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Originally published October 12 2009

Astragalus "super herb" protects, supports immune system function

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) Astragalus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for literally thousands of years. Today, in the western world, it's being rediscovered as a powerful adaptogenic herb with a remarkable ability to balance and boost immune function. With more and more people concerned about immune function today -- especially with the swine flu pandemic on peoples' minds -- ancient herbs like astragalus are experiencing a resurgence in interest.

Here, we present a unique collection of supporting research quotes about astragalus and how it protects and enhances the immune system. Feel free to forward this information to friends, family members or coworkers who may benefit from it.

Astragalus and the immune system

One of the best known herbs used in Chinese medicine, astragalus strengthens the digestion and stimulates the immune system. It also aids adrenal gland function, acts as a diuretic and dilates blood vessels. Astragalus can be used to boost the immune system in people who frequently suffer from infections such as colds. It can also be used in convalescence and to aid in cancer treatment and recovery from chemotherapy. Astragalus should not be used in cases of acute infections or fevers.
- The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements and Herbs by Nicola Reavley

Astragalus is one of the best-researched immune system stimulants now available. It works like echinacea, in that both herbs increase the number and activity of immune cells. However, astragalus concentrates on building the immune system, and unlike echinacea, it can be taken on a daily basis. Echinacea boosts immune system activity and promotes fast recovery, especially when taken at the onset of symptoms. The most potent formulas have a peculiar tingling and numbing effect on the tongue.
- The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Healing: A Comprehensive A-Z Listing of Common and Chronic Illnesses and Their Proven Natural Treatments by Gary Null, Ph.D.

Astragalus is another ancient Chinese herb that is frequently combined with ginseng to strengthen the body's natural defenses, namely, the immune system. Astragalus has also shown some vasodilatory as well as anti-inflammatory action. Its anti-inflammatory effects occur, it seems, because it inhibits the release of histamines from mast cells. Quercetin, a polyphenol, works the same way. Consequently, astragalus could help relieve hay fever and other allergic conditions. I have personally used astragalus as a remedy for my seasonal hay fever.
- Optimum Health - A Cardiologist's Prescription for Optimum Health by Stephen T., M.D. Sinatra

Examples of popular adaptogenic herbs include astragalus, panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, lonicera, and glycyrrhiza, also known as licorice root. The herb astragalus has been researched thoroughly and is available from an abundance of sources. Studies have revealed that astragalus is quite effective in enhancing immune function and can be used to treat a wide variety of illnesses, ranging from the common cold to cancer. Instead of directly attacking infectious organisms, astragalus aids the body by fortifying the existing immune system.
- The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Healing: A Comprehensive A-Z Listing of Common and Chronic Illnesses and Their Proven Natural Treatments by Gary Null, Ph.D.

The immune-building and adaptogenic effects of astragalus have been studied extensively. Modern research has isolated the constituents in astragalus that are believed to be responsible for its effectiveness. Two types of chemical compounds found in astragalus, polysaccharides and saponins, are credited with many of the herb's benefits. But traditional herbalists believe there may be dozens of other active, synergistic, or supportive components. Astragalus heightens the efficiency of virtually every component of the immune system.
- Herbal Defense by Robyn Landis

Another traditional energy tonic, astragalus strengthens the immune system and is good for both digestion and lung function. Sometimes this root is available in bulk in health food stores - long and flat, it looks like a tongue depressor. These sticks can be added to soups, stews, rice, or any food that simmers for at least 30 minutes. When cooking is complete, remove the wilted stick and discard. The medicine has gone into your food! Astragalus has a neutral, somewhat pleasant taste.
- The Herbal Drugstore by Linda B. White, M.D.

Astragalus was originally used in China for a variety of reasons including immune system support, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Dr. Mauligit of Texas University found it helped to restore immune function in cancer patients. Astragalus helps to invigorate vital energy, drain pus, reduce swelling and strengthen the spleen. It is helpful for lingering diarrhea. It has been shown to augment interferon response to viruses.
- Powerful and Unusual Herbs From the Amazon and China by World Preservation Society

Astragalus is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb used for viral infections. Research in animals has shown that it apparently works by stimulating several factors of the immune system, particularly in those whose immune system has been damaged by chemicals or radiation. In immunodepressed mice, Astragalus has been found to reverse the T cell abnormalities caused by cyclophosphamide (a cancer drug), radiation, and aging. It also increases T cell activity in normal mice.
- Total Wellness: Improve Your Health by Understanding and Cooperating with Your Body's Natural Healing Systems by Joseph Nd Pizzorno

Astragalus (Huang chi root) in Chinese medicine, is known to strengthen the body's natural defenses that involve the immune system. It is one of the main herbs used in fu-zheng therapy to enhance the immune system during chemo and radiation therapy. It seems to increase not only interferon levels but also natural killer-cell and T-cell activity. It also makes the T-cells more aggressive. Astragalus has been shown to have liver-protective activity against a number of toxic substances, including carbon tetrachloride.
- Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer: A Comprehensive Program for Prevention and Treatment by Donald R. Yance, j r.,C.N., M.H., A.H.G., with Arlene Valentine

