What is astragalus? Astragalus is the name given to a large genus of flowering plants that includes over 3000 species of herbs and shrubs. Some of the other common names of these species include locoweed, milkvetch and goat’s thorn. Tragacanth is a natural gum extracted from some of the astragalus species, which has been used for a long time as an herbal medicine in traditional Persian and Chinese medicine systems. Astragalus protects the body against different types of stresses, including physical, emotional, or mental stress and hence is called an adaptogen. Additionally it has the ability to protect against many serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, respiratory infections etc. The part of the astragalus plant that is used medicinally is its root. It is mostly used as dried powder or decoction made from boiling dried root in water. Astragalus tincture is made from the root. Astragalus Root Extract is also used to make various medicinal tinctures.
Nutritional value of Astragalus
In traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus membranaceus (Huáng Qí meaning ‘yellow leader’) is considered a superior tonic. It is rich in amino acids, flavonoids and many minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron and the antioxidant selenium. It is also high in folic acid and immunoactive polysaccharides that contribute to the immune boosting properties of the herb.
Uses of Astragalus
Astragalus has been used for medicinal purposes in traditional Persian, Chinese and Indian medicines. Still in some parts of China, it is used to treat chronic hepatitis or alternative therapy for cancer. This sweet and nourishing root is sometimes used in soups and as folk medicines for cold and other respiratory disorders. Although scientific evidence on the effects of this herb is limited, it is considered to be beneficial in treating a wide variety of health problems. Some of the benefits of astragalus include the following:
Astragalus improves immune functions
One of the most important benefits of astragalus is that it has a wonderful ability to enhance the functions of the immune system. It improves the immune function by increasing the production, function and activity of immune cells. According to some studies, astragalus can reduce the length of colds. It stimulates the body to produce a group of substances known as interferons, which are used by the body to protect against viral infections.
Astragalus for the heart
Various studies suggest that astragalus offers many heart-protecting effects, including protection against oxidative damage caused by free radicals formed in the body. Studies conducted on patients suffering from angina showed that there was significant increase in blood supply to their heart after being treated with astragalus. This herb also has the ability to relax the blood vessels, which helps in reducing high blood pressure, one of the main culprits of heart problems. Several Chinese clinical studies show that the root extract of astragalus is beneficial in improving the functioning of the heart, preventing cardiovascular disorders, and also in helping to restore and rehabilitate the functioning of the heart following an acute myocardial infarction. Astragalus contains saponins, which is also found to have blood thinning properties that helps in preventing the blockage of the coronary arteries. They inhibit the formation of lipid peroxides and thus reduce the coagulation of blood.
Astragalus has anti-aging properties
According to scientific research, astragalus contains substances known as cycloastrogenols and astragalosides that can inhibit the process of aging by activating the production of telomerase enzyme, the key element that maintains the health of telomeres. Telomeres are molecular caps found at the end of each chromosome and they are essential for the proper functioning of the cells. They are considered to regulate the rate at which human beings age. Cell division causes the telomeres to shorten, which induces the process of aging. The production of telomerase enzyme prevents the shortening of telomeres and thus reverses the aging process.
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Astragalus and liver health
According to the Chinese, astragalus has the ability to detoxify your body and remove the wastes and toxic heavy metals. The roots of this herb have been found to be useful in treating several diseases that may affect the liver such as liver cirrhosis and fibrosis. Not only does astragalus protect the liver from damage, it also helps in detoxifying the liver and in preventing the development of liver disorders.
Astragalus benefits for cancer
Astragalus has been proven to have anti-cancer properties and studies indicate that they can increase the efficacy of chemotherapy. Studies indicate that this herb can improve the functions of the immune system in people suffering from cancer by increasing the number of T cells. It switches on the anti-cancer activity of Interleukin-2 and increases the ability of the natural killer cells and T cells to destroy the cancer cells. Astragalus helps in chemotherapy treatments by helping to prevent the development of tumor and decreasing immunosuppression. It also reduces some of the aftereffects of radiation and chemotherapy treatments such as anemia, fatigue, nausea, weight loss, and weakness. Moreover, astragalus is rich in antioxidants like that protects the body from the harmful effects of free radicals.
