Astragalus root, long used as an ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is an herbal supplement with a mild, slightly sweet taste that can also be used in cooking.
Why do people use astragalus root supplements, and what are the benefits of adding astragalus root to your diet? The root of the astragalus plant is often used to stimulate the immune system.
Read on to find out ten of the most potent benefits of taking an astragalus root supplement.
Help Fight Off the Common Cold
Traditional Chinese Medicine has long used astragalus root as a remedy for colds and upper respiratory infections. Western medicine has shown some evidence that it can actually help keep the common cold at bay, especially if the herb is taken for at least six weeks.
Evidence suggests that it can also help relieve the cold-like symptoms associated with seasonal allergies, such as sneezing and runny nose. This effect may be due to the herb’s ability to suppress the histamine reaction.
Improve the Health of Congestive Heart Failure Patients
In addition to its immune system-boosting power, another traditional use of astragalus root is as a treatment for heart-related conditions. Western medical science is now investigating whether astragalus truly has a benefit when it comes to reducing cardiovascular disease.
Some research suggests astragalus’s antioxidant properties can help fight myocarditis, an inflammation that affects the inner wall of the heart.
Much more research has to be done, but for now the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has reported that astragalus can be used as a complementary therapy to help boost the immune systems of patients suffering from congestive heart failure.
Many people use astragalus root supplements to help keep the negative effects of everyday stresses at bay. Astragalus is considered an adaptagen, which means it helps your body learn to adapt quickly and remain healthy in times of stress and exposure to illness.
It works as an adaptogen specifically by lowering the body’s level of cortisol, the hormone associated with high levels of stress. This balancing of hormones can having the effects of helping to stabilize mood, promote general feelings of calm and peace, and perhaps even ease insomnia in people who have difficulty falling asleep.
Boost a Cancer-Fighting Regimen
While astragalus root should not be used by itself in place of more traditional cancer therapies, it can be added to traditional cancer therapies to help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
These side effects that can be mitigated by astragalus root include bone marrow cell suppression, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
A University of Texas Medical Center at Houston study showed that astragalus root supplements stimulated T-cells taken from the immune systems of people with cancer.
These T-cells were stimulated to more activity than even T-cells taken from healthy people. Of course, there isn’t a one-to-one relationship between increased T-cell activity and the body’s ability to fight off cancer, but when you’re trying to fight cancer, every little bit of a boost to your immune system might help.
Some studies have even suggested that when used in conjunction with chemotherapy, astragalus root can make chemotherapy more effective.
Relieve the Symptoms of Angina Pectoris
At least one study done in China and reported by the NCBI showed that astragalus can help reduce the chest pain associated with the condition angina pectoris.
The American Heart Association describes angina pectoris as a condition in which the heart doesn’t receive enough blood (also called ischemia), usually because of a narrowing of one or more of the arteries leading to the heart.
Provide a Health-Boosting Dose of Antioxidants
Astragalus root contains three specific types of antioxidants: flavonoids, polysaccharides, and saponins. Flavonoids are thought to help reduce damage to the body caused by molecules known as free radicals; this health benefit may boost the body’s ability to fight off heart disease, immunodeficiency viruses, and some types of cancers.
Polysaccharides fight inflammation (including inflammation associated with diabetic kidney disease) and help the body ward off viruses and other microbes. Saponins not only boost the immune system and help the body fight off cancers but also helps reduce cholesterol.
It has also been suggested that the antioxidants in astragalus root can help people who’ve had a stroke restore some of the damage done by the stroke to the blood vessels and nerves affected.
Reduce the Effects of an Asthma Attack
Astragalus root should not be used in place of standard medical treatments of asthma. After an asthma attack has been treated, though, astragalus can be used as a supplemental treatment to help decrease excessive mucus production in the lungs and reduce hypersensitivity in the airways.
By reducing hypersensitivity, astragalus root can help prevent the occurrence of further asthma attacks.
Fight Off Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance, if left untreated, can develop into type 2 diabetes, which has widespread negative health effects on the body. Astragalus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to fight the effects of insulin resistance, and modern medical science is beginning to understand how this effect works.
Part of it may have to do with the anti-inflammatory properties that astragalus root has; diabetes is closely linked with inflammation inside the body.
Promote Wound Healing with Less Scarring
Either taken as a supplement or applied directly to a skin wound, astragalus has been shown to help promote wound healing. Not only does the plant help wounds heal faster, but it also reduces the scars left behind.
This is because a substance found in astragalus called astragaloside IV encourages the growth of new keratinocytes, or skin cells, around the wound.
Slow Down the Effects of Aging
One of astragalus root’s most highly touted effects is its effects on telomeres, the bits of genetic code that form the two ends of a strand of DNA. As our cells divide and replicate our DNA, the telomeres at the ends begin to shorten over time.
Telomere shortening affects the cell aging process and, eventually, plays a role in cell death. Astragalus root is being investigated for its apparent ability to reduce the telomere-shortening effect, helping older cells “feel” younger.
The specific chemical component of astragalus that affects telomeres is called cycloastragenol, also known as TAT2.
These “younger” cells are better at passing on genetic code without errors that get introduced over time, which may have an effect on preventing the symptoms of aging not just on the cellular level, but also on the organism-wide level.
Astragalus root may not only help reduce the occurrence of chronic disease but also help reduce skin effects of aging, such as wrinkles and age spots.
Taking astragalus root by cooking the root itself or in the form of a tea, tincture, capsule, or supplement form is thought to have many health benefits, including the ten above.
Astragalus root has been used by traditional herbal medicine practitioners to boost the immune system, fight cardiovascular disease, reduce the effects of stress, and ease suffering from the common cold.
The supplement is thought to be safe from most people, although those who are pregnant, nursing, diagnosed with autoimmune disorder, or taking medications should consult with a health care provider before using an astragalus root supplement.
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