Astragalus is a class of herbs found in northern Asia that’s been used to treat fatigue and sickness for thousands of years.
Some of the plant constituents have shown to be so potent that they’re now being used as the basis for different drugs to treat cancer, fatigue, and subdue ulcers, among other things.
The Health Benefits of Astragalus
Astragalus seems to work its magic through the following mechanisms:
- It causes your body to produce more telomeres, a part of your DNA that protects chromosomes from degradation
- It contains a unique class of polysaccharides which are very biologically active
- It improves the rate of replication of immune cells called macrophages
These three properties are very unique to astragalus, and are one of the reasons its such a wonderful medicinal herb.
It’s health properties are so unique that isolated compounds from its polysaccharides are being used as the basis for billion dollar pharmaceutical drugs being used to treat some of mankind’s most daunting health problems.
It’s also one of the reasons holistic wellness should precede medicine.
How Astragalus Stops Aging
Astragalus is uniquely healthy for your cellular health because of its ability to protect your body’s telomeres from degradation.
Telomeres are small pieces of DNA located at the edge of your chromosomes. When your cells replicate telomeres help prevent your DNA from unraveling and keep it locked into place. They serve a similar function as the plastic caps on the edges of your shoelace.
Whenever your cells replicate telomeres shorten a wee bit. After so many replications the stubby telomeres reach a critical point where they’re no longer usable and cells begin their programmed death, a process called “apoptosis.”
The gradual shortening of telomeres is an important component of ageing and different types of cancer.
Astragalus causes your body to increase its production of a substance called “telomerase”, which is an enzyme that enables the production of more telomeres. In clinical studies mice treated with extracts of astragalus root had telomeres that were longer and degraded more slowly than a control group.
What’s more impressive is that despite these remarkable effects on cellular health there’s apparently no toxicity from astragalus if taken at reasonable dosages.
Astragalus Helps Improve Sickness and Heal Wounds
As stated before, astragalus contains some polysaccharides which are just darn unique.
The most notable compounds are called formononetin, calycosin and astragaloside IV, and seem to do the following things in your body:
- Reduces the amount of nitric oxide released from cells, which reduces inflammation
- Causes certain genes and metabolic pathways to be shutdown which would otherwise cause blood and chemicals to flow to wounds
- Activates other genes and pathways which activates different immune cells
Because of this astragalus is fairly robust at healing sickness. It’s been used to treat ulcers, swollen wounds, reduce hemorrhaging, and serve as a complimentary input to cancer treatments.
One of my favorite studies on astragalus was published recently in the journal Clinical Investigative Medicine, and it studied the ability of astragalus to reduce fatigue in cancer patients with very developed cases.
The patients were treated with a purified extract of Astragalus membranaceous in two 1 month cycles. After the first month 82% of patients reported feeling better and more energetic, and the following month 71% of the remaining group reported better feelings of energy, vitality, and youth.
The study was a double-blind placebo controlled study and fairly high quality.
Astragalus is Good For Diabetics
Astragalus seems to be a decent food for diabetics. For a reson that’s not entirely clear patients who take astragalus exhibit better blood sugar control.
The different polysaccharides protect against radical scavengers, and the benefits astragalus provides to cellular health seem to carry over in its ability to metabolize different nutrients.
Astragalus Supplements, Dosages, and Side Effects
One of the benefits of astragalus is that despite its potent behavior within the body it seems to be benign at almost all doses. As far as I know there are no cases where astragalus caused harmful side effects in patients.
When you buy astragalus at the store you’ll want to buy Astragalus Membranaceous , as it’s the form most studied and easily consumed by humans.
You can either buy astragalus membranaceous in its root form or as an extract. Astragalus supplements typically come in powdered form, but it’s also available in capsules.
With most supplements the amount of astragalus contained will be between 250-1000mg, and as far as I know this is fine. Only if you’re taking significantly more than this or taking several doses a day should you exercise caution.
It’s also possible that at very high dosages astragalus might suppress your immune system, and taking it with immune-stimulating drugs might cause side effects.
Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about this.
Who Should Take An Astragalus Supplement?
Because of its widespread health benefits and benign nature, most people would benefit from having some astragalus in their diet.
However, due to its unique properties astragalus probably provides the most help to the following people:
- elderly people looking for a non-invasive way to fight the vagaries of old age
- people looking to reduce fatigue or reduce the collateral damage from severe chemotherapy or drug treatments
- anyone with a brittle immune system that’s sensitive to over the counter medication
- people looking for a natural/homeopathic way to help control blood sugar
Of course, if you have specific questions about a condition you should consult your doctor or licensed medical professional. This is not specific medical advice.
Astragalus is a pretty bodaceous herb. There are a large amount of studies that verify its health benefits, and the fact that it’s the subject of mimicry in pharmaceuticals alludes to its medicinal potency.
Bernardes de Jesus, Bruno, et. al. “The telomerase activator TA-65 elongates short telomeres and increases health span of adult/old mice without increasing cancer incidence”
Fu-Lun, Li, et. al. “Astragaloside IV Downregulates ?-Catenin in Rat Keratinocytes to Counter LiCl-Induced Inhibition of Proliferation and Migration”
Kwok-Kin Lai, Patrick, et. al. “Isolation of Anti-inflammatory Fractions and Compounds from the Root ofAstragalus membranaceus”
Kim, Wonnam. “Astragalus membranaceus Ameliorates Reproductive Toxicity Induced by Cyclophosphamide in Male Mice”
Chun-Chung, Chen, et. al. “Chinese Herb Astragalus membranaceus Enhances Recovery of Hemorrhagic Stroke: Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Study”
X, He, et. al. “Inhibitory effect of Astragalus polysaccharides on lipopolysaccharide-induced TNF-a and IL-1? production in THP-1 cells.”
Chen, HW, et. al. “A novel infusible botanically-derived drug, PG2, for cancer-related fatigue: a phase II double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study.”
Shao, Bai-Mei, et. al. “A study on the immune receptors for polysaccharides from the roots of Astragalus membranaceus, a Chinese medicinal herb”
Sinclair, Steven. “Chinese Herbs: A Clinical Review of Astragalus, Ligusticum, and Schizandrae”
Harley, Calvin, et. al. “A Natural Product Telomerase Activator As Part of a Health Maintenance Program”