Astragalus : Properties and Uses
What is Astragalus ?
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) is a persistent flowering plant indigenous to China (eastern and northern parts), Korea and Mongolia. It has leaves with 12 to 18 pairs of leaflets and hairy stems.
Facts about Astragalus
- Astragalus’s common names are milkvetch, goat’s thorn and locoweed .
- Astragalus roots are used for several health purposes .
- It is used in traditional Chinese medicines with other herbs from years ago .
- Astragalus is referred to as an ‘adaptogen’ due to its ability to cope with the various body stresses viz; emotional or physical .
Components in Astragalus
- Nicotinic acid
- Folic acid
- Linonelic and linoleic acids
- Phenolic acids( like chlorogenic acids,isoferulic etc.)
- Free amino acid
- Trace elements .
Properties of Astragalus
Astragalus polyphenols have antioxidant properties
- It protects the cells against damage
- It improves the immune response of the body
- It prevents upper respiratory infections such as cold
- Astragalus polysaccharide has anti-inflammatory properties, which can prevent arthritis.
- It boosts the immune system of the body to fight infections
- It lessens the swelling and redness
- Astragalus has flavonoids, saponin and polysaccharides, which has antibacterial properties.
- It kills the bacteria and prevents its growth
Astragalus polysaccharide has antiviral properties
- Protects the body against viruses
- Inhibit viral reproduction .
Astragalus polysaccharide has antitumor properties
- Restores the weakened T-cell(immune cell of the body) functions in cancer patients
- Effective against human colon cancer and liver cancer
- Astragalus polysaccharide has antidiabetic properties
- It lowers the sugar level in the body
Astragalus has saponin, flavonoid and polysaccharide having diuretic properties.
- It helps eliminate the excess fluid in the body
- It lowers the blood pressure
- It relaxes the blood vessels .
Astragalus contains polysaccharides and saponin which
- Protects the heart and helps improve its functioning .
Applications of Astragalus
Regulates the blood sugar
- Astragalus root’s active compounds helps in Lowering the level of blood sugar in Type-2 diabetes (high sugar in the blood) patients
- Regulates the blood sugar level both fasting and after food intake in diabetic people .
Boost the immune system
The valuable compounds, such as polysaccharides of Astragalus
- Enhances the immune response of the body against infections
- Enhances the white blood cells (immune cells to fight infections) production in the body
- It helps protect the body against viral infections such as the common cold and liver infections
However, more research is required to prove the Astragalus benefits against infections
Improves the kidney functioning
Astragalus active compounds help in
- Enhancing the kidney functioning
- Improves the blood circulation in the kidney
- It controls proteinuria(high level of proteins in the urine) in kidney patients.
- It prevents infections in people with impaired kidney function .
Improves the cardiac (heart) function
The valuable compounds of Astragalus
- It helps in improving the heart functioning
- It broadens the blood vessels and increases the blood pumped from the heart to other body parts.
- Improves the condition of myocarditis(swelling of the heart muscles causing difficulty in heart pumping) in patients
Lessens the side effects of chemotherapy
The beneficial compounds of Astragalus
- Reduces the harmful effects of chemotherapy
- Reduces symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting
- Reduces the extreme tiredness of chemotherapy patients .
Improves the mental health
Astragalus roots help
- Prevent the damaging to the neurons in the brain
- Prevents losing the function of the neurons (a neurodegenerative disease) .
Reduces body stress
Astragalus roots help in maintaining the homeostasis (body’s balance required for survival) of the body
- It helps adjust our body to different stresses
- Lowers the cortisol (stress hormone) level in the blood
- It also helps control the body’s behavioral and mental stress .
Improves the sexual health
The active components of Astragalus roots
- Help in increasing sperm motility in males
- It balances the glucose level
- It enhances testosterone levels and growth hormone levels in males .
The beneficial components of Astragalus help
- Decreasing the ageing process at the cellular level
- It reverses the cell damage and activates the telomerase enzyme .
Other uses of Astragalus
- Reduces symptoms of seasonal infections such as stuffed and runny nose
- It assists in the programmed cell death in different types of cancer cells
- It improves extreme tiredness in persistent fatigue patients
- Improves breathing in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(lung disease with breathing difficulty) , .
Side effects of Astragalus
Astragalus is safe when taken in appropriate amounts, with few side effects.
- High doses of Astragalus consumption suppresses the immune response of our body .
- When consumed orally, it is generally safe for most individuals and is well-accepted by the body.
Some general side effects of Astragalus
- Stomach pain
- Running nose
- Stuffed nose
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme tiredness
There is inadequate information on the application in our skin to confirm the Astragalus safe use and possible side effects
Drug interactions of Astragalus
Astragalus interacts with immunosuppressant
- Immunosuppressants like Cyclophosphamide are medicines that decrease the immune response. These medicines are given often after organ transplantation to reduce the immune response of the body, whereas Astragalus enhances the immune response. Thus, Astragalus inhibits the effect of the drug.
Astragalus interacts with lithium
- Astragalus consumption reduces the body’s ability to remove lithium So, consuming Astragalus and lithium together might additionally increase the lithium levels in the body, causing severe side effects .
What are the precautions of Astragalus ?
- People suffering from any of the immune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple sclerosis, Systemic Lupus erythematosus, Type 1 diabetes, Psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, etc. should not consume Astragalus roots because it can cause immunomodulation.
- Pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid consuming Astragalus roots as safety has not been confirmed for such individuals
- People taking herbal supplements should always consult a physician before consuming Astragalus roots .
- Astragalus is a popular herb used from ancient times in Chinese medicines.
- Research evidence suggests that it has several possible health benefits.
- However, more research is required on human subjects for its safe dose and to conclude whether the herb is effective.
- Individuals need to consult a physician before consuming Astragalus.