Research in animals has shown that Astragalus apparently works by stimulating several factors of the immune system, including enhancing phagocytic activity of monocytes and macrophages, increasing interferon production and natural killer cell activity, enhancing T-cell activity, and potentiating other antiviral mechanisms. Astragalus appears particularly useful in cases where the immune system has been damaged by chemicals or radiation. In immunodepressed mice, astragalus has been found to reverse the T-cell abnormalities caused by cyclophosphamide, radiation, and aging.
- Textbook of Natural Medicine 2nd Edition Volume 1 by Michael T. Murray, ND

In the exotic language of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), astragalus boosts the immune system by "stabilizing the exterior" and strengthening the "chi." The Chinese knew thousands of years ago that astragalus could strengthen our shield ("exterior") against disease and increase overall vitality (chi), long before anyone knew about bacteria, white blood cells, or the immune system. You may already be accustomed to taking echinacea at the first sign of a cold or flu, or when people around you are getting sick. How is astragalus different?
- The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs by Robert S. McCaleb, Evelyn Leigh, and Krista Morien

The effectiveness of astragalus and the fu-zheng treatment was put to the test in a study of cancer patients undertaken at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in the early 1980s. After giving a specially prepared astragalus extract to 19 cancer patients and 15 healthy people, doctors found that the treatment restored immune system functioning in the majority of the patients. In some cases, it made the cancer patients' immune systems resemble those of the healthy subjects. The researchers concluded that astragalus contains a potent immune stimulant.
- Nature's Medicines : From Asthma to Weight Gain, from Colds to High Cholesterol -- The Most Powerful All-Natural Cures by Gale Maleskey

They use astragalus to boost immune function during and after radiation or chemotherapy treatments. When cancer invades your body, your immune system naturally weakens. In the advanced stages of the disease or after rounds of chemotherapy or radiation - which are lifesaving but very toxic treatments - your immune system can be devastated.
- Nature's Medicines : From Asthma to Weight Gain, from Colds to High Cholesterol -- The Most Powerful All-Natural Cures by Gale Maleskey

Also known as huang qi, astragalus has been used for centuries by the Chinese to boost energy and vitality. Several studies of the herb have convinced me that it's an immune system stimulant as well. In fact, it appears to be almost as effective as echinacea. Astragalus helps counteract TRF. And because the herb enhances immunity, it helps treat all manner of infections, which can deplete your energy. But the herb's effects are subtle, very subtle, so don't expect a coffee buzz.
- The Green Pharmacy Anti-Aging Prescriptions: Herbs, Foods, and Natural Formulas to Keep You Young by James A. Duke, Ph.D.

To fight infections without stimulating the components of the immune system that aggravate lupus, use astragalus or Scutellaria. Astragalus increases activity of natural killer (NK) cells, which fight infection. For people who are responding well to steroid drugs, taking astragalus reduces the risk of infection, especially when infections are "going around." Take 500 to 1,000 milligrams of the freeze-dried herb in capsules three times daily. However, be sure to let the doctor know if you are taking astragalus, since it increases the body's response to steroids.
- Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC

Astragalus also is useful in the treatment of viral myocarditis, a flulike infection that affects the heart. Astragalus treats infections caused by Proteus, which can cause kidney stones. Astragalus increases the body's production of the immune-system chemical interleukin-2 (IL-2). It also releases polysaccharides that act in the same way as important antibodies, complementing their production by the immune system. Chinese studies have found that astragalus increases the activity of lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells, an immune-system component.
- Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC

Astragalus is known as an immune stimulant. It works by stimulating the body's production of interferon (antiviral compounds) and by restoring red blood cell formation in bone marrow. Because it stimulates the immune system, astragalus is being used to treat HIV viral infections, pneumonia, and cardiac arrhythmia.
- The Doctor's Complete Guide to Vitamins and Minerals by Dr. Mary Dan Eades

As with most Chinese herbs, astragalus is generally used in a formula that's made up of a blend of herbs, and it's a perfectly good addition to soup or rice. In fact, in China, it's not uncommon to use astragalus root as a standard ingredient in cooking. There is not a whole lot known about the exact constituents of astragalus that boost the immune system. Large, sugarlike molecules known as polysaccharides probably help to stimulate the "good" immune cells. Astragalus also contains substances called saponins, which have a similar immunity-enhancing effect.
- The Natural Physician's Healing Therapies by Mark Stengler, N.D.

Preliminary research suggests that astragalus may also have powerful anticancer properties. In a study conducted at the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston, researchers found that a water extraction of astragalus restored or enhanced the function of T-cells (white blood cells that play specific roles in the immune system) taken from people with cancer. In some cases, astragalus stimulated the damaged cells to greater activity than found in normal cells taken from healthy individuals.
- The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs by Robert S. McCaleb, Evelyn Leigh, and Krista Morien

Anderson Hospital in Houston found that astragalus was able to enhance the immune capacity using the cultured blood of cancer patients as well as augment the anti-tumor ability of Interferon-2. In a study of 176 patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract, astragalus and ginseng were able to prevent the normal immune depression and weight loss that occurs. In a variety of human studies, astragalus has been shown to stimulate various parameters of the immune system, has anti-tumor activity, and inhibits the spreading (metastasis) of cancer.
- Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Patrick Quillin, PhD,RD,CNS

In addition to general immune strengthening, astragalus offers powerful help when immunity is severely challenged. Clinical studies show astragalus infusion highly effective at improving and restoring T-cell functioning, improving bone marrow activity, and augmenting interferon response. Chinese hospitals give astragalus to strengthen the immune systems of those with cancer, and to protect them from the detrimental effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
- Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way by Susun S. Weed

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