History of Astragalus Root
Long used in Chinese medicine, astragalus root has become increasingly popular across the world for its wide variety of supposed health benefits. While this particular root comes from a variety of plants and shrubs in the same family, they all have similar properties. Colloquially known as the milkvetch, goat thorn, or locoweed, astragalus has been said to help fight cancer, improve heart health, and a slew of other benefits.
Let’s take a look at the potential benefits of this ancient root, what the science says, and how it might help you live a healthier life.
What are the Health Benefits of Astragalus Root?
Astragalus has been taken for quite a long time to help improve kidney and liver health, as well as improve cardiac function. It’s also commonly taken to help with diabetes and as a daily probiotic. Its most common use, however, is as an immune booster.
While the efficacy of each of these statements is up for debate, there is some scientific backing to the beneficial effects of astragalus root.
Astragalus for Kidney Disease
There is little scientific evidence to directly back the benefits of astragalus root for the kidneys, but there is some anecdotal evidence. It does seem that for some people, taking supplements – especially for those who have diabetes – can have a beneficial effect on kidney function.
Astragalus for Heart Function
There is no direct evidence that astragalus root benefits the heart, but some research shows that in people with angina, daily astragalus root supplements can reduce pain and improve blood flow somewhat. For those who are already making lifestyle changes to improve their heart, adding astragalus does not seem to hurt, so even if the benefits are minimal, they could be useful.
Benefits of Astragalus Root for Chemotherapy
There are seemingly some cancer-fighting benefits in this herb, mostly because it boosts the immune system. Additionally, taking astragalus root supplements reduces nausea, diarrhea, and bone marrow loss in those taking chemotherapy.
While the cancer-fighting properties are still up for debate, there is definitely a benefit to those who are using chemotherapy to kill their cancer. The reduction in negative reactions to chemo is very real, and a great reason for those patients to take astragalus supplements.
Benefits for Diabetes Sufferers
Taking supplements either orally or by IV has shown to reduce the rise of insulin and improve blood sugar after a meal in type 2 diabetes patients. It seems to keep blood sugar low and blunt the conversion of dietary carbohydrates into glucose.
Probiotics and prebiotic fiber from plants such as astragalus can improve your health in a variety of ways. By feeding your gut bacteria the fermented and fibrous foods they crave, you end up with more of the beneficial flora and less of the bad bugs that cause inflammation.
When your gut is overgrown with bad bacteria, your intestines become permeable, a condition called “leaky gut”. As the gut releases bacteria into the bloodstream, inflammation creeps up throughout your body causing a myriad of problems.
Daily prebiotic supplements – including astragalus root – can give your good gut microflora the edge over the bad stuff.
Can Astragalus Benefit You?
While the science is still largely out on a lot of the benefits of astragalus, it does seem to help with kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer treatment. Additionally, astragalus supplementation is good for your gut and your immune system.
The fact that it’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years suggests that there’s something to this little herb. As more science emerges, we’ll have a clearer picture of the true benefits of this ancient plant.
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Li ZX, Zhao GD, Xiong W, et al. Immunomodulatory effects of a new whole ingredients extract from Astragalus: a combined evaluation on chemistry and pharmacology. Chin Med. 2019;14:12. Published 2019 Mar 27. doi:10.1186/s13020-019-0234-0
Lin S, An X, Guo Y, et al. Meta-Analysis of Astragalus-Containing Traditional Chinese Medicine Combined With Chemotherapy for Colorectal Cancer: Efficacy and Safety to Tumor Response. Front Oncol. 2019;9:749. Published 2019 Aug 13. doi:10.3389/fonc.2019.00749