Astragalus is an herb 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 being used as the basis for different drugs to treat cancer, fatigue, and subdue ulcers, among other things.
Health Benefits of Astragalus
Astragalus seems to work 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
- Its health properties are unique in that isolated compounds from its polysaccharides are being used to treat disease.
How Astragalus Stops Aging
Astragalus is uniquely healthy for 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 bit. After so many replications the 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 aging 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 control group. What is impressive is that despite these remarkable effects on cellular health there’s no toxicity from astragalus.
Astragalus Helps Improve Sickness and Heal Wounds.
Compounds in astragalus called formononetin, calycosin, and astragaloside IV, 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 shut down which would otherwise cause blood and chemicals to flow to wounds
- Activates other genes and pathways which activates different immune cells
- It’s been used to treat ulcers, swollen wounds, reduce hemorrhaging, and serve as a complimentary input to cancer treatments. One study on astragalus was published 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.
Astragalus is Good For Diabetics
Astragalus benefits diabetics. Patients who take astragalus show 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 Membranaceous is the kind to purchase, as it’s the kind most studied.
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. It is possible that at very high dosages astragalus might suppress your immune system, and taking it with immune-stimulating drugs might cause side effects. Because of its widespread health benefits and benign nature, most people would benefit from having some astragalus in their diet.
Due to its unique properties astragalus provides great help to the following:
- 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
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”
http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/3/5/338.pdf Harley, Calvin, et. al. “A Natural Product Telomerase Activator As Part of a Health Maintenance Program”