Astragalus Root Benefits
‘Astra what?’ I hear you mutter!
Don’t be put off by the difficult-to-pronounce name. Astragalus root benefits stretch to many areas of health and may even help you live longer. And did you know that Astragalus membranaceus (to give the root its full name) is also one of the oldest medicinal roots around?
It has been in widespread use for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
What exactly is it used for?
Well, you may know it from your local health store, where it’s probably sold as an immune system booster. But it’s also particularly effective in preventing many conditions such as those associated with wasting, debility, and stress, as well as disorders of the kidneys. It may even be used in cancer prevention.
Before we go into more detail about the many Astragalus root benefits, we should first understand a little more about what this magical little plant is – because I’m sure there will be readers who have never heard of it.
What Is Astragalus Root?
Astragalus root is derived from a legume that is native to China, Mongolia and Korea. The root is harvested and dried to be used medicinally.
It’s possible that you know it by its alternative name, milk vetch. Less likely is that you know it by its Chinese name, Huang Qi.
The root has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. This is largely because of its effectiveness as a tonic, restorative, immune-enhancing, and longevity-promoting herb.
More specifically, what are the main benefits of using Astragalus root in your daily healthcare routine?
Astragalus Root Benefits In Detail
While clinical human studies in Astragalus root are few and far between, its effectiveness is well-documented in Traditional Chinese Medicine and elsewhere. In fact, there is an impressive array of observed benefits from using the root.
As well as studies on animals, its wide range of benefits are supported by theoretical and anecdotal reports.
I’ve already mentioned its immune system and restorative properties, as well as its use in life-extension and cancer prevention. It’s important to note here that most traditional uses of Astragalus in the treatment of diseases are in the recovery stage after the illness, when symptoms such as fever have abated.
It is rarely used to treat acute infection. This is backed up by its reputation in TCM as a ‘warming’ herb that is avoided in fevers and states of agitation. So it’s best to think of it as a preventative herb rather than a curative one.
Now let’s look at each of the key Astragalus benefits in more detail:
→ Enhancing immune function
Polysaccharides in Astragalus have been shown to activate immune cells, and may be more effective than Echinacea for enhancing immune function.
→ Protecting the cardiovascular system
Astragalus lowers blood pressure, triglycerides, total cholesterol and may protect the heart and cardiovascular system.
→ Cancer treatment and prevention
Astragalus appears to exert antitumor effects. This is most likely due to immune enhancement, whereby it helps the body’s cells identify and destroy cancer cells.
It may also be used as a supplemental therapy when chemotherapy is used to treat cancer. There are some reports that it reduces fatigue and loss of appetite associated with the effects of chemotherapy treatments.
→ Supporting the kidneys
Astragalus has been shown to benefit kidney disease and treat infection. It also acts as a diuretic, and appears to generally improve kidney function.
→ Life extension
This claim is made because Astragalus appears to protect telomeres. These are located at the tips of chromosomes and help protect DNA; they also play a role in cell replication, but get shorter (and less effective) with age.
Research has shown that Astragalus may possess the power to boost production of telomerase - an enzyme that helps maintain and replace telomeres.
This, plus its ability to reduce free radical damage, would help explain why Astragalus has long been associated with longevity.
→ Protecting the brain
Studies have also identified anti-Alzheimer’s and neuro-protective effects of Astragalus, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
→ Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and adaptogenic benefits
Astragalus root contains anti-inflammatory agents, chemicals that protect against free-radical damage, and a team of bioactive compounds that work together to regulate bodily processes, maintaining homeostasis (balance).
There are also other possible far-reaching benefits of using Astragalus for diabetes sufferers. These include decreasing insulin resistance and improving glucose metabolism.
Finally, studies and reports exist that claim Astragalus root encourages muscle growth and speeds up wound healing, as well as having a potential use in the prevention of pollen allergies.
What’s Behind These Astragalus Root Benefits?
As you can see, Astragalus is a versatile herb with far-reaching properties that few supplement plans should be without. It should be easy to see why we’ve included it in the Athletic Greens collection; but surprisingly perhaps, the herb is not commonly used in the Western world.
The reason it is so effective in such a wide range of health issues is that it is positively brimming with bioactive compounds: 126 of them, to be precise.
Of chief interest among these compounds are the following three ‘superstars’:
Flavonoids – these act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories
Saponins – also with anti-inflammatory properties
Long-chain polysaccharides - play an important role in the immune system and have vitality-enhancing effects.
What’s The Best Way To Safely Enjoy The Benefits Of Astragalus Root?
How you maximize the Astragalus root benefits will depend on what you are using it for.
Dosages vary dramatically, depending on herbal preparation and individual requirements.
Some sources recommend up to 30 grams of the powdered herb, or 500 mg of standardized extract, daily.
Please note that it should, however, be used with caution in people taking immunosuppressant medication or lithium. It may affect blood pressure.
Astragalus is considered an extremely safe herb to use and it can be used in combination with many other herbs in the Athletic Greens collection – including zinc, vitamins A, C and E, Reishi mushroom and Shiitake mushroom for immune function, for instance.
It also works well with CoQ10 for improving cardiovascular health through maintaining healthy blood pressure and with dandelion for improving kidney function.
Now you know all about the Astragalus root benefits, you probably want to try this marvelous and proven herb for yourself – just like people have been doing for thousands of years in China.
Don’t forget it can be used as a daily tonic or restorative, and benefits the kidneys, brain and heart, as well as immune function.