Astragalus Herb

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Astragalus propinquus (Huang Qi) has been a foundational herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years. It is included in formulas to support Wei Qi (Chi), or the conceptual “shield” which serves as a primary defense mechanism against pernicious threats to the system. Sweet and nourishing, Astragalus is often included in recipes for soups, which are used for convalescence and general strengthening of the system. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Astragalus is said to tonify the “spleen” and hence is used for fatigue linked to decreased appetite. Astragalus is part of the Milk Vetch or Fabaceae family. Astragalus herb is traditionally used in its dried powdered form or as a strong decoction, made from boiling the dried root in water for an extended period.

Astragalus is used for hay fever, diabetes, kidney disease, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

There are several different species of astragalus. Some species contain a nerve toxin and have been linked to livestock poisonings. Some of these species include Astragalus lentiginosus, Astragalus mollissimus, and others. However, these species of astragalus are usually not found in dietary supplements used by humans. Most astragalus supplements contain Astragalus membranous.

What Is Astragalus?

Astragalus is also called Huang qi or milk vetch. It comes from a type of bean or legume. While there are multiple species of astragalus, most astragalus supplements contain Astragalus membranaceus. The herb is said to offer multiple health benefits for multiple conditions, including heart benefits.

Astragalus is thought to stimulate the immune system. It has antioxidant effects that inhibit free radical production. In the body, free radicals damage cells and are linked to many health problems associated with aging. There is, though, no known way to stop free radicals completely.

What is Astragalus Used for?

There is a great deal of research interest in Astragalus. It contains Astragalosides (antioxidants), which support the integrity of the respiratory tract. In addition, the polyacrylamide found in Astragalus are known for their immune supporting properties. Astragalus herb also supports deep immune function by promoting normal levels of specific immune cells and aids in their function. Astragalus appears especially effective when immune function is stressed by environmental or endogenous challenges.

Astragalus Root: Heart Benefits and Side Effects

Astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Its main use has been to boost the body’s immune system. But it also has been used to treat other conditions, including heart disease. That raises the question of exactly what heart benefits astragalus might offer. And if it does offer heart benefits, are there side effects you should know about? Who should and who shouldn’t use astragalus?

Does Astragalus Root Have Heart Benefits?

Astragalus is often promoted for its effects on the immune system, liver, and cardiovascular system. There is, though, little research to suggest that astragalus can help protect the heart in humans. More research is needed before experts can make any firm recommendations about using astragalus for its heart benefits.

Astragalus has also been tested for breast cancer, the common cold, hepatitis, and lung cancer. Some preliminary studies suggest a possible benefit. But as with heart benefits, more medical research is needed to understand if astragalus can help with these other health problems.

Astragalus: An Ancient Root With Health Benefits

Astragalus is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.

It has many purported health benefits, including immune-boosting, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory effects.

Astragalus is believed to prolong life and used to treat a wide variety of ailments, such as fatigue, allergies and the common cold. It’s also used against heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.

Specifically, the root of the plant is made into many different forms of supplements, including liquid extracts, capsules, powders and teas.

Astragalus is sometimes also given as an injection or by IV in a hospital setting.

The root contains many active plant compounds, which are believed to be responsible for its potential benefits (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).

For example, its active compounds may help strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation (5Trusted Source).

There’s still limited research on astragalus, but it has uses in treating the common cold, seasonal allergies, heart conditions, kidney disease, chronic fatigue and more (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

May Boost Your Immune System

Astragalus contains beneficial plant compounds that may enhance your immune system.

The primary role of your immune system is to protect your body against harmful invaders, including bacteria, germs and viruses that can cause illness (7Trusted Source).

Some evidence shows that astragalus may increase your body’s production of white blood cells, which are the cells of your immune system responsible for preventing illness (6Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).

In animal research, astragalus root has been shown to help kill bacteria and viruses in mice with infections (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).

Though research is limited, it may also help fight viral infections in humans, including the common cold and infection of the liver (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

While these studies are promising, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of astragalus for preventing and treating infections.

May Improve Heart Function

Astragalus may help improve heart function in those with certain heart conditions.

