Astragalus: recent research on a botanical traditionally used for immune system support

Astragalus is traditional botanical that has drawn new research attention in recent years, especially for its usefulness in increasing the effectiveness of some cancer treatments while diminishing side effects. As background on this herb, we present the excerpt below from the NYBC entry on Astragalus (See complete entry for more information and cautions.)


Astragalus is considered a strong immune booster and an energy herb and may help to restore depleted red blood cell formation in bone marrow. Some evidence indicates that it stimulates the body’s natural interferon production, helps adrenal function, is a diuretic for edema and inflamed kidneys and helps cancer patients withstand the side effects of chemotherapy.


Some recent research on astragalus as an adjunct in cancer treatment
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Integrative Medicine website reports on two major reviews, from 2005 and 2006, which examined published evidence about the use of astragalus as an adjunct therapy in certain cancer treatment settings:

–McCulloch M, 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;24(3):419-430.
This analysis sought to determine whether Chinese herbal medicine containing Astragalus increases the effectiveness of platinum-based chemotherapy for advanced non-small-cell-lung cancer.

–Taixiang W, et al. Chinese medical herbs for chemotherapy side effects in colorectal cancer patients (Review). The Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005; (1):CD004540.
Four clinical trials were included in this review to assess the effectiveness of Astragalus (Huangqi) compounds on the quality of life, side effects of chemotherapy, and on adverse effects in colorectal cancer patients.

See also the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Complementary Medicine website entry on Astragalus for this overview:



Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, often in combination with other herbs, to strengthen the body against disease. It contains antioxidants, which protect cells against damage caused by free radicals, byproducts of cellular energy. Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, for preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, to lower blood pressure, to treat diabetes, and to protect the liver.

Astragalus has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic (helps eliminate fluid from the body) properties. It is sometimes used topically for wounds. In addition, studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it is indeed effective at preventing colds.

In the United States, researchers have investigated astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been compromised by chemotherapy or radiation. In these studies, astragalus supplements have been shown to speed recovery and extend life expectancy. Research on using astragalus for people with AIDS has produced inconclusive results.

Recent research in China indicates that astragalus may offer antioxidant benefits to people with severe forms of heart disease, relieving symptoms and improving heart function. At low to moderate doses, astragalus has few side effects, although it does interact with a number of other herbs and prescription medications.

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One thought on “Astragalus: recent research on a botanical traditionally used for immune system support

  1. […] Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, often in combination with other herbs, to strengthen the body against disease. It contains antioxidants, which protect cells against damage caused by free radicals, byproducts of cellular energy. Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, for preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, to lower blood pressure, to treat diabetes, and to protect the liver. 17 […]

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