Herbal Meds

Astragalus, a valuable disease fighting herb

Where does Astragalus come from?

This immune boosting herb has long been used to not only treat but also prevent diseases.  Astragalus only gained popularity in the 1980's in the United States, but in China it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.  Astragalus is a frail looking plant, but is actually very hardy.  It has a sweet-smelling, pale yellow blossom and the roots are mainly used for herbal remedies.

Over 2000 species of Astragalus exist, but only 2 are used in herbal remedies:  Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus.  In North America there are several species that are highly poisonous to livestock and are called "locoweed," however these species of Astragalus are very different from the disease fighting species.

How can Astragalus help me?

One of the main benefits of Astragalus is that it is safe to use with conventional medicine and will not interfere with any standard treatment.  

The root of the Astragalus plant contains numerous health-promoting substances, one of which is polysaccharides, which is a class of carbohydrates which are responsible for this herbal remedy's immune enhancing effects.  The other substances are saponins, astragalosides, flavonoids and triterpenes.

Health practitioners prescribe Astragalus as a general health tonic as it enhances your overall health by improving resistance to disease, increasing your stamina and vitality and promotes general wellbeing. This herbal supplement is also an adaptogen, which means that it will greatly increase your body's resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue.

Astragalus has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.  In addition, it also has antioxidant properties, which means that it can protect your body from cell damage caused by free radicals.  

This herbal treatment is especially effective in treating and preventing the common cold, flu, sinus infections and bronchitis as it prevents viruses from gaining a foothold in the respiratory system.  Just like Echinacea, Astragalus can stop a disease from the onset of the first symptoms.  If a disease does develop, Astragalus can shorten the duration of the disease and lessen the severity of symptoms.

People undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer will benefit greatly from using Astragalus on a regular basis as this herb rebuilds their immune systems and helps to repair damage caused by cancer treatments.  Using Astragalus will also protect bone marrow from the immune-suppressing effects of chemotherapy and radiation.  This herb is also used to assist the body"s production of T cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, interferon and other immune cells as these cells are often destroyed by chemotherapy and radiation.  

Recent research indicates that Astragalus may offer antioxidant benefits in people who suffer from heart disease, relieving symptoms and improving heart function.  The first study revealed that if a patient takes Astragalus within 36 hours of a heart attack, it could enhance the functioning of the heart"s left ventricle, which is the chamber responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood through the body.  The second study was conducted to prove that Astragalus could prevent chest pain, or angina.  Astragalus produced better results than a well-known prescription medication commonly used for this condition.

Astragalus root may also help reduce high cholesterol levels and regulate blood pressure by widening blood vessels and improving blood circulation.  The Astragalus root also acts as a mild diuretic.

In addition, this herb can aid digestion by inhibiting gastric secretions and reducing gastric acid, which makes Astragalus helpful in curing stomach ulcers. 

Ongoing research is being conducted into the use of Astragalus to treat HIV and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

If I am already on medicine, what are the interactions or side effects I need to know about when using Astragalus?

Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care.

After centuries of use, few side effects have been reported by people using Astragalus, however, because of its immune-enhancing benefits, people who receive organ transplants should not use this herb.

How do I use Astragalus?

To boost your immune system, take 200 mg of Astragalus once or twice a day for a period of three weeks.  Then alternate, in three week periods, with cat"s claw, echinacea and pau d"arco.  Choose a product that contains a standardized extract of this herb with 0,5% glucosides and 70% polysaccharides.

Creams and ointments containing Astragalus are readily available at health stores and will assist with wound healing and stop wounds and ulcers from becoming septic.

You can add dried Astragalus root to soup, stews or rice dishes.  Let it simmer for 30 minutes, then remove the herb as it is tough to chew.  This not only adds flavour to these dishes but also makes it easy to add immune-enhancing properties to your food.

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