Astragalus root is an herbal remedy that has been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years due to its amazing health benefits, including immune support, anti-inflammatory effects, and anti-aging abilities. Moreover, astragalus has been used to help treat and alleviate conditions such as allergies, fatigue, diabetes, heart disease, and the common cold. Read on to learn more about astragalus benefits, the science behind this ancient herb, and how to add it to your dietary regimen.
What Is Astragalus Root?
Astragalus, also known as milkvetch root or huang-qi, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for millennia. While there are thousands of species of astragalus (over 2,000) that are native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, only two are used frequently in supplements: Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus.
Astragalus root can be made into intravenous form (administered by hospital staff or medical professionals), liquid extracts, powders, capsules, and teas. It’s the root that contains the active plant compounds that bring us the benefits of astragalus, including inflammation regulation and immune system support. There’s also research suggesting that astragalus root can help treat seasonal allergies, the common cold, kidney disease, heart conditions, and more.
Astragalus Benefits: The Science Behind the Supplement
Here are some of the benefits of astragalus you may find useful to your health and overall well-being.
1. Enhanced Blood Sugar Control
The plant compounds in astragalus root may help control your blood sugar levels, including in people who have type 2 diabetes. As an herbal medicine it is prescribed by doctors to diabetic patients in China and beyond, and in laboratory and animal studies it has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels, improve sugar metabolism, and even encourage healthy weight loss for those looking to lose weight.
Though more research is required on human patients before scientists can reach a consensus, the early findings regarding astragalus root’s impact on blood sugar control is promising, including this 2016 meta-analysis, which found that people with type 2 diabetes taking 40-60 grams of astragalus root extract via injection per day enjoyed improved fasting blood sugar levels over the course of 4 months.
2. Immune System Support
Astragalus root can boost your immune system’s operations, which helps your body defend against invading germs, bacteria, and viruses. There is some evidence to suggest that astragalus root may increase the production of white blood cells, the first line of defense against invaders in the bloodstream. Animal studies have shown antiviral evidence that astragalus root works to kill viruses and bacterial infections. Human studies have shown astragalus root can help treat liver infections and alleviate the symptoms of the common cold, diarrhea, and fatigue.
3. Improved Kidney Function
Astragalus root may support kidney function by helping to improve blood flow, among other attributes. For example, the condition proteinuria occurs when excessive amounts of protein are found in the urine, indicating that the kidneys are not functioning properly. Astragalus root has shown an ability to improve proteinuria in patients with kidney disease and reduce the amount of infections in those who have compromised kidney function.
A 2012 study found that taking astragalus daily for 3-6 months caused a 38% reduction of infection risk in those with nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder often caused by damage to the kidney’s small blood vessels.
4. May Help Heart Function
Astragalus may improve the heart function of people with certain heart conditions due to its ability to widen blood vessels and increase blood flow throughout the body. One clinical study from 2010 found that participants with heart failure who were administered 2.25 grams of astragalus twice a day for 2 weeks had greater improvements than those given conventional treatments alone.
Another study showed that heart failure patients treated with 60 grams of astragalus IV injections alongside conventional treatment had significant health gains over the control group.
Further studies even suggest that taking astragalus may reduce the symptoms of viral myocarditis, which is an inflammatory heart condition. While more studies are needed to confirm these findings, the indication is that astragalus is good for heart health.
5. May Relieve Chemotherapy Side Effects
The side effects of chemotherapy can be negative and severe, but there is some evidence that astragalus may help alleviate them. One clinical study from 2002 found that cancer patients undergoing chemo who were given astragalus via IV had reduced symptoms of diarrhea by 59%, vomiting by 50%, and nausea by 36%.
This herbal remedy has also been effective in helping those undergoing chemo for colon cancer, reducing the instances of nausea and vomiting. And a 2012 study found that 500 milligrams of IV astragalus administered 3 times a week also improved fatigue for those being treated with chemotherapy.
Even more promising, though in the very earliest stages of study, are astragalus’s anti-cancer effects. In lab studies, astragalus has been found to promote apoptosis, i.e. programmed cell death, in different forms of cancer, including breast cancer.
6. Chronic Fatigue and Allergy Relief
Other preliminary results indicate that astragalus may help alleviate the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and improve the energy levels of those with other illnesses like kidney disease and cancer.
Astragalus has also shown promise in reducing the symptoms of seasonal allergies; 160 milligrams of astragalus twice a day reduced instances of runny noses and sneezing in those suffering from allergies.
Astragalus Side Effects and Possible Interactions
Astragalus products like AstraGin are well tolerated by most people, but there are some side effects to be aware of, especially for certain vulnerable members of the population.
Side effects include itching, rash, runny nose, nausea, or diarrhea. Likewise, because astragalus influences blood sugar levels and blood pressure, those who are already taking medications for those conditions should not begin any new supplement without seeking medical advice from their doctor first.
IV astragalus injections have their own side effects, like irregular heartbeat, which is why intravenous injections should only be done in a hospital or supervised medical setting.
The following populations should avoid astragalus supplementation due to the potential side effects.
- Those with autoimmune diseases: While it’s usually wonderful to know that astragalus has an impact on the immune system, those with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis may want to avoid it.
- Those taking immunosuppressant drugs: Due to the influence of astragalus on the immune system, it may interfere with the effects of immunosuppressant drugs, and should not be taken without consulting a health care provider for advice.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women: Without research specifically done regarding pregnant or breastfeeding women and astragalus, it is not known whether or not it’s safe to use, and so should be avoided.
Astragalus root can be had in many different forms, from liquid astragalus extracts to powders to capsules. The powders can be made into teas as well, or decoctions which are made by boiling astragalus root to extract its active components. Typical doses are between 9 and 30 grams per day, but if you’re buying a prepackaged astragalus product, simply follow the instructions provided. For specific dosages that have been used successfully in clinical settings, refer to the following data:
- Blood sugar control: 40-60 grams per day (decoction).
- Kidney disease: 7.5–15 grams per day (powder).
- Congestive heart failure: 2-7.5 grams per day (powder).
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: 30 grams per day (decoction).
- Seasonal allergies: 2 doses of 80 milligrams per day (capsules).
These studies lasted up to 4 months, so if you want to continue taking astragalus longer, be aware that there is no data on the effects of long-term usage of high doses of this herb.
Ad Astra per Astragalus
Astragalus root may help boost your immune function and improve the symptoms of chronic fatigue, seasonal allergies, and cold infections. More amazingly, astragalus may help protect those who have serious conditions like type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure. Ask your doctor or a trusted health care professional if astragalus supplements are right for you. Sometimes the oldest natural remedies are still the best to be had in the modern Western world!