Astragalus protects against kidney failure
Astragalus is one of most popularly used herbs for treating kidney disease. According to studies, severe renal inflammation is the cause for kidney diseases in more than 95% cases. Since astragalus has anti-inflammatory properties, it can be used to reduce inflammation and thus protect the kidneys. This herb also has diuretic effects that help in preventing fluid retention by increasing the frequency of urination. This property of the herb also helps in preventing the formation of kidney stones. High blood pressure is a common symptom of kidney failure. Astragalus has anti-hypertensive properties that help in controlling blood pressure.
Astragalus for diabetics
Astragalus roots have been used for a long time for the treatment of diabetes. Studies indicate that astragalus helps in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. According to research conducted on animals, the polysaccharide extracts of astragalus was effective in decreasing the toxic effects caused by high levels of glucose in the blood by activating an enzyme known as AMP-activated protein kinase or AMPK. This enzyme that is involved in maintaining proper energy levels in cells promotes the breakdown of fat and its storage and also controls the production of insulin. These studies confirmed that astragalus may be used in managing blood glucose levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Studies also indicate that astragalus may improve insulin sensitivity and fasting blood sugar levels.
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Astragalus improves digestive health
Astragalus has been known to increase metabolism and digestion. It increases the secretion of bile and other gastric juices that improves digestion as well as the metabolic rate. It also has the ability to lower acidity in the stomach and hence is extremely beneficial for people with acid reflux and stomach ulcers. According to ancient Chinese medicine, it acts as tonic for spleen and increases appetite.
Astragalus beats the common cold and flu
Astragalus enhances healthy immune function and protects your body against the common cold and flu. It has antiviral properties and also strengthens your immune system to fight against the disease causing microbes. Research has shown that astragalus can reduce not only the frequency but also the duration of colds and the flu by boosting the immune system. Astragalus root tea is also used as herbal tea for treating respiratory problems.
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Astragalus provides relief from the symptoms of hay fever
Hay fever is an allergic disorder that is characterized by symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, itching and difficulty breathing through the nose. Studies on patients with hay fever suggest that when treated with astragalus supplement, the symptoms of hay fever were found to be significantly reduced in these individuals.
Astragalus reduces damage caused by stroke
A stroke occurs when the flow of blood to your brain stops, resulting in the death of the brain cells. However, much of the damage is caused when blood flow to the brain is restored, which results in an inflammatory response that damages the nerve cells. Animal studies show that treatment with astragalus caused reduced amount of cell death while it increased the survival of nerve cell after the blood flow was restored in the brain. Astragalus tea is often suggested helpful for stroke patients.
Astragalus increases muscle stamina
Astragalus extract is great for athletes as it helps to improve the muscle strength and overall fitness of the body. Its muscle building qualities along with its ability to increase physical endurance makes this herb a favorite among athletes around the world.
Astragalus for treating AIDS
The immune boosting property of astragalus makes it a potential remedy for the treatment of AIDS. According to scientific research, astragalus root contains a substance that has the ability to fight against the HIV virus that causes the deadly AIDS. This substance prevents the shortening of telomeres by enhancing telomerase activity and also increases the production of soluble factors called chemokines and cytokines that have been found to prevent the replication of the HIV virus.
Astragalus for skin problems
Astragalus ointment is used for treating skin problems. It is effective in treating rashes, itchy skin, eczema. Astragalus is used to protect the skin from sunlight and treat photodermatitis. It has also been used traditionally to treat wounds. Astragalus ointment is found effective in treating skin herpes. Astragalus extract is today being sold as anti-aging supplement and tonic for skin.
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Astragalus side effects
Astragalus may lead to thinning of blood and lower blood pressure. So taking it together with similar medicines like aspirin may aggrevate problem and impair blood clotting. Some speices of astragalus are poisonous, so be sure of the source of astragalus supplement you use. On precautionary note it should be avoided by pregnant women. In higher dose it may lead to diarrhea or bloating. Astragalus supplements should be taken only with proper prescriptions.
Many people are looking for natural ways to enhance their energy and immunity. Astragalus is one of the best solutions to achieve this. Not only is it inexpensive, it is safe and effective too. The most pronounced advantage of using astragalus as an herbal remedy is that it has a very limited number of side effects. From all the various beneficial effects of astragalus herb, it is quite obvious that this herb has the potential to be a part of modern medicine in the helping to prevent as well as treat multiple health problems.