Astragalus technically is not a single herb, it is a collection of over 3,000 species of herbs and small shrubs. Most of these herbs are quite popular in Chinese folk medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine use a combination of astragalus herbs to treat several diseases for several centuries. The two most important herbs of this genus are Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus.
The traditional Chinese medicine use this herb to boost immunity in patients. It is also effective in treating hepatitis and is widely used as an adjunctive therapy for cancer. It is also used to detoxify the liver and to control upper respiratory infections and colds.
The traditional Chinese medicine use Astragalus along with other herbs, such as ginseng, angelica, and licorice to treat different diseases. The root of the astragalus plant is typically used in soups, teas, extracts, or capsules.
The Scientific Evidence
- The evidence for using astragalus for any health condition is limited. High-quality clinical trials (studies in people) are generally lacking. There is some preliminary evidence to suggest that astragalus, either alone or in combination with other herbs, may have potential benefits for the immune system, heart, and liver, and as an adjunctive therapy for cancer.
- NCCAM-funded investigators are studying the effects of astragalus on the body, particularly on the immune system. Researchers have found promising results in the preliminary study.
- Biotechnology firms are working on deriving a telomerase activator from Astragalus. The chemical constituent cycloastragenol (also called TAT2) is being studied to help combat HIV, as well as infections associated with chronic diseases or aging. Research at the UCLA AIDS Institute focused on the function of cycloastragenol in the aging process of immune cells, and its effects on the cells’ response to viral infections. It appears to increase the production of telomerase, an enzyme that mediates the replacement of short bits of DNA known as telomeres, which play a key role in cell replication, including in cancer processes.
Astragalus is considered safe for most adults. However in some cases it may interact with medications that are meant to suppress the immune system. However one should be aware of various species of the astragalus, some species are toxic, and some other have neurotoxins. So buy astragalus only from reputed sellers and distributors.