Astragalus Review; Benefits, Side Effects and More!

Astragalus Review; Benefits, Side Effects and More!

Astragalus Review; Benefits, Side Effects and More!

Astragalus root is derived from a perennial plant that grows in northern China and Mongolia. The herb is a staple of Chinese medicine, where it has been used for centuries to boost the immune system and treat a variety of ailments.

Practitioners of Chinese medicine use Astragalus root to enhance the body’s energy, known to them as “qi” (pronounced as “chee”). Ancient people used it to enhance strength and regulate metabolism. The herb has only recently gained popularity among herbalists and practitioners of alternative medicine in the West.

Astragalus’ Chemical Components

The major chemical components of Astragalus root are polysaccharides, flavonoids saponins and a series of triterpene glycosides known as “astragalosides”. Some of these are known to be biologically active, and may play roles in preventing/treating certain diseases.

Supporting Studies and Clinical Research

In-vitro and rodent studies conducted in America support the assertion that Astragalus root can enhance the immune system. For example, it may reduce the severity of atopic dermatitis and asthma. Nonetheless, human clinical trials are lacking, so the benefits of Astragalus supplementation for these conditions are unclear at this time.

A great deal of research on Astragalus has been conducted in China. Chinese studies indicate that Astragalus may ameliorate the effects of cancer chemotherapy and improve the quality of life. Astragalus root appears to induce production of interferon, a chemical that is an essential part of the immune system and has been widely studied for its ability to fight the development of cancer.

Nonetheless, the majority of these studies have been published in obscure, Chinese-language journals and are of questionable quality. Well-designed trials are needed before Astragalus can be recommended as an adjunct to conventional chemotherapy.

Some interesting, albeit speculative, in-vitro research also suggests that Astragalus compounds may be useful in the fight against diseases such as AIDS and lupus; not to mention aging.

As above, however, much more research needs to be done. Needless to state, what happens in a cell culture flask using concentrated/purified components may not predict what happens when an herb is administered orally.

Beyond the above, Astragalus and/or individual components may exert cardioprotective effects, by improving blood flow, reducing inflammation and preventing myocardial injury.

Astragalus is also a mild diuretic, and increases natiuresis (sodium excretion). It may even prove useful for treating insulin resistance and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Bottom Line on the Clinical Evidence for Astragalus

Taking the above into consideration, it’s easy to see why Astragalus has a hallowed place in traditional medical systems. Unfortunately, there’s more smoke than fire at this point. Astragalus looks like a promising source of bioactive compounds that may be useful for treating specific diseases, but – at this point in time – the evidence is pretty “soft”.

Does Astragalus have Side Effects?

In most cases, Astragalus root can be used safely by healthy adults with few side effects. It’s available in powdered extracts, tinctures and teas. There are also ointments containing Astragalus that can be used topically to treat wounds.

Some cautions do apply, however. Astragalus root can increase the effects of certain antiviral medicines, hypoglycemic agents, immune system suppressants and anticoagulant medications (such as Coumadin).

There is also the potential for interaction with other drugs or herbal preparations. In addition, Astragalus has not been evaluated for safety during pregnancy/breastfeeding. If you are pregnant, nursing or taking any prescription medications, be sure to consult with your physician or pharmacist before using Astragalus.

Where to Buy Astragalus

If you’d like to experiment with this supplement, it’s extremely affordable and readily available—we recommend shopping for Astragalus at BodyBuilding.com, one of our recommended online retailers.

Author: elissa

Elissa is a former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, Elissa brings her multidisciplinary education and training to her writing on nutrition and supplements.

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