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Astragalus

 

 

 

Main Health Benefits of Astragalus
  • Improves weakened immune systems
  • Increases energy and stamina
  • Improves fatigue and weakness
  • Reduces wrinkles and age spots on the skin
  • Enhances heart function and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Assists the repair of the liver
  • Reduces asthma symptoms and strengthens the lungs
  • Promotes a healthy menstrual cycle
  • Improves diabetes and pancreatic function
Other common names

Astragalus membranaceus (bunge), Astragalus propinquus (schischkin), Huang Qi, Radix Astragali

What is The History of Astragalus?

Astragalus is native specifically to north eastern China, Mongolia, Korea and Siberia.

Astragalus was first recorded in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) classic Shen Nong’s Materia Medica about two thousand years ago. This text is the foundation of TCM and within it, herbs were arranged by type of material (herb, tree, etc), and then graded into categories of potency: upper, middle and lower. Astragalus was listed in the highest class. It was believed to stimulate immune function and have antioxidant effects and other benefits in the treatment of viral infections and cardiovascular disease. It has been prescribed for centuries for general weakness, chronic illnesses, to increase overall vitality and as a tonic to build stamina. Astragalus is among the most popular and important Qi (energy) tonifying adaptogenic herbs in China which means it vitalises the non-specific immune defences and wards off infections. Ancient Chinese texts record the use of astragalus for tonifying the spleen, blood and Qi.

Other traditional indications include wasting disorders, night sweats, chronic ulcerations and sores, numbness and paralysis of the limbs and oedema (from deficiency). Astragalus is typically prescribed as a dried root as an additive to meal preparations, powdered or in a decoction, however, Western herbalists have started tincturing the root as well.

Although originally from China astragalus has quickly integrated itself into Western herbalism and is now one of the primary immune tonic herbs in the Western pharmacopoeia. It has demonstrated a wide range of potential therapeutic applications in immunodeficiency syndromes, as an adjunct cancer therapy and for its adaptogenic effect on the heart and kidneys. It has similar Qi strengthening properties to Panax ginseng but is less heating and stimulating

 

Astragalus’ Recognised Targets and Mechanisms of Action

The health effects of astragalus have been found due to the following chemicals and constituents -saponins such as cycloastragenol and astragalosides, polysaccharides (astroglucans A-C), flavonoids, amino acids, trace elements. Zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, sodium, cobalt, rubidium, molybdenum, chromium, vanadium, tin and silver. Phytosterols, a volatile oil, and amino acids, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and L-canavanine, have also been isolated from the root. Other organic compounds identified in the roots include choline, betaine, gluconic acid and beta-sitosterols, as well as aromatic compounds, essential oil, linoleic acid, α-aminobutyric acid, bitter compounds and asparagine.

Immune Modulating
  • Stimulates macrophages to produce interleukin-6 and tumour necrosis factor.
  • 10-fold potentiation of the in vitro anti-tumour activity of rIL-2-generated lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells
  • Stimulates natural killer cell cytotoxicity
  • Enhances T3, T4 and T4/T8 cell ratios
  • Has shown value in preventing and treating acute myocarditis caused by coxsackie-B virus
  • Acts synergistically with the interferon therapy
  • Possesses in vitro antibacterial activity against Shigella dysenteriae, Streptococcus hemolyticus, diplococcus pneumonia and Staphylococcus aureus
  • Shown to inhibit cytokine production via depressing p38 MAPK and NF-κB signalling pathways induced by advanced glycation end-products (AGEs)
  • Modulates the balance of Th1/Th2 cytokines
  • Plays a role in preventing the recurrence of asthma
  • Inhibits the proliferation of abnormal cells and promoted cell apoptosis
Antioxidant Activity
  • Significantly increases serum superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity
  • Decreases malondialdehyde levels associated with oxidative stress
  • Restores depressed oxidative burst activity of splenic macrophages
  • Has inhibitory effects on oxidative stress induced by heavy metals
  • Demonstrates an inhibitory effect on oxidative stress induced by excess copper
  • Up-regulates the expression of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf-2), catalase and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px)
  • Acts by restoring the activities of MnSOD and GSH/GSSG ratio, as well as enhancing the thymus index and growth of cells in the spleen 
  • Decreases peroxidative lipid levels 
Telomeres
  • The triterpenoid saponin astragaloside IV has been isolated and repeatedly shown to activate the telomerase enzyme which prevents shortening of telomeres and makes them longer
  • Lengthens red blood cell telomeres and improves tissue regeneration
Anti-Ageing
  • Prevents the degradation of type I procollagen
  • Protects human skin fibroblasts against ultraviolet A (UVA)-induced photoaging
  • Up-regulates anti-inflammatory gene expression and down-regulates pro-inflammatory gene expression via the AMPK signalling pathway
  • Regulates insulin/IGF-1 pathway and restores glucose homoeostasis 
  • Reduces polyQ aggregation, alleviates neurotoxicity, and extend the adult lifespan by regulating DAF-16 downstream genes (a part of the longevity gene network)
  • improves markers of metabolic, bone, and cardiovascular health
Kidney Function
  • Maintains stable levels of estimated glomerular filtration rate (EGFR) and delays the initiation of dialysis in late stage (4) kidney disease
  • Significantly lowers fasting blood glucose levels
  • Has an inhibitory effect on the oxidative stress that characterises early diabetic nephropathy (a leading cause of end-stage renal disease)
Fertility
  • Has a significant stimulatory effect on sperm motility in semen
Liver Function
  • Decreases the replication of the hepatitis B virus
  • Has been shown to promote recovery from viral hepatitis
  • Alleviates and protects from drug induced liver injury in vivo
Cardiovascular System
  • Shows significant positive effects in viral myocarditis in symptom improvement, normalisation of electrocardiogram (ECG) results, creatine phosphokinase levels and cardiac function
  • Induces production of alpha- and gamma-interferon in heart tissue
  • Improves cardiac microcirculation and is vasodilatory
  • Strengthen heart ventricular function
  • Provides significant relief from angina
  • Alleviates calcium overload-induced myocardial damage and improves both systolic and diastolic functions of heart in patients with chronic heart failure (improvement was 82.6 percent)
  • Improves vascular dysfunction by remodelling in high homocysteinemia