Astragalus root is derived from a perennial plant that grows in northern China and Mongolia. The herb is a staple of Chinese medicine, where it has been used for centuries to boost the immune system and treat a variety of ailments.
Ancient people used astragalus root to enhance strength and regulate metabolism. The herb has only recently gained popularity among herbalists and practitioners of alternative medicine in the West.
Roots of astragalus plants that are at least four years old are dried and used for medicinal purposes.
Astragalus root is available in the form of powdered extracts, tinctures, and teas. There are also ointments containing astragalus that can be used topically to treat wounds. These ointments should contain 10% astragalus.
Astragalus root contains several compounds that are thought to help strengthen the immune system. These include polysaccharides, saponins, astragalosides, flavonoids and triterpenes.
The active ingredients in astragalus root make it useful topically to help sores on the skin to heal.
As an herbal remedy, astragalus root is said to ward off infections and possibly even cancer. It works in part by helping the skin to eliminate toxins.
Practitioners of Chinese medicine use astragalus root to enhance the body's energy, known to them as "Qi" (pronounced as "chee"). Astragalus root is a mild diuretic, and it can help to reduce sweating as well. In traditional Chinese medicine, all of these uses are attributed to the ability of astragalus root to replenish "qi" so a person who is afflicted with an ailment can regain strength and immunity.
Studies conducted in America support the assertion that astragalus root can enhance the immune system. The herb appears to be effective in strengthening immune response in people who undergo radiation treatment or chemotherapy for cancer. People who used astragalus root during cancer treatment had fewer side-effects and faster recovery time. Astragalus root appears to induce production of interferon, a chemical that is an essential part of the immune system and has been widely studied for its ability to fight the development of cancer.
As an immune system enhancer, astragalus root may also be a promising treatment for HIV and for autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
Astragalus root is also said to protect the adrenal cortex, the gland that produces hormones related to stress. It may also help allergy sufferers by strengthen the immune system's response to allergens in the environment.
In addition, the saponins in astragalus root may have an effect on cardiovascular disease. Saponins have an anticoagulant effect that can prevent the development of blood clots that may lead to heart attacks and stroke.
Capsules that contain standardized extracts of powdered astragalus root should be taken in doses of 100 to 150mg per day. Teas can be made by steeping up to 10gm of dried astragalus root in 12 ounces of water. Tinctures vary in potency and should be taken according to the manufacturer's specifications.
Astragalus root can be used safely with few side-effects.
Since astragalus root can increase the effects of certain antiviral medicines, people who are taking such medications should consult a physician before using the herb.
Also, astragalus may interfere with immune system suppressants that are prescribed to people who receive organ transplants, so it should not be used by these patients. Because of its anticoagulant activity, astragalus root may increase the risk of bleeding for people taking blood thinners such as Coumadin.
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