Dried and sliced thin, the root of the astragalus plant is a common component of Chinese herbal formulas. According to tradition, astragalus "strengthens the spleen, blood, and Qi; raises the yang Qi of the spleen and stomach; and stabilizes the exterior."
What Is Astragalus Used for Today?
In the United States, astragalus has been presented as an immune stimulant
The belief that astragalus can strengthen immunity has a partial basis in
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Astragalus?
Although Chinese herbal tradition suggests that astragalus should generally be used in combination with other herbs, modern Chinese investigators have found various intriguing effects when astragalus is taken by itself. Extracts of astragalus have been found to stimulate parts of the immune system
A typical daily dosage of astragalus involves boiling 9 to 30 g of dried root to make tea. Newer products use an alcohol-and-water extraction method to produce an extract standardized to astragaloside content, although there is no consensus on the proper percentage.
Astragalus appears to be relatively nontoxic. High one-time doses, as well as long-term administration, have not caused significant harmful effects. 10 Side effects are rare and generally limited to the usual mild gastrointestinal distress or allergic reactions. However, some Chinese herb manuals suggest that astragalus at 15 g or lower per day can raise blood pressure, while doses above 30 g may lower blood pressure.
As mentioned above, traditional Chinese medicine warns against using astragalus in cases of acute infections. Other traditional contraindications include "deficient yin patterns with heat signs" and "exterior excess heat patterns." Because understanding what these mean would require an extensive education in
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
7. Zhang YD, Wang YL, Shen JP, et al. Effects on blood pressure and inflammation of astragalus saponin 1, a principle isolated from Astragalus membranaceus BGE [in Chinese, English abstract]. Acta Pharm Sin . 1984;19:333-337.
11. 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;24:419-30.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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