The adaptogenic herb astragalus root is extremely significant in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine. Because of the many health benefits of astragalus root, it is often used to boost therapies for various health concerns. It is recognized for slowing down the aging process, enhancing the immune system, and reducing inflammation. Studies and research have shown that astragalus root may also have the capability to promote healthy function of the lungs, kidneys, heart, and liver. More research also indicates that astragalus root can support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure and foster a healthy response to psychological stress.
What Is Astragalus Root?
Native to China, astragalus root comes from the astragalus, or Astragalus membranaceus, plant of which there are and estimated 2,000-3,000 species. Also called huáng qí, astragalus grows all twelve months of the year and is famous for the beneficial flavonoids which are plant-based molecules with antioxidant properties found in the root. Used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus root has recently become an admired herbal remedy and nutritional supplement in the U.S.A.
When discussing the health benefits of astragalus root, it’s necessary to understand the three elements that help it have a positive effect on health: saponins, flavonoids and polysaccharides, which are all active elements contained in certain fruits and vegetables. Saponins can lower cholesterol, improve the immune system, and prevent cancer. Flavanoids give health benefits through cell signaling. They have antioxidative qualities, control and scavenge of free radicals, and can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and immunodeficiency viruses. Polysaccharides have antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
27 Health Benefits of Astragalus Root
- Reduces stress
- Mild diuretic
- Lowers cholesterol
- Natural support for asthma
- Fights free radical damage
- Boosts energy
- Prevents collagen degradation
- Aids in wound healing
- Supports healthy cell cycles
- Supports Allergy relief
- Alleviates symptoms from chemotherapy
- Helps break down arterial plaque
- Fights inflammation
- Fights cancer
- Boosts immune system
- Increases white blood cell count
- Fights colds and flu
- Fights respiratory issues
- Promotes circulation
- Promotes healthy blood pressure
- Protects cardiovascular system
- Promotes healthy blood sugar
- Strengthens liver
- Regulates diabetes
- Supports kidney health
Astragalus Root as an Adaptogen
An important benefit of astragalus root is that it’s an adaptogen. An adaptogen is defined as a substance that works with a person’s body to regulate the effects of stress and fatigue — whether chemical, physical, or biological. In other words, astragalus root can help safeguard the body from emotional, physical, and mental stress. Studies show additional positive effects of astragalus on respiratory health, seasonal health, cardiovascular health, and more. However, it’s astragalus’ influence on the immune system as well as its antioxidant qualities that empower it to support the health of so many organs and therefore, lessen the results of aging.
Astragalus Root Can Reduce Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen and progesterone are two of the primary sex hormones involved in the many everyday biological functions that occur in our bodies. Estrogen dominance, which can happen in both women and men, occurs when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is not balanced.
Plant phytoestrogens which are also adaptogens, such as astragalus, are often referred to as anti estrogenic, due to their ability to occupy estrogen receptor sites, they lower an excess net effect of circulating estrogen and can compete for binding in our bodies estrogen receptor sites against the more potent synthetic xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are a subclass of endocrine disruptors that are able to bind to estrogen receptor sites and elicit an estrogenic affect. In a nutshell, phytoestrogens tend to balance estrogen, with estrogenic or anti-estrogenic effects to match whatever the body needs.
Phytoestrogens may even protect the body against xenoestrogens (man-made hormone mimics), also known as xenohormones. Today, excess estrogen (or estrogen dominance) is a growing concern for women in all seasons of life. This is partly because of the abundance of xenoestrogens coming into our bodies from synthetic pesticides, hormone-injected animal foods, plastics, personal body care products, polluted water, and hormone-containing drugs. Phytoestrogens can bind to hormone receptor sites before the xenoestrogen, blocking its harmful activity.
A direct plant estrogen binds to hormone receptors. Their chemical structure is similar to human hormones. Most are very gentle. For example, some research and studies suggests phytoestrogens are only 1/400th to 1/1000th of the potency of one’s naturally circulating estrogen. Because they are low in potency, when they bind to receptor sites, the net effect for most people is lower estrogen levels. However, for those with very low estrogen, phytoestrogens can modestly support and keep levels from falling by binding to estrogen receptor sites.
