Astragalus (Huang Qi) is an herb best known for its potent immune boosting properties. It has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to strengthen the bodies resistance to most all forms of disease. Although there are a couple of thousand species of astragalus found in nature, only two forms are used medicinally. Astragalus-membraneceus and Astragalus-mongholicus. This adaptogen has been used for things as simple as a cold and as acute as Cancer.
Although astragalus contains a wide array of constituents including free-form amino acids, essential fatty acids coumarins, and multiple trace minerals,
The 4 most studied components of astragalus right now are:
polysaccharides: molecules consisting of a number of sugar bonded molecules that have anti-virus, anti aging, anti radiation, anti inflammatory, stress resisting and antioxidants capabilities. Disease is fueled by sugar and polysaccharides carry healing components to disease to combat.
- flavonoids: important antioxidants that are found in plant pigment (colors). They control and scavenge free radicals and contain antiviral, anti cancer, antihistamine and antimicrobial properties.
- saponins: naturally occurring glycosides in plants which attribute to cell death. They are known to for tumor necrosis, lowering cholesterol, lowering both sugar and fat in the blood while also containing selenium, zinc and copper.
- telomere: a compound structure found at the end of a chromosome, almost like the plastic end of the shoe lace that keeps the chromosome from deterioration or knotting. The telomerase enzyme works to repair the genetic errors in damaged DNA and prevents the telomere from shortening. These functions protect our cellular health, longevity and aging process.
Let’s learn about some of the amazing health benefits of Astragalus:
Immune System Aid: Astragalus heightens the efficiency of virtually every element of the immune system as it contains dozens of components yet to be discovered by science. When taken daily, it may increase the count of white blood cells and stimulate the production of antibodies, triggering immune cells to “wake up” from a resting phase. Astragalus function focuses on aiding the body by fortifying the existing immune system rather than directly attacking infection.
DNA Repair: Our cells replicate daily, almost in a cut, copy & paste fashion. Exposure to radiation, heavy metals, environmental toxins, diet, pesticides, stress and lifestyle can often damage DNA. Thus when cells replicate, they continue to split the cells along with the errors caused by these exposures. According to a study published in 2011 by Spanish National Cancer center, an enzyme found in astragalus called the telomerase works to repair these genetic errors in damaged DNA. Many studies also showed this same enzyme caused drastic reduction in patients with CMV. CMV is a herpes virus often present with stomach ulcers, ailments & cancers.
Anti-Viral: multiple studies show that astragalus increases interferon levels, natural killer-cells and T-cell (it can make T-cells more aggressive) activity which aid in destroying virus, bacteria and microbes. While, also containing polysaccharides which inhibit viral replication and saponins, which have a similar immunity-enhancing effect. Science is now publishing its positive affects on aiding the immune system in fighting viruses such as CMV, EBV, HBV, HPV, HIV, Herpes and much more. As well as bacteria’s such as Shigella, Pneumonia, Strep and many upper respiratory infections.
Aging & Longevity: rich in flavonoids which may visibly reduce the look of neck and chest wrinkles, according to Chinese medicine. A study published in 2013 in Alternative Medicine stated astragalus stimulates the natural production of hyaluronic acid at the level of the skin. (hyaluronic acid is one of the main reasons aging become visible). The saponin also has shown benefits in reversing cell damage and in activating telomerase which may slow down cellular aging. Many of the elements yet to be discovered in astragalus may have the ability to fight free radical damage which is one of the main components in aging. Topically used may help heal wounds, reduce the look of scars, wrinkles and skin blemishes.
Organ & Blood health: protects lungs and may clear congestion and improve fullness of breath from asthma, allergies & respiratory infections. The flavonoid antioxidants may help prevent plaque buildup in arteries and narrowing of vessel walls by protecting the inner wall of the vessel in the heart and reduction in high blood pressure. Astragalus extract may be rich in highly bioavailable iron, a blood-building essential mineral. The saponins, flavonoids and polysaccharides all are effective in treating and regulating type 1 and 2 diabetes whilst protecting the renal system and kidney function. It may strengthens muscle tone and mucosa of the intestine according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology.
Astragalus May also protect the liver from the negative effects of alcohol as well as fatty liver disease.
Anti inflammatory & Anti cancer: As inflammation accompanies all disease, polysaccharides found in astragalus exhibit anti inflammation properties for things such as arthritis, eczema and cancer. The phytochemicals, antioxidants and saponin found in astragalus may combat chronic inflammation, damage to tissue and DNA cells that trigger most all cancers. A study publish by the Anderson Cancer center of Houston showed astragalus treatment restored immune system function in the majority of patients. In some cases, it made the cancer patients' immune systems resemble those of the healthy subjects. A study published in 2016 by Scholars Research Library showed anti-carcinoma properties were found in astragalus which helped breast, ovarian, colon, gastric, cervical, stomach, colorectal, liver, lung and nasopharyngeal cancers alike by decreasing or eliminating tumors. When Astragalus is administered alongside conventional chemotherapy, it may improve the outcome by reducing resistance of cancer cells to the chemotherapy drugs while minimizing most all side effects of chemo and radiation.
Male & Female ailments: As astragalus plays a positive role in reducing inflammation and balancing histamine, a reduction with endometriosis symptoms may be possible due to allergies quite often being present in endo. As an adaptogen, Astragalus may help adrenal fatigue, in particular when symptoms manifest as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. According to a study published in 2014 by Plant Biochemistry & Physiology, astragalus may increase circulating testosterone levels and often prescribed in Traditional Chinese Medicine for sperm mobility and proper fertility. In TCM it is considered a Qi (life force energy) tonic as Qi can be depleted by lifestyle, poor diet, stress and environmental factors for both men and women alike.
Synergistic Applications: One of the greatest things about astragalus is that it works in synergy with other vitamins and herbs to combat disease such as:
- Astragalus and Goji berry: aids in renal cell carcinoma.
- Astragalus and Elderberry: increase probiotic in gut, aids in cold, flu and bronchial disease.
- Astragalus and Ginseng: strengthen bodies natural defenses, fortifies immune system, blood building tonic, strengthens spleen and lung, increases memory function, boosts energy and improves nutrient assimilation.
- Astragalus and Ginger: clears toxins, relieves energy stagnation, relieves nausea and vomiting.
- Astragalus and Licorice: strengthens immune function, relieves stomach and digestive discomfort, protects liver, allows smooth flow of energy.
- Astragalus and Schisandra: encourages immune system health, stamina, endurance to physical and emotional stress.
- Astragalus and Ligustrum: provides cellular support for tissue, blurred vision, tinnitus and reducing side effects of chemo.
As astragalus continues to be one of the most common herbal remedies, more and more studies continue to show benefits against ailments not covered above such as fibromyalgia, digestion, Aids, ulcers, sores, UTI, insomnia, hyperthyroidism, flu, lupus, auto immune disease, bone density, fertility, memory loss & seizures. Providing more and more reason to add this “super herb” to a daily health regimen.
Astragalus can be administered in powder, pill, extract or tea form. Always make sure that you speak to your health care provider to avoid any interactions with other medication as it may interact with treatment of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lithium treatment, auto immune and immune suppressing drugs, cyclophosphamide and steroids. Pregnant and nursing women should consult a doctor as well.
To conclude, this has been one of my personal favorite herbs for over a decade. I love how mild and effective it is and the positive energy and life force it provides. I like to think of our immune system as Batman while astragalus comes in as Robin. Although they are brilliant alone, together they are always more powerful and effective.
By Jena Covello and Natasha M
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.