Astragalus

Astragalus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It was often combined with other herbs to strengthen the body against disease. Astragaus is called an adaptogen, meaning it helps protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, or emotional stress.

Astragalus may help protect the body from diseases such as cancer and diabetes. It contains antioxidants, which protect cells against damage.  Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, lowering blood pressure, treating diabetes, and protecting the liver.

Astragalus has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. People sometimes use it on the skin for wound care. In addition, studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it may help prevent colds.

In the United States, researchers have looked at astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy or radiation. In these studies, astragalus supplements seem to help people recover faster and live longer. Research on using astragalus for people with AIDS has produced mixed results.

Recent research in China suggests that, because astragalus is an antioxidant, it may help people with severe forms of heart disease, relieving symptoms, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving heart function. At low-to-moderate doses, astragalus has few side effects. However, it does interact with a number of other herbs and prescription medications. Astragalus may also be a mild diuretic, meaning it helps rid the body of excess fluid.
Plant Description

Astragalus is a perennial plant, about 16 to 36 inches tall, that is native to the northern and eastern parts of China, as well as Mongolia and Korea. It has hairy stems with leaves made up of 12 to 18 pairs of leaflets. The root is the medicinal part of the plant, and is usually harvested from 4-year-old plants.
Parts Used

The dried root is used medicinally.
Medicinal Uses and Indications

Astragalus has been used for the following:

  • Adaptogen.
    Protects the body from stress and disease.
  • Anemia.
    One early study suggested astragalus may improve blood counts in people with aplastic anemia.
  • Colds and influenza.
    In Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus is used as part of an herbal combination to prevent or treat colds. Evidence in animal and laboratory tests suggests it may act against viruses like the ones that cause colds.
  • Diabetes.
    Astragalus appears to lower blood sugar.
  • Fatigue or lack of appetite from chemotherapy.
    Some studies suggest astragalus may help reduce side effects from chemotherapy. The studies have not been well designed, however.
  • Heart disease.
    Several studies suggest that astragalus may act as an antioxidant and help treat heart disease. Other studies suggest astragalus may help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Hepatitis.
    A few studies have used a combination of herbs containing astragalus to treat hepatitis.
  • Kidney disease.
    Preliminary research suggests astragalus may help protect the kidneys and may help treat kidney disease.
  • Seasonal allergies.
    One study found that astragalus may help reduce symptoms in people who have allergic rhinitis or hayfever.
  • Cancer.
    Preliminary studies suggest astragalus may have anti-tumor effects, specifically against melanoma and leukemia.