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Astragalus Root: The Immune-building Herb

Astragalus is a herb whose root has a wide range of medicinal benefits. In fact, it is one of the numerous herbs used in the Chinese fu-zheng therapy, a disease-treating regime that involves promoting the body’s immunity or balancing the central energy.

For a very long time in the history of Chinese Medicine, astragalus, known as “Huang qi” in China, has been popular of its host of health benefits.

Astragalus root possesses a number of powerful components, including sucrose, saponins, folic acid, sitosterol, polysaccharides, betaine, choline, amino acids, and isoflavonoids. Other components include trace minerals, linoleic, linolenic acids, coumarin, phenolic acids, and nicotinic acid.

 

 

Now, let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of astragalus root.

Boosts the Immune System

Astragalus root has a reputation for being a powerful immune-boosting herb and disease fighter.  The herb is commonly known as an immunostimulant, an agent that stimulates the immune system.  It also increases the count of white blood cells and promotes the production of antibodies which, in turn, boosts the body’s resistance to bacteria and viruses.

According to several studies, astragalus is not only effective for boosting the immune system, it also promotes an increase in immune cells (which include immunoglobulin, T-cells, macrophages and natural killer cells) production and activity.

Interestingly, astragalus helps to trigger the movement of immune cells from a resting state into an active one. The studies indicated that, after taking the herb, the number of macrophages or cells of the immune system that protect against infection, increased. Additionally, the natural killer cells of the immune system help to significantly increase the body’s ability to combat disease-causing intruders.

 

Improves Kidney Function

Compared to conventional drugs alone, some studies suggest that taking astragalus along with conventional drugs for kidney disease can greatly improve kidney function. However, it is unclear if astragalus can prevent a fatality from kidney disease or increase the time before dialysis is required. Evidently, people suffering from kidney disease are at an increased risk of infections. Thankfully, studies have shown that taking astragalus root reduces infections, especially in children with a type of kidney disease known as nephrotic syndrome.

 

Promotes Longevity

For centuries, astragalus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote longevity, increase vitality, and strengthen the body. In fact, recent studies conducted show that astragalus actually has potent anti-aging properties that help to delay the aging process at a cellular level.

A saponin of the herb, known as astragaloside IV, is effective for reversing cell damage and in activating telomerase. The activity of astragaloside IV helps to address the shortening of telomere and slows down cellular aging.

Telomeres are the protective ends of chromosomes that slowly shorten and get worn out any time a division of cell happens in the body. In case you didn’t know, cell division is a process mainly responsible for human aging.

One other saponin of Astragalus that may be beneficial due to its anti-aging effects is Cycloastragenol (CGA). In fact, it is believed to be more effective on telomerase. Studies suggest that CGA may be effective in treating degenerative diseases as well as slowing the aging process.

 

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Treats Diabetes

Some studies indicate that astragalus root, when ingested in combination with other medicines, might be helpful in regulating blood sugar and insulin levels in those with type 2 diabetes.

 

Adaptogen

Astragalus root acts as an adaptogen that helps to boost and restore the overall health of the body.  It is particularly used to treat adrenal fatigue, especially when the symptoms show up as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

 

Reduces the Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Astragalus, especially when in Chinese herbal mixtures, might help in reducing bone marrow suppression, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, which are often associated with chemotherapy treatments.

 

Enhances Heart Health

Studies indicate that the flavonoids present in astragalus contain cardioprotective effects that help to prevent the accumulation of plaques in the arteries and narrowing of the blood vessel walls. It does this by protecting the inner wall of the vessel. The flavonoids also improve cardiovascular health by lowering triglycerides and blood pressure.

 

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Aids in Sexual Health

Traditionally, astragalus was prescribed in Chinese Medicine to treat male infertility as it has been proven to help in increasing sperm motility. In fact, it is very supportive of male hormones and by regulating glucose levels, it can significantly increase testosterone and growth hormone levels.

 

Side Effects and Precautions

  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are advised to avoid the use of astragalus.
  • People suffering from autoimmune diseases should talk to their healthcare professional before using astragalus as the herb is known to stimulate the immune system. Yes, astragalus might heighten the activity of the immune system and could aggravate the symptoms of auto-immune diseases.
  • Astragalus might interact with some medications. So kindly consult a healthcare professional before taking the herb.

 

The Bottom Line

Undoubtedly, astragalus root possesses health benefits to the body and certain ailments. And while more research in humans is needed to further ascertain its effectiveness, the success of studies in rats and mice have shown how effective the herb is.

Generally, the herb’s greatest strength is preventing and protecting cells against cell death, oxidation and the activities of free radicals.

It is important to note that astragalus root is most effective when used long-term, offering a host of health benefits that can support a longer, healthier life.