Astragalus (Astragulus) Root Extract, Side Effects, Benefits

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Astragalus:  Another Side Effects Free Immune-Enhancing Herb
by Jennifer Mueller -- Reprinted by permission from Pat Whittington of Vitamin Research News

Astragalus is a common ingredient in traditional Chinese herbal medicine.  Huangqi (the Chinese name for this immune enhancing herb) is an integral part of Fu-Zhong therapy, a combination of herbs thought to promote and enhance natural defense mechanisms with positive side effects.1,2  In traditional Chinese herbal medicine, astragulus is used to replenish vital energy, and accelerate wound healing.3  Astragalus membranaceus is the most common form of astragalus used for medicinal purposes; other varieties were once used to make gels for the manufacture of other medications.4

Positive Antimicrobial Side Effects
Astragalus enhances immune function by altering the metabolism of immune cells.  Studies in both humans and laboratory animals have demonstrated its potential via its ability to help protect our bodies from the viruses that cause influenza and the common cold.  Both oral and nasal administration of astragalus extracts have offered positive side effects of protection against the common cold and in people who are susceptible to colds and flu.  Treatment with astragalus for short periods of time (two weeks) enhances interferon induction via the white blood cells, and results in increased levels of cytokines (such as interleukin-2 and IgA and IgG).

But perhaps its most promising use is in helping as a support nutrient for those with canc.

Astragalus may lead to an increase in T-helper cell activity.  This increase in immune function was clearly demonstrated in one study where immuno-deficient and healthy normal mice were treated with astragulus extract.  The astragalus treatment increased T-helper cell activity in both the immuno-deficient and the healthy mice.3  This positive side effect has been noted in humans as well.

Astragalus and the Immune Response
The body's first line of defense against foreign bodies such as bacteria and viruses and mutated (tumor) cells is phagocytosis lysing.  Macrophages (a class of white blood cells) are accompanied by reactive oxygen species such as superoxide ions and hydrogen peroxide.  These oxygen radicals are the major mechanism by which macrophages fight viruses and tumor cells and the negative side effects associated with them.  Certain tumor cells, however, have the capability of producing suppresser factors, which impair the production of these oxygen intermediates, allowing the tumor to grow relatively uninhibited.5  This is further exacerbated by the fact that patients in advanced stages of canc have already depressed phagocytic function to begin with.  Chemotherapy and radiation treatments further compromise their cellular immune response capabilities.2

Studies on the immunoprotective effects of echinacea and astragalus represent a fraction of the available scientific literature.  Both herbs have clearly demonstrated antiviral activity, by boosting phagocytic activity (echinacea), or increasing the production of key immune cells and cytokines (astragalus).  Both have been implicated in protection against infection by the common cold or influenza viruses and both show great promise in canc support.  The effects of each follow a dose-dependent response;  and to date, no toxic side effects have been reported.

With the emergence of new and more virulent strains of flu, AIDS, and other immune disorders, the search for effective drugs to treat these diseases blunders blindly forward.  Herbal remedies are both safe and usually more efficacious (not to mention less expensive), than pharmaceuticals (and more often than not, lack most of the negative side effects of synthetic drugs).  Echinacea and astragalus are just two examples of how nature has provided us with safe, effective methods of improving our health and quality of life.

Warnings Information:

  • Keep astragalus/astragulus root membranaceus herb extract out of reach of children,

  • Do not exceed recommended dosage for the best benefits,

  • If you have a bad reaction or side effects, discontinue use immediately,

  • When using, please inform your physician.

Astragalus - Ingredients/Dose

Pricing Information: Astragalus/Astragulus Root Membranaceus Extract

1. Zhao KS, Mancini C, Doria G. Enhancement of immune response in mice by Astragalus membranaceus extracts. Immunopharmacolgy 20: 225-34, 1990.

2. Sun Y, Hersh E., Talpaz M, et al. Immune restoration and/or augmentation of local graft versus host reaction by traditional Chinese medicinal herbs. canc 52: 70-73, 1983.

3. Zhang Z, Wen Q, Liu C. Hepatoprotective positive side effects of astragalus root. J Ethnopharmacol 30: 145-49, 1990.

4. Morazzoni P, Bombaradelli E. Astragalus membranaceus (Fish.) Bge. Indena S.p.A., 1994 (Monograph).

5. Rittenhouse JR, Lui PD, Lau BHS. Chinese medicinal herbs reverse macrophage suppression induced by urological tumors. J Urology 146: 486-90, 1991.

6. Wang Y, Qian X, Hadley HR, et al. Phytochemicals potentiate interleukin-2 generated lymphokine-activated killer cell cytotoxicity against murine renal cell carcinoma. Mol Biother 4: 143-46, 1992.

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