Astragalus Benefits

Astragalus
Latin Name

Astragalus membranaceus

Also Known As

Huang Qi, Milk Vetch Root, Astragalus membranaceous, Bei Qi and Hwanggi

Origin

China, Mongolia and Korea

Parts Used

Root

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Astragalus is used to “invigorate vital energy” (qi), and to strengthen bodily resistance to disease. It is commonly prescribed for the treatment of colds, flu, stomach ulcers and diabetes and is widely used in modern herbal practice in China.

Classed as a “superior herb” in the 2,000 year old classic Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, Astragalus has been extensively studied by modern science – particularly for its properties as a powerful immunostimulant.

Astragalus Benefits

Immune Boosting

Astragalus has a long and enduring history as a potent immune boosting herb and disease fighter.  It is an immunostimulant (an agent that stimulates the immune system) that it is known to increase the count of white blood cells and stimulate the production of antibodies, this builds up bodily resistance to viruses and bacteria. 

There have been many clinical studies showing how Astragalus not only boosts the immune system, but also encourages an increase in immune cell (T-cells, natural killer cells, macrophages, immunoglobulin) activity, production, and function.

Astragalus appears to help trigger immune cells from a resting state into heightened activity. The number of macrophages (cells of the immune system that ingest foreign antigens to protect against infection) has been shown to increase after administering Astragalus. The natural killer cells of the immune system also have a markedly enhanced ability to fight intruders (five to six times higher than normal).

Longevity

Astragalus has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for longevity, to invigorate qi (vital energy) and to strengthen the body. New and exciting research is currently being conducted that shows that Astragalus does, indeed, have powerful anti-aging properties, slowing the aging process at a cellular level.

Astragaloside IV - a saponin of this powerful herb - has shown benefits in reversing cell damage and in activating telomerase, this addresses telomere shortening and slows down cellular aging. Telomeres are the protective ends of chromosomes that slowly shorten and wear out each time cell division occurs in the body - a process central to human aging. The theory is that telomeres act as a kind of countdown clock, so when they wear out, cell division stops and tissues quickly degrade and die. Telomerase enzymes work to renew telomeres, although they are not produced as the body ages over time.

Another saponin of Astragalus that is being extensively studied for its anti-aging effects is Cycloastragenol (CGA), thought to have even more activating potential on telomerase. Research suggests that CGA may have a wide use in the treatment of degenerative diseases as well as for aging. 

Astragalus root is most effective when taken long term, providing many benefits that can contribute to a longer, healthier life. 

Adaptogen

Astragalus root is considered an adaptogen – it helps to build and restore overall health to the body.  It is especially used for cases of adrenal fatigue, in particular when symptoms manifest as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia.

Heart Health

Research shows that the plant flavonoids present in Astragalus have cardioprotective effects, helping to prevent plaque build up in the arteries and narrowing of the blood vessel walls by protecting the inner wall of the vessel. It has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and lower triglycerides. One particular study published in the “Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine” found that one particular flavonoid “Astragaloside IV” exerted protective effects on the cardiovascular system.

Sexual Health

Traditionally prescribed in Chinese Medicine for male infertility, Astragalus has now been scientifically proven to increase sperm motility in a study conducted by the Institutes of Traditional Medicine and Clinical Medicine. It is extremely supportive of male hormones, by balancing glucose levels it can optimise testosterone and growth hormone levels. 

Typical Use

Astragalus Tincture: 3 - 5 ml, three times a dayPowdered Astragalus root: 1/2g - 1g, three or four times per day.

Folklore and History

With a long and enduring history in Chinese Medicine, Astragalus is known in China as "huang qi" which means "yellow leader". In his 1911 work "Chinese Materia Medica", G A Stuart noted: "it is in great repute as a tonic, pectoral and diuretic medicine, the diseases for which it is prescribed, therefore are almost numberless". 

Astragalus is one of a number of herbs used in fu-zheng therapy which refers to treating disease by promoting the host defence mechanism, or normalising the central energy. 

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Astragalus
Constituents

The main constituents of the root are saponins, polysaccharides, isoflavonoids, free amino acids, and trace minerals. Other constituents include coumarin, folic acid, nicotinic acid, choline, betaine, phenolic acids (ferulic, isoferulic, caffeic and chlorogenic acids, etc.), sitosterol, sucrose, and linoleic and linolenic acids.

Precautions

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use Astragalus.

People with autoimmune diseases should consult their healthcare professional before using Astragalus because of its ability to stimulate the immune system.

Astragalus can interact with certain medications - please consult your healthcare professional before taking this herb if you are taking medication.

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