Astragalus, is an important Chinese herb. It is also known in its other names such as: huang chi, and huang qi. Root of the herb is used medicinally.
According to TCM, astragalus enhances immunity by protecting the body from invasion by the Six Evils of aberrant or extreme environmental energies, such as wind and cold, and by increasing circulation of wei-chee (protective energy) around the surface of the body. It also stimulates production and circulation of immunological factors in the blood. (1)
Modern research validates the traditional immunotonic claims for astragalus. A fluid extract of astragalus restored normal immune response in 90% of cancer patients studied. (1) Astragalus increases the production and activity of white blood cells specifically involved in fighting disease. Astragalus does not attack cancer cells directly. It, however, strengthens the body's own immune defenses against the development of cancer.
One of the problems of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in cancer patients is a pronounced lowering of the body's already low immune response ability. Research strongly indicates a positive role of astragalus administration in these patients. It enhances natural defense function by stimulating the responsiveness of T cells.
Studies at the University of Texas at Houston showed that T cells of cancer patients with feeble T cell activity became
more aggressive when incubated with astragalus compared to healthy controls.(2)
Astragalus extracts are being used in China to fight several kinds of cancer. The herb has been shown to potentiate killer cell effectiveness in some experiments. In one model, a lymphokine was used to generate lymphokine-activated killer cells. The problem is that this process is normally associated with excessive toxicity. When researchers added astragalus to the lymphokine, it significantly reduced the amount of lymphokine needed to activate the killer cells, thus reducing the toxic side effects to a minimum. Astragalus was also found to significantly boost the production of macrophages.
Astragalus helps the body resist virus infections, particularly in the lungs, by increasing production of interferon, an immune factor that inhibits viral growth.
One study demonstrated that chronic bronchitis patients experience significant reduction in symptoms when using
astragalus. A combined astragalus- interferon treatment was found to be significantly more effective in preventing the common cold than interferon alone. (3)
Astragalus is currently under study as a treatment for AIDS due to its powerful enhancement of immune response. Astragalus has been shown to significantly reduce the number of T-suppressor cells in cases of human immune deficiency.
Astragalus' immunotropic properties are enhanced when it is combined with ginseng, Codonopsis, schisandra, angelica, and/or licorice. It can also be blended with echinacea. Chinese medicine always use herbs in combination. Astragalus is a component of several well known Chinese medicinal
Astragalus is safe. No
toxicity has been observed in animal and human studies.
Decoction: 8-12 grams, in two doses, on an empty stomach.
Astragalus Liquor: steep 80-100 grams of the sliced root in 1 liter of spirits for 2-3 months; take 1 ounce, twice daily, on an empty stomach, straight or diluted with 1-2 ounces pure water.
Use with 40-50 grams ginseng for better results.
1. Daniel Reed, "A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs," Shambhala, Boston, MA
2. Wang,D.C. "Influence of astragalus membranaceous (AM) polysaccharide FB on immunologic function of human periphery blood lymphocyte." Chung Hua Chung Liu Tsa Chih, 11(3), 180-183, 1989.
3. Hou, Y ., et al. "Effect of radix astragali seu hedysari on the interferon system." Chin. Med. J., 94(1), 35-40, 1981.