What is Astragalus Root? Uses and Side Effects

What is Astragalus Root? Uses and Side Effects

What is astragalus root? Today we’ll take a closer look at this herb’s uses, side effects, dosage, and the research behind it.

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About Astragalus Root

Astragalus root is an herb which has been used for many centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat a variety of conditions. In recent years it has been marketed as a solution for a variety of conditions, particularly for its benefit to the immune system.

The use of astragalus dates back thousands of years to Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is believed to be rich in antioxidants and have antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is sold in capsules, tea, soups, or extracts.

Consult  your doctor before taking astragalus. It may interfere with other herbs or prescription medicine.

Astragalus Uses

Common uses for astragalus root include fighting colds or flu and for immune system support. There is, however, an extensive list of conditions for which astragalus is used. There are no conditions for which astragalus has been extensively studied or proven effective.

  • Allergies – Long-term (6+ weeks) consumption of astragalus may improve symptoms of seasonal allergies
  • Anti-aging – A proprietary extract known as TA-65 is being researched.
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma – Perhaps helpful due to improvement of seasonal allergies
  • Breast cancer – Some evidence supports the claim that astragalus may increase survival of people receiving conventional breast cancer treatment who also take glossy privet.
  • Cold & Flu – Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat colds. Researches believe its antiviral properties may help the body fight off viruses that cause cold and flu when taken long-term.
  • Diabetes – Early animal studies suggest astragalus may lower blood sugar.
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart disease – Some studies have concluded that astragalus may help treat heart disease, but WebMD states that there is “… little research to suggest that astragalus can help protect the heart in humans.”
  • Hepatitis – Inconsistent results from a few studies which tested astragalus given intravenously to chronic hepatitis patients.
  • Immunity – Test tube research found that astragalus partially restored immune function of cells.
  • Lung cancer – Early research indicates astragalus may aid the effectiveness of platinum-based chemotherapy for advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Stress
  • Upper respiratory infections – Due to antimicrobial properties
  • Weakness
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How much astragalus should I take?

The University of Maryland Medical Center has provided the following list of recommended dosages for astragalus:

  • Standardized extract: 250 – 500 mg, three to four times a day standardized to 0.4% 4-hydroxy-3-methoxy isoflavone 7-sug.
  • Tea: 3 – 6 g of dried root per 12 oz water, 3x a day
  • Fluid extract: (1:1) in 25% ethanol: 2 – 4 mL, 3x a day
  • Powdered root: 500 – 1,000 mg, 3 to 4x per day
  • Ointment: 10% astragalus applied to surface of wound. (Do not apply to open wound without a doctor’s approval).
  • Tincture (1:5) in 30% ethanol: 3 – 5 mL, 3x a day

Astragalus Side Effects

Although astragalus is generally considered safe, the following side effects are possible, especially when taken in higher doses.

  • Bloating
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • High doses may suppress the immune system or interact with other herbs and prescription medications
  • Should be avoided by pregnant or nursing mothers, and those with MS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or any autoimmune disease
  • May affect blood sugar or blood pressure

Dr. Oz and TA-65

Astragalus root was introduced to a wider audience in late 2012 when it was featured on an episode of Dr. Oz. The segment noted that astragalus helped with aging and strengthening the immune system. The accompanying online article states that a “special chemical” in astragalus “slows down the aging process.” Links to research are not provided on the site, although the “special chemical” is likely TA-65, which was announced in 2014 to be Cycloastragenol.

Bottom Line

The National Institutes of Health summarizes astragalus by noting the following:

The evidence for using astragalus for any health condition is limited. High-quality clinical trials (studies in people) are generally lacking. There is some preliminary evidence to suggest that astragalus, either alone or in combination with other herbs, may have potential benefits for the immune system, heart, and liver, and as an adjunctive therapy for cancer.

The American Cancer Society states:

…available scientific evidence does not support claims that astragalus can prevent cancer, cure cancer, extend survival, or reduce side effects of conventional cancer treatment. There is some suggestion that it may enhance the effects of certain chemotherapy drugs, but this theory needs to be tested more thoroughly.

Research into the anti-aging properties of astragalus root, and TA-65, are ongoing.

Your Turn

Have you used astragalus root for any condition? Let us know your experience in the comments below.


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