It’s thought to widen your blood vessels and increase the amount of blood pumped from your heart (14Trusted Source).

In a clinical study, patients with heart failure were given 2.25 grams of astragalus twice daily for two weeks, along with conventional treatment. They experienced greater improvements in heart function compared to those receiving standard treatment alone (15Trusted Source).

In another study, patients with heart failure received 60 grams per day of astragalus by IV along with conventional treatment. They also had more significant improvements in symptoms than those receiving standard treatment alone (16Trusted Source).

However, other studies in patients with heart failure have failed to demonstrate any benefits for heart function (17Trusted Source).

Additionally, some studies suggest that astragalus may reduce symptoms of myocarditis, an inflammatory condition of the heart. Yet, findings are mixed (18Trusted Source).

May Alleviate Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy has many negative side effects. According to some studies, astragalus may help alleviate some of them.

For example, one clinical study in people undergoing chemotherapy found that astragalus given by IV reduced nausea by 36%, vomiting by 50% and diarrhea by 59% (19Trusted Source).

Similarly, several other studies have demonstrated benefits of the herb for nausea and vomiting in individuals undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer (20Trusted Source).

Additionally, one clinical study showed that 500 mg of astragalus by IV three times weekly may improve the extreme tiredness associated with chemotherapy. However, astragalus only appeared to be helpful during the first week of treatment (21Trusted Source).

May Help Control Blood Sugar Levels

The active compounds in astragalus root may help lower blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

In fact, it has been identified as the most frequently prescribed herb to help with diabetes management in China (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).

In animal and test-tube studies, astragalus has been shown to improve sugar metabolism and reduce blood sugar levels. In one animal study, it also led to weight loss (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).

Though more research is needed, studies in humans so far point to similar effects.

For example, studies have shown that taking 40–60 grams of astragalus per day has the potential to improve blood sugar levels after fasting and after meals in people with type 2 diabetes when taken daily for up to four months (27Trusted Source).

May Improve Kidney Function

Astragalus may support kidney health by improving blood flow and laboratory markers of kidney function, such as measures of protein in the urine.

Proteinuria is a condition in which abnormal amounts of protein are found in urine, which is a sign that the kidneys may be damaged or not functioning normally (28Trusted Source).

Astragalus has been shown to improve proteinuria in several studies involving individuals with kidney disease (29Trusted Source).

It may also help prevent infections in people with reduced kidney function (30Trusted Source).

For example, 7.5–15 grams of astragalus taken daily for three to six months reduced the risk of infection by 38% in people with a kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome. However, more studies are needed to confirm this effect (31Trusted Source).

Other Potential Health Benefits

There are many preliminary studies on astragalus that indicate the herb may have other potential benefits, including:

  • Improved symptoms of chronic fatigue: Some evidence shows astragalus may help improve tiredness in people with chronic fatigue syndrome when combined with other herbal supplements (29Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).
  • Anticancer effects: In test-tube studies, astragalus has promoted apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in various types of cancer cells (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).
  • Improved seasonal allergy symptoms: Though studies are limited, one clinical study found that 160 mg of astragalus twice daily may reduce sneezing and runny nose in individuals with seasonal allergies (36Trusted Source).

Side Effects and Interactions

For most people, astragalus is well tolerated.

However, minor side effects have been reported in studies, such as a rash, itching, runny nose, nausea and diarrhea (2Trusted Source, 37).

When given by IV, astragalus may have more serious side effects, such as irregular heartbeat. It should only be administered by IV or injection under medical supervision (17Trusted Source).

Though astragalus is safe for most people, the following people should avoid it:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women: There’s currently not enough research to demonstrate that astragalus is safe while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Individuals with autoimmune diseases: Astragalus may increase the activity of your immune system. Consider avoiding astragalus if you have an autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (1Trusted Source).
  • Individuals taking immunosuppressant drugs: Since astragalus may increase the activity of your immune system, it may decrease the effects of immunosuppressant drugs (2Trusted Source).

Astragalus may also have effects on blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Therefore, use this herb with caution if you have diabetes or issues with your blood pressure (2Trusted Source).

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