You may have heard of the purported health benefits of Astragalus from a recent article, or from your acupuncturist who often use traditional Chinese medicine in their practices due to their many medicinal and therapeutic applications. But what you may not know, is what Astragalus really is and how it can help your overall health and wellness. We’re going to talk about the multiple health benefits of Astragalus and how this traditional Chinese herb can improve your well being.
What Is Astragalus
Astragalus also called huang qi is an herb most commonly known for its use in traditional Chinese medicine. Astragalus contains powerful bioactive compounds which have been proven to have antioxidant, immune boosting, anti-aging, and anti-inflammatory effects.
With over 2,000 species, the main type of Astragalus used in supplements is Astragalus membranaceus. Many bioactive compounds are found within Astragalus, which contribute to its potential therapeutic benefits, such as flavonoids, saponins, and alkaloids.
Benefits Of Astragalus
One of the most well-known benefits of Astragalus is the immune boosting effects. Studies have investigated the effects of the main compound found in Astragalus - Astragalus Polysaccharides (APS), regulates immune function through several mechanisms, enhancing the immune organ index, promoting the proliferation of immune cells, stimulating the release of cytokines, and affecting the secretion of immunoglobulin (Ig) and conduction of immune signals [R].
The primary role of your immune system is to protect you from invading pathogens, bacteria, and viruses that can cause illness.
Studies show that ASP influences immune cells by increasing the proliferation of dendric cells and lymphocytes. Under normal conditions ASP can promote cytokine production and enhance immunity. However, following an increase in cytokines as a result of an inflammatory response, APS can reduce inflammatory response factors and protect cells or the body [R].
In a small study of elite rowers, the effects of astragalus on the immune system was investigated after exercise. The study found that 500mg taken daily during a 6-week intensive training camp, improved exercise recovery [R].
Antioxidants help protect your body from detrimental environmental factors, known as free radicals which can cause cellular damage. Researchers believe that polyphenols may provide cardiovascular health benefits largely due to their antioxidant properties, which can reduce inflammation.
Balancing Glucose Levels
One of the major benefits of polyphenols is balancing blood sugar levels, contributing to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Research indicates that polyphenols may inhibit alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase, inhibiting glucose absorption in the intestine and preventing the breakdown of starch into simple sugars.
Studies have shown that the active compounds in Astragalus have positive effects on regulating the mechanism of glucose and lipid metabolism, improving insulin function.
APS has many direct mechanisms that greatly influence and maintain blood glucose and insulin levels. APS improves glucose transportation and reduces its accumulation in skeletal muscle and fat. APS increases adiponectin, adipo-R1, and adenosine monophosphate protein kinase (AMPK) which are involved in glucose and lipid metabolism in the liver, muscles, and adipocytes [R].
These are just a few of the mechanisms which Astragalus shows positive benefit for type II diabetes.
Astragalus has also shown positive benefit on type I diabetes. Type I diabetes, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic high blood glucose levels due to the failure of insulin activity and destruction of beta cells. Studies have shown that APS protects pancreatic beta cells from autoimmune-linked cell death throughout the mechanisms of anti-oxidation, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammation, and anti-apoptosis [R].
May Help Chronic Kidney Disease
Studies have shown that Astragalus may positively impact those who have chronic kidney disease (CKD). A review of 550 CKD patients taking Astragalus at a dose of 1.5g per day had up to an 80% higher survival rate for a 12 year follow up period [R].
Research shows that Astragalus supports kidney health by improving blood flow and laboratory markers of kidney function.
High amounts of protein found in the kidneys, known as Proteinuria is often associated as a marker of kidney health.
Astragalus has been shown to improve proteinuria in several studies involving individuals with kidney disease, especially in cases when related to diabetes.
Astragalus Dosage: How Much Should I Take
Although more research is needed to provide an official dosage for Astragalus, many studies have shown positive effects with the following dosages for the specific conditions below. The daily dose recommended in China is between 9-30g, which is recognized as safe when used appropriately [R].
- Heart disease: 2-7.5g twice daily
- Blood Glucose Maintenance: 40-60g up to 4 months as a decoction
Form, doses, and methods of administrations of Astragalus membranaceus.
Doses and administrations
Root, Radix Astragali as TCM
Oral: 9–30 g per day
Capsules, tablets, tea, tincture, dried root, fluid extract as TCM
Oral: 250–500 mg in capsules/tablets, 4 times per day
Dried root as soup in remedy food
Oral: 1000 to 2000 mg/day
Dried root decoction
Oral: 10–30 g/day
Liquid extract or equivalent doses of the dried extract in tablet or capsule as Traditional therapeutics
Oral: 4–8 ml/day of 1:2 liquid extract
Dried root extract, Astragali Radix as TCM
Oral: 0.57 g/kg body weight per day
Dried root as TCM
Oral: 9–30 g dried root per day
Dried powder, decoction as TCM
Oral: 2–4.8 g dried root per day. Preparation as soup of dried root as remedy drink: let sit in water for 60 min and boil 20–25 min, remove and drink or dried root boil 10–15 min, remove and drink
Astragalus Benefits: Takeaway
Astragalus is a powerful adaptogen used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine for it’s many health benefits. Studies have shown that due to the powerful bioactive compounds. Astragalus may be benefit immune health, heart health, diabetic kidney disease, and controlling blood sugar levels. More evidence is needed to find conclusive evidence that supports these findings, and reproduced in human clinical trials.