Astragalus

Summary

Traditional Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years and few natural remedies are as important as astragalus. As one of the fifty most important herbal products, astragalus has been used to treat a number of ailments and modern science is finally catching up.

Research suggests astragalus can boost immunity by activating T-cells more than some pharmaceutical drugs [1]. Other studies show astragalus attenuates Alzheimer’s disease and can prevent neurodegenerative diseases that are associated with excess stress [2]. This is one reason, some people consider astragalus to be an adaptogenic herb similar to rhodiola rosea or ashwaganda.

Also Known As

Astragalus membranaceus, huangqi, membranous milk-vetch root, ogi, Huang Qi, TA-65, TAT2

Editors’ Thoughts On Astragalus

My friend Evan Brand has a number of certifications for Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese herbal remedies and he has always told me about astragalus and using it for himself and his clients. Otherwise, I have not heard of many people using astragalus, but in doing some digging into the anecdotes, it seems like a pretty powerful root with adaptogenic properties.

There is a fair bit of research on astragalus, but I would still like to see more. When I consider my “go to” adaptogens, I usually reach for the above mentioned rhodiola or even cordyceps mushroom instead. Maybe that is partially related to the ease of finding these versus astragalus.

For people who treasure ancient Chinese medicinal wisdom (and there is a lot to value), it may be a good option especially for bolstering immune heath. If there is anything the science is pretty clear on, it is the benefits for that aspect.

Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor

astragalus

History of Astragalus

Astragalus has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for many years and is still being used in China as an herb to treat hepatitis and some forms of cancer. The Chinese believed we all had “Qi” or energy and astragalus was considered a “Qi tonifier” in their medicinal texts [3].

The traditional peoples would harvest astragalus specifically for the root, which would be taken only from plants that were 4-years old. Lots of care was taken to develop these methodologies and although we do not have clear answers as to why that is the case now, it is surely with merit.

Astragalus Benefits

From a scientific perspective, astragalus benefits are powerful as our ancestors believed. For the brain, astragalus can support neuroprotection preliminarily by reducing inflammation in the brain. In one 2005 study in the Chinese Pharmacological Bulletin, astragalus helped reduce inflammatory markers like TNF-alpha for animal models that had brain injury [4].

According to other research, the anti-inflammatory effects have helped reduce the death of individual neurons and nerves within the brain [5]. This also helps Alzheimer’s patients who struggle with a degenerating brain. The astragalus extract could preserve hippocampal structure and prevent many of the effects of Alzheimer’s disease [6].

There is also some evidence to suggest benefits for longevity as well. In one 2009 study of animals, Phytomedicine concluded that astragalus root could help preserve mitochondrial structure [7].

Other studies suggest astragalus can decrease the rate of telomere shortening [8]; telomeres are a key indicators of age and biologists often use their length to determine our age. Any way to shorten telomeres is considered (right or wrongly) to be an anti-aging or longevity tool.

There is not solid evidence to back up the telomere shortening aspect of astragalus, but there are well-documented studies for the immune boosting properties. In a double-blind 2007 study in Phytotherapy Research, astragalus was found to significantly bolster immune health by activating the immune system [9].

This increased immune benefit of astragalus might be why many traditional people are using the substance for treating cancers. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of research on the anti-cancer benefits of astragalus. A few animal models showed astragalus could promote the death of certain cancer cells [10][11], but there isn’t much solid evidence on the matter.

Astragalus Side Effects

Luckily, the side effects of astragalus are not to harmful like they are with many pharmaceutical drugs. Astragalus root is considered “safe” for most adults in a scientific setting [12], but there are side effects for women who might be pregnant or lactating.

There is also some research that astragalus can suppress the immune system when combined with other drugs taken by cancer patients or those who receive organ transplants [13].

Otherwise, there is always the risk of gastrointestinal distress especially in those who are not used to consuming this type of root or herb. Try to start with a smaller dose and work your way up as needed.

Astragalus Dosage

To determine the astragalus dosage from ancient texts is challenging because they have synergistic compounds mixed together. For example, most of the time astragalus is consumed alongside angelicae sinensis in a brew. It usually combines 30 g astragalus and 6 g angelicae, but many people don’t have either the time or the patients to create this mixture.

The dosage of astragalus root is in the 1 – 4 grams range if you buy fresh dried root. The powdered root capsules will be in the 250 – 500 mg range (3 times per day).

How and Where to Buy Astragalus Root

Due to the historical popularity of astragalus root, it is not challenging to find it in local health food or grocery stores. When you buy astragalus root, make sure you find either the fresh dried root or you get the extract in powdered form.

One way to purchase astragalus is simply going online to do so. We recommend Oregon’s Wild Harvest astragalus because the dosage is on the higher side, the product is organic, and the brand is well-recognized in this space.

There are other brands of astragalus root for sale that are worthwhile. You might even visit a local herbalist and find the fresh root with plenty of insight from the person working at that shop.

Astragalus Reviews

The astragalus reviews online are a mixed bag so take them with a grain of salt. Many times traditional Chinese medicine is considered to be the best route (as opposed to western medicine), but this is not always the case. People who take astragalus root and claim they never get sick as a result (for example) are simply excited and providing anecdotal evidence.

While this evidence is great, it does not replace the hard science produced in the lab, which suggests a more moderate set of benefits. The astragalus reviews should be taken with a grain of salt.

Selected Community Experiences

“Apparently when combined with ginseng and creatine it can have benefits other than just the immunity aspect” – JohnnyP51 [14]

References (Click to Expand)
  1. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17661330
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21538932
  3. //www.altmedrev.com/publications/3/6/422.pdf
  4. //en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-YAOL200512021.htm
  5. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22466546
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21538932
  7. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19201177
  8. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19839736
  9. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17661330
  10. //carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/28/6/1347.full
  11. //citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.506.5438&rep=rep1&type=pdf
  12. //nccih.nih.gov/health/astragalus
  13. Ibid.
  14. //www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/26rjuq/what_are_your_thoughts_on_astralagus/

Author

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