The purpose of this study was to investigate the transport characteristics and mechanisms for discovering the possible causes of the low bioavailability of astragaloside IV and to develop an absorption enhancement strategy. Caco-2 cells used as the in vitro model. Results showed a low permeability coefficient (3.7 x 10(-8)cm/s for transport from the AP to BL direction), which remained unchanged throughout the concentration range studied, indicating that the transport of astragaloside IV was predominantly via a passive route. The AP to BL transport of astragaloside IV was found to be highly sensitive to the extracellular Ca2+ concentration, which suggested that its transport may be via a paracellular route. Both chitosan and sodium deoxycholate can increase the permeation efficiency of astragaloside IV. This study indicated that astragaloside IV having a low fraction dose absorbed in humans mainly due to its poor intestinal permeability, high molecular weight, low lipophilicity as well as its paracelluar transport may directly result in the low permeability through its passive transport. Meanwhile, chitosan and sodium deoxycholate can be used as absorption enhancers based on its transport mechanism.