Astragalus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for a long time and is generally considered as a tonic and reinforce your ‘Qi’ (pron: ‘chi’, vital energy in Chinese medicine). It is also called Huang Qi or Milk Vetch. Sounding all Chinese to you so far? Then read on for our Top 5 Health Benefits of Astragalus!
1. Immune system booster
Astragalus has been used as an immune system booster for thousands of years in China. It has been used for everything ranging from AIDS to chronic fatigue but is also recommended for the cold season. Astragalus increases your immune antibodies that fight disease in the body, stimulating your T-cells while increasing the levels of interferon (a powerful antiviral compound). In one study conducted, 14 healthy volunteers were given 8g of astragalus for a 2-month period which resulted in a significant increase in the interferon-inducing ability of blood cells. In a similar study, adult participants were given astragalus extract for 20 days, with the result that their blood IgM and IgE (antibodies) increased. Another study carried out in China found that overactive immune function in people with SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) could be decreased by taking astragalus.
Research shows that astragalus, thanks to its polysaccharide and saponin profile, can reduce inflammation related to a variety of illnesses; from arthritis to heart disease and wound healing to reducing inflammation in diabetic kidney disease. Experiments on rats which were given water and alcoholic extracts of astragalus (A. hamosus) orally, evidenced significant anti-inflammatory effects compared to the rats in the control group.
Several studies have shown that astragalus has measurable effects on telomerase, (an enzyme) which is linked to increased longevity, DNA repair and anti aging. Telomeres shorten over time due to (amongst other things) stress, and contribute to disease and aging. Astragalus possesses a telomerase activator (TA-65) which has been shown to slow down this process, so DNA damage may be reduced, whilst its repair ability improves, therefore delaying aging.
4. Cardiovascular system protection
The antioxidants (flavonoids) present in astragalus seem to help allay plaque buildup in arteries as well as the narrowing of vessel walls by actively protecting the inner walls. It has been shown to be effective taken along with conventional treatment for viral myocarditis, thereby increasing its effectiveness. It also helps to reduce your blood pressure and triglyceride levels which, if too high could lead to heart disease. A study has shown a 74.4% increase in total effective heart rate function for patients with congestive heart failure using an intravenous injection. It also reduced chest pain, distress and shortness of breath in other studies.
5. Helps prevent and regulate diabetes
Astragalus is a potential natural treatment for diabetes as it has been shown to relieve insulin resistance, containing a number of saponins, flavonoids and polysaccharides that are effective in the treatment and regulation of Type 1 and 2 diabetes. These compounds are able to increase insulin sensitivity, protect your pancreatic cells that produce and release insulin and act as an anti-inflammatory for diabetes-related issues such as kidney illness and protect your renal system. In the case of pregnant women with gestational diabetes, astragalus has been shown to effectively control blood glucose, reduce free radicals, and promote antioxidative (or cell protective) activity.
The side effects of astragalus are minimal -just avoid taking very high doses- so why not give it a try? Bear in mind, it isn’t recommended for women with an autoimmune disease who are pregnant or nursing. You can find many supplements with astragalus, just make sure you buy a good quality product, you can also ask for advice from a reputable Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. Already taking astragalus? Let us know what results you’ve noticed in the comments below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram. (Check out these other powerful natural food articles, to ignite your own ‘chi’ ( or ‘qi’ life force) and get you FIT for life!)