Astragalus has been used in China and Asian cultures for literally thousands of years, as a part of their medicinal herb culture. It has been studied in the Western world for about 35 years, and studies have shown it is medicinally helpful. Even Dr. Oz has personally recommended the use of Astragalus root.
Read on the find out why.
Astragalus is the English name for Huang-qi. Huang means yellow, the color of the herb's root, and qi translates as leader, which refers to the fact that this herb is considered to be “superior” and is at the top of the list of Chinese herbs used for medicinal purposes.
This herb grows in China. The roots are harvested when the weeds are 4 to 5 years old. When partially dry, the roots are sliced lengthwise, and then fully dried. The result is a flat stick that has a lengthy shelf life.
Astragalus is used in Fu-Zheng therapy, a Chinese method that treats illness by stimulating the body's own defenses to promote healing and wellness. This is described in the Western world as boosting the immune system. Scientists are tracking the immune stimulating abilities of astragalus root to the properties in it known as polysaccharides.
How Does Astragalus Boost Our Immune System ?
Astragalus is a stimulation herb. It stirs the stem cells in the bone marrow and speeds up the times it takes them to develope into full blown immune cells that are then released into the body, ready to defend you against illness. Astragalus boosts every part and activity of the immune system, making it function better and faster.
Active ingredients in astragalus include astragalan B, a polysaccharide, bioflavanoids and choline. Astragalan B has been shown to be effective in animal studies to protect your body again infections and toxins.
Astragalan B encourages the immune system to attack the outer membranes of virusese damaging their defenses which allows the immune system to overwhelm and neutrilize them. Astragalus also promotes the production of Interferon and enhances the function of T cells and NK which increases resistance to viral infections.
Benefits of Astragalus
Astragalus isn't a cure for any illness, and it should not be treated as one. Talking to your doctor before starting any supplement is always the best thing to do.
- Reduces blood sugar – astragalus is commonly used to treat diabetes in China. Make sure to talk to your doctor first before taking astragalus if you have diabetes, so your blood sugar doesn't fall too low.
- Beneficial for heart health – it protects the cells in your heart from free radical damage which are possibly responsible for heart disease and some cancers. There's also some evidence that astragalus may prevent plaque build up in the arteries, which could lower cholesterol.
- Boosts immunity – It promotes the immune system and helps your body fight off infections and viruses, like the flu or common cold.
- It's an adaptogen – Adaptogens are herbs which appear to increase the body's ability to adapt to stress and changing situations. It may also help you feel healthier, fight fatigue, and lethargy.
- Improves digestion – astragalus lowers the acidity in your stomach and improves the digestive function in general.
- Lessens the side effects of chemotherapy – may be beneficial for cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy and or radiation.
- It also may also reduce the loss of appetite from treatment sickness and help with fatigue from cancer therapies.
- Protects the kidneys – may help with kidney disease and support kidney function.
- Anti-aging benefits – because it slows aging in the cells of the immune system.
Don't Take Astragalus if Any Conditions Below Are Met
Astragalus is totally safe for most people. However, there are some illnesses and medications that do not interact well with astragalus root extract.
Since a limited number of human studies have been done, there is a small chance that there may be other side effects or interactions that are not known, so it is always wise to consult with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.
You Should Not Take Astragalus:
- If you take corticosteroids, or other drugs that lower the efficiency of the immune system or if you have an auto-immune disease like lupus or multiple sclerosis. Astragalus may interact badly with your medication.
- If you have recently had a transplant of any kind and take cyclophosphamide to reduce the risk of rejection.
- If you take lithium, because astragalus can make it more difficult for your body to shed it.
- Astragalus can reduce blood pressure and blood sugar. So if you have high blood pressure or blood sugar problems (high or low), you should avoid taking astragalus.
Jerry Connel is a fully qualified nutritionist and personal trainer. He is also currently undertaking a Ph.D. in Food Science at Oregon State University in the US. He has been a keen bodybuilder throughout his adulthood and is well-versed with health supplements.