Safety & Side Effects of Astragalus Root
Clinical trials have not shown any indication of toxicity linked to astragalus root extract when used by itself. Some noted side effects that are minimal include diarrhea and as well as some other gastrointestinal issues. As is the case with all herbs, care should be taken before mixing astragalus root with other herbal supplements or medications, particularly those that lower the immune system. Not much is known about the effects of astragalus root during pregnancy. As always it’s crucial to ask your healthcare provider before taking any supplement while pregnant and/or breast feeding.
More Information about Astragalus Root
Astragalus root is usually available in capsules, tablets or as a liquid extract. Another way to take astragalus is by using astragalus tea which is made by steeping the shavings of the root in hot water. The natural soothing properties of astragalus root make it a beneficial ingredient for skincare products, thus it has become a customary ingredient in many anti-aging creams, lotions, and ointments.
- Ehrlich S. “Astragalus.” University of Maryland Medical Center. umm.edu. 24 March 2015.
- Shannon D, et al. “Adaptation of Astragalus membranaceus varieties to Southeastern United States: Growth, Root Development and Astragaloside IV Content.” Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies. 2014;2(3), 80-91 ISSN: 2320-3862.
- Molgora B, et al. “Functional Assessment of Pharmacological Telomerase Activators in Human T cells.” Cells. 2013; 2(1), 57–66.
- Xing-Tai L, et al. “Mitochondrial Protection and Anti-aging Activity of Astragalus Polysaccharides and Their Potential Mechanism.” Int J Mol Sci. 2012;13(2), 1747–1761.
- Herndon J, et al. “An Open Label Clinical Trial of a Multi-Ingredient Anti-Aging Moisturizer Designed to Improve the Appearance of Facial Skin.” J Drugs Dermatol. 2015;14(7), 699-704.
- Kelly G. “Nutritional and botanical interventions to assist with the adaptation to stress.” Altern Med Rev. 1999;4(4), 249-65.
- Jiang D, et al. “Milkvetch root improves immune function in patients with acute exacerbation of COPD.” Biomed Mater Eng. 2015;26(1), S2113-21.
- “Atherosclerosis.” American Heart Association. heart.org. 2017.
- “Symptoms & causes of diabetes: What are the symptoms of diabetes?” NIDDK. nih.gov.
- Ju J, et al. “Astragalus polysaccharides improve cardiomyopathy in STZ-induced diabetic mice and heterozygous (SOD2+/-) knockout mice.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 2017;10;50(8), e6204.
- Liu M, et al. “Astragalus polysaccharide improves insulin sensitivity in KKAy mice: regulation of PKB/GLUT4 signaling in skeletal muscle.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2010;127(1), 32-7.
- Zhang H, et al. “Astragalus (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014;10;(008369).
- “How does the liver work?” PubMed Health. nih.gov. 22 Aug. 2016.
- Zhou Y, et al. “Synergistic anti-liver fibrosis actions of total astragalus saponins and glycyrrhizic acid via TGF-?1/Smads signaling pathway modulation.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2016;190, 83-90.
- Lai P, et al. “Induction of Angiogenesis in Zebrafish Embryos and Proliferation of Endothelial Cells by an Active Fraction Isolated from the Root of Astragalus membranaceus using Bioassay-guided Fractionation.” J Tradit Complement Med. 2014;4(4), 239-45.
- Shenefelt PD. “Herbal Treatment for Dermatologic Disorders.” In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. “Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects.” 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 18.
- Song J, et al. “Safety evaluation of Astragalus extract mixture HT042 and its constituent herbs in Sprague-Dawley rats.” Phytomedicine. 2017;32, 59-67.
- Wang R, et al. “Effect of ingredients of Astragalus-Salvia compound on vascular endothelial cell in placenta and vascular endothelial growth factor mRNA expression in trophocyte in pregnant rats with inhibited nitric oxide synthesis.” Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2005;25(6), 516-9.
- Li X, Qu L, Dong Y, Han L, Liu E, Fang S, Zhang Y, Wang T. A Review of Recent Research Progress on the Astragalus Genus. Molecules. 2014; 19(11):18850-18880.
- Saponins as cytotoxic agents: a review. Phytochem Rev. 2010 Sep;9(3):425-474. Epub 2010 Jun 25.
- Yao LH, Jiang YM, Shi J, Tomás-Barberán FA, Datta N, Singanusong R, Chen SS. Flavonoids in food and their health benefits. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2004 Summer;59(3):113-22.