed light on how different cultivation methods of Astragalus affect the accumulation of isoflavones, compounds thought to have therapeutic effects[4]. Building upon these earlier findings, the new study conducted a comprehensive analysis that combines observations of the plant's physical characteristics (phenotypic analysis) with advanced genetic (transcriptome) and chemical (metabolome) profiling as the roots developed over time. This approach allowed the researchers to see how changes at the genetic level corresponded with the plant's physical development and chemical composition. The study revealed that the genes in Astragalus roots express themselves in specific patterns at different stages of growth. By correlating these patterns with the levels of metabolites—substances produced during metabolism—the researchers could identify a critical period, termed period D (around November 6), when there was a notable increase in the roots' yield and the content of valuable flavonoids, a group of metabolites associated with various health benefits. One particular metabolite, isoliquiritigenin, was pinpointed as a key regulator in the synthesis of other secondary metabolites, including isoflavones and triterpenoid saponins—two groups of compounds with recognized medicinal properties. The study's authors identified several genes, such as HMGCR, 4CL, CHS, and SQLE, which are involved in the conversion processes that lead to the biosynthesis of these compounds. The implications of this research are significant for the cultivation and production of Astragalus. By understanding the genetic and metabolic changes occurring during root development, producers can time their harvests to coincide with peak medicinal compound production. This could enhance the efficacy of Astragalus-derived remedies and ensure a consistent product quality. In essence, this study by Inner Mongolia University not only provides a scientific basis for the optimal harvesting time of Astragalus roots but also offers insights into the complex interaction between a plant's genetic makeup and its metabolite production. This knowledge bridges the gap between traditional herbal practices and modern scientific validation, potentially leading to more effective natural treatments and a better understanding of plant-based medicine.

MedicineBiotechPlant Science


Main Study

1) Integrated phenotypic, transcriptomics and metabolomics: growth status and metabolite accumulation pattern of medicinal materials at different harvest periods of Astragalus Membranaceus Mongholicus.

Published 3rd May, 2024

Journal: BMC plant biology

Issue: Vol 24, Issue 1, May 2024

Related Studies

2) Aqueous Extract from Astragalus membranaceus Can Improve the Function Degradation and Delay Aging on Drosophila melanogaster Through Antioxidant Mechanism.


3) Astragalus mongholicus Bunge-Curcuma aromatica Salisb. suppresses growth and metastasis of colorectal cancer cells by inhibiting M2 macrophage polarization via a Sp1/ZFAS1/miR-153-3p/CCR5 regulatory axis.


4) Biosynthetic mechanisms of isoflavone accumulation affected by different growth patterns in Astragalus mongholicus products.


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