Astragalus, also known as huang qi, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and its medicinal effects have been backed by scientific studies. In a new study, a team of Chinese researchers discovered that polysaccharides derived from astragalus may be used to improve the symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension.
In the study, the Chinese research team looked at the effect of astragalus polysaccharides on pulmonary arterial hypertension. In conducting the study, they administered monocrotaline in rats to induce pulmonary arterial hypertension. Then, they treated the animals with 200 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of astragalus polysaccharides once every two days for two weeks.
Based on the results, the research team found that treatment with astragalus polysaccharides reduced monocrotaline-induced pulmonary artery hypertension. In addition, the treatment eliminated oxidative stress, promoted vasodilation, and reduced inflammation -- all of which contribute to lowering high blood pressure.
From these findings, the team concluded that polysaccharides derived from astragalus may be used to improve the symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension by improving the dilatation of blood vessels and reducing inflammation. The findings of the study were published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a form of a broader condition called pulmonary hypertension, which means high blood pressure in the lungs. Pulmonary arterial hypertension develops when the very small arteries throughout the lungs become narrow in diameter. As a result, the resistance of blood flow through the lungs increases. Over time, elevated blood pressure can damage the heart. While pulmonary arterial hypertension is a very serious disease, it is a very rare condition, affecting about 15 to 50 people out of one million Americans.
Improving heart function: Some studies have found that this herb may help enhance the function of the heart, particularly in people with heart conditions. It is believed to widen the blood vessels and increase the amount of blood pumped from the heart. In one clinical study, researchers gave individuals with heart failure 2.25 grams (g) of astragalus twice a day for two weeks as an additional treatment. The results showed that those who received the astragalus treatment experienced greater improvements in heart function compared to those who received standard treatment alone. Another study has found that individuals with heart failure who received 60 g per day of astragalus also experienced significant improvements in symptoms compared to those who received conventional treatment alone. In addition, there is some evidence that suggests that the herb may reduce symptoms of myocarditis, an inflammatory condition of the heart.
Boosting immunity: Some studies have also reported that astragalus contains compounds that may strengthen the immune system, which protects the body against harmful invaders, such as bacteria, germs, and viruses that cause diseases. Other studies have also shown that the herb may increase the body's production of white blood cells, which are the cells of the immune system responsible for preventing diseases. In animal studies, it has been shown to help kill bacteria and viruses. (Related: Astragalus "super herb" protects, supports immune system function.)
Regulating blood sugar levels: In China, astragalus is one of the herbs commonly prescribed to help with diabetes management. Research has also shown that the active compounds in astragalus may help in reducing blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. Lab trials have shown that it improves metabolism, reduce blood sugar levels, and aid in weight loss.
Improving kidney function: Several studies have reported that astragalus may help enhance kidney function in people with kidney disease. It may also help fight infections in these people.
Astragalus is available in various forms of supplements, such as capsules, liquid extracts, powders, and teas. However, if you want to try astragalus, it is best to consult a health professional first.