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Also Known As: Astragali Membranaceus.

Scientific Name:Astragalus membranaceus.

Family: Fabaceae/Leguminosae or Papilionaceae.

People Use This For: Astragalus is used for common cold, upper respiratory infections, allergic rhinitis, swine ‘flu, to strengthen and regulate the immune system, fibromyalgia, anemia, and HIV/AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, as an antibacterial, antiviral, tonic, liver protectant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, as a diuretic, vasodilator, and as a hypotensive agent. Topically, astragalus is used as a vasodilator and to speed healing.

Safety: No concerns regarding safety.

Pregnancy and Breast Feeding: Refer to a Medical Herbalist.

Effectiveness: Not enough scientific information available to comment.

Allergic rhinitis: Preliminary clinical research shows that a specific astragalus root extract standardized to contain 34% polysaccharides twice daily for 3 to 6 weeks significantly improves symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and itching compared to placebo.1

Breast cancer: There is preliminary evidence that adjunctive use of astragalus in combination with glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum) might increase survival rates in patients being treated conventionally for breast cancer.2

Common cold: There is preliminary evidence that long-term ingestion of astragalus might reduce the risk of catching the common cold.2

Hepatitis: There is preliminary evidence that intravenous use of astragalus might be beneficial for patients with chronic hepatitis.2

Mechanism of Action: The part used is the root. Astragalus contains a variety of active constituents including more than 34 saponins such as astragaloside, several flavonoids including isoflavones, pterocarpans, and isoflavans, polysaccharides, multiple trace minerals, amino acids, and coumarins.2,3 Astragalus has antioxidant effects. It inhibits free radical production, increases superoxide dismutase, and decreases lipid peroxidation.2,4 Astragalus is often promoted for its effects on the immune system, liver, and cardiovascular system. Astragalus seems to improve the immune response. In vitro, the polysaccharide constituents appear to bind and activate B cells and macrophages, but not T cells.5 Astragalus potentiates the effects of interferon, increases antibody levels of immunoglobulins in nasal secretions, and increases interleukin-2 levels.2,6,7 It also seems to improve the response of mononuclear cells and stimulate lymphocyte production.8 Additionally, there is preliminary evidence that astragalus extracts can restore or improve immune function in cases of immune deficiency.9,10 Astragalus seems to restore in vitro T-cell function which is suppressed in cancer patients.9,11 Astragalus also seems to have broad-spectrum in vitro antibiotic activity.2 There is interest in astragalus for increasing fertility. In vitro, astragalus appears to increase sperm motility.12 In individuals with chronic hepatitis, astragalus seems to improve liver function as demonstrated by improvement in serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase levels.2 Astragalus is also thought to cause vasodilation and increase cardiac output which might be beneficial in angina, congestive heart failure, and post-myocardial infarction.2 In animal models of heart failure, astragalus appears to increase myocardial and renal function, possibly due to diuretic and natriuretic effects.13 In animal models of coxsackie viral myocarditis, astragalus appears to reduce myocardial lesion size and viral titers.14 A pharmacokinetic evaluation in vitro and in a healthy human volunteer, suggests that astragalus flavonoids can be absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. The major metabolites of the flavonoid constituents are glucuronides.15 These help with excretion of toxic substances.

Adverse Reactions: Astragalus root is well-tolerated.

Interactions with Herbs & Supplements: None known.

Interactions with Drugs: Cyclophosphamide, Immunosuppressants, Lithium

Interactions with Foods: None known.

Interactions with Lab Tests: None known.

Interactions with Diseases or Conditions: Autoimmune Diseases: Refer to Medical Herbalist

Dosage/Administration: Dr Clare’s Blends: 3ml of 1:3 tincture/day = 1gm per day.

Oral: For allergic rhinitis, a specific astragalus root extract standardized to contain 34% polysaccharides (Lectranal) 160 mg twice daily has been used.1 For prevention of the common cold, 4-7 grams per day is commonly used.2 Traditionally, astragalus powder 1-30 grams per day is used.16,2 In some cases, people have used astragalus powder 30-54 grams per day.2 However, this should be avoided because some research suggests that doses greater than 28 grams per day offers no additional benefit and might even cause immune suppression.3 Astragalus decoction 0.5-1 L per day (maximum of 120 grams of whole root per liter of water) has been used.2 As a soup, mix 30 grams in 3.5 L of soup and simmer with other food ingredients.2

Topical: No typical dosage.

Specific References: ASTRAGALUS

Matkovic Z, Zivkovic V, Korica M, et al. Efficacy and safety of Astragalus membranaceus in

1. the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis. Phytother Res 2010;18:175-81.

2. Upton R, ed. Astragalus Root: Analytical, quality control, and therapeutic monograph. Santa Cruz, CA: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. 1999:1-19.

3. McCulloch M, See C, Shu XJ, et al. Astragalus-based Chinese herbs and platinum-based chemotherapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer: meta-analysis of randomized trials. J Clin Oncol 2006;18:419-30. Hong CY, Lo YC, Tan FC, et al. Astragalus membranaceus and Polygonum multiflorum

4. protect rat heart mitochondria against lipid peroxidation. Am J Chin Med 1994;22:57-70.

5. Shao BM, Xu W, Dai H, et al. A study on the immune receptors for polysaccharides from the roots of Astragalus membranaceus, a Chinese medicinal herb. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2004;320:1103-11.

6. Qun L, Luo Q, Zhang ZY, et al. Effects of astragalus on IL-2/IL-2R system in patients with maintained hemodialysis. Clin Nephrol 1999;46:333-4.

7. Hou YD, Ma GL, Wu SH, et al. Effect of Radix Astragali seu Hedysari on the interferon system. Chin Med J (Engl) 1981;94:29-34. Sun Y, Hersh EM, Lee SL, et al. Preliminary observations on the effects of the Chinese

8. medicinal herbs Astragalus membranaceus and Ligustrum lucidum on lymphocyte blastogenic responses. J Biol Response Mod 1983;2:227-31. Sun Y, Hersh EM, Talpaz M, et al. Immune restoration and/or augmentation of local graft

9. versus host reaction by traditional Chinese medicinal herbs. Cancer 1983;46:70-3.

10. Chu DT, Wong WL, Mavligit GM. Immunotherapy with Chinese medicinal herbs. II. Reversal of cyclophosphamide-induced immune suppression by administration of fractionated Astragalus membranaceus in vivo. J Clin Lab Immunol 1988;19:125-9.

11. Chu DT, Wong WL, Mavligit GM. Immunotherapy with Chinese medicinal herbs. I. Immune restoration of local xenogeneic graft-versus-host reaction in cancer patients by fractionated Astragalus membranaceus in vitro. J Clin Lab Immunol 1988;19:119-17.

12. Hong CY, Ku J, Wu P. Astragalus membranaceus stimulates human sperm motility in vitro. Am J Chin Med 1992;20:289-94.

13. Ma J, Peng A, Lin S. Mechanisms of the therapeutic effect of astragalus membranaceus on sodium and water retention in experimental heart failure. Chin Med J (Engl) 1998;111:17-17.

14. Yang YZ, Jin PY, Guo Q, et al. Treatment of experimental Coxsackie B-3 viral myocarditis with Astragalus membranaceus in mice. Chin Med J (Engl) 1990;103:14-8.

15. Xu F, Zhang Y, Xiao S, et al. Absorption and metabolism of Astragali radix decoction: in silico, in vitro, and a case study in vivo. Drug Metab Dispos 2006;28:913-18.

16. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.

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