Herb: Astragalus

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Astragalus is an ancient Chinese herb called huang qi, which means “yellow leader,” but you probably know it by its more common name… astragalus.

It is native to China, Mongolia, and Korea, astragalus is a herb that grows up to three feet tall. Known botanically as “astragalus membranaceus,” the yellow root has various medicinal uses.

This herb is more commonly used in Chinese medicine and is generally touted as an immune strengthener and treatment for the common cold. Astragalus has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine in combination with other herbs, such as ginseng, dong quai, and licorice.

However, you may surprised that in traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus is not supposed to be used once an infection has begun. It is believed that use after an infection has begun is the same as, “locking the chicken coop with the fox inside.” Rather, it is supposed to be taken while well to prevent illness.

Research has shown:

  • Patients with nephrotic syndrome (health problems related to kidney damage) are susceptible to infections. A 2012 research review found that taking astragalus granules may be associated with a lower risk of infections in children with nephrotic syndrome. However, the review concluded that the studies were poor quality. Wu HM, Tang JL, Cao L, et al. Interventions for preventing infection in nephrotic syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012;(4):CD003964
  • People with diabetic nephropathy (a type of kidney disease) who received an intravenous drip of astragalus over a period of 2 to 6 weeks did better on some measures of kidney function, compared to people who didn’t get astragalus, according to a 2011 analysis of 25 studies. However, most of the trials involved were poor quality. Li M, Wang W, Xue J, et al. Meta-analysis of the clinical value of Astragalus membranaceusin diabetic nephropathy. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2011;133(2):412-419.
  • There’s weak evidence that astragalus may help heart function in some patients with viral myocarditis (an infection of the heart), a 2013 research review showed. Liu ZL, Liu ZJ, Liu JP, et al. Herbal medicines for viral myocarditis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013;(11): CD003711.

Other Possible Astragalus Benefits

Wound and Skin Care: When applied topically, it effectively alleviates eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and has also been used to treat wounds. Taken as a tea, the antioxidant property of astragalus improves your blood flow – crucial for great looking skin.

Slow Signs of Aging: Astragalus improves your cellular health by slowing down the wear and tear of your DNA. Within your DNA, there are small strands called telomeres that keep your cells from unraveling. The root extracts help extend the life of your telomeres, making you look younger and slowing down the aging process on a cellular level.

Healthy Heart: Astragalus’s diuretic effect flushes toxins from your body. Many studies have shown that high blood pressure is a critical factor contributing to heart disease. Astragalus aids in blood vessel dilation, which can lower your blood pressure naturally.

Regulates Blood Sugar: Patients with diabetes can safely rely on astragalus to lower and balance their blood glucose levels. One study discovered that it restored high blood sugar to normal and raised blood sugar when it was too low.

Immune System Optimization: Since astragalus contains antibacterial and antiviral properties, it has been used effectively in TCM to treat allergies, colds, flus, and respiratory conditions.

Improves Anemia: Early studies showed that astragalus root increased the blood count of anemic patients, especially those who have aplastic anemia. Though more research is needed in regards to anemia, initial results are promising.

Precautions:

  • Astragalus is considered safe for many adults. The most commonly reported side effects are diarrhea and other mild gastrointestinal effects. However, it may affect blood sugar levels and blood pressure and be risky for people with certain health problems, such as blood disorders, diabetes, or hypertension.
  • Astragalus may interact with medications that suppress the immune system, such as drugs taken by organ transplant recipients and some cancer patients.

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