What Is It?
An herb native to China, astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) has been used for more than 2,000 years to balance the vital energy–or qi–which is thought to flow through all beings. A relative of licorice and the pea plant, astragalus appears to give the immune system a powerful boost. Teas, tablets, and other healing formulations are made from the plant’s flat, yellowish root.
Taken as a tonic, astragalus is believed to build stamina and vitality. It has a reputation for improving overall health by helping the body to fight off viral and bacterial infections responsible for causing colds, the flu, bronchitis, and sinus infections. As an antioxidant, it helps to counteract cell damage caused by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. Many people undergoing cancer chemotherapy or radiation take astragalus to fortify their battered immune systems. Indeed, one of the great appeals of astragalus is its versatility: It can be safely combined with many conventional medical treatments.
To ensure effectiveness, select an astragalus product that contains a standardized extract of the root, with 0.5% glucosides and 70% polysaccharides.
The body can develop a tolerance to an immune-stimulating herb such as astragalus if it is taken over long stretches of time. So, for maximum effect, alternate the use of astragalus with other immune-boosting herbs such as echinacea, cat’s claw, and pau d’arco.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with astragalus.
If you take regular medications of any kind or are undergoing cancer treatment, consult your doctor before adding astragalus to your daily supplement regimen. Ailments Dosage Bronchitis Acute: 200-500 mg standardized extract or 1 tsp. liquid extract in a cup of water 4 times a day; can be used in place of echinacea. Chronic: 200-500 mg once a day as maintenance; use in rotation with echinacea, pau d’arco, and medicinal mushrooms. Cold Sores 200-500 mg a day or 1 tsp. liquid extract a day (in rotation with mushroom combination and echinacea) Colds 200-400 mg standardized extract or 1-2 tsp. liquid extract once a day as maintenance, in rotation with echinacea and medicinal mushrooms Flu 200-400 mg standardized extract or 1-2 tsp. liquid extract once a day as maintenance, in rotation with echinacea and medicinal mushrooms
Although astragalus has the disadvantage of not being well studied in the West, it readily makes up for this oversight in sheer longevity. In fact, Chinese physicians have used and valued this herb as a tonic and disease fighter for more than 2,000 years. In Asia, doctors prescribe astragalus for any condition where the immune system needs fortification, such as cancer or, more recently, AIDS. In the West, we mainly use this ancient herb for its antiviral and antibacterial properties, and for its overall effect as an immune-system stimulant.
HOW IT HELPS COLDS
Whether you’re fighting a cold, or simply trying to build up your resistance during cold and flu season, astragalus may be for you. Historically it’s been quite successful in shoring up the respiratory system, and it appears to help shorten or prevent colds and related infections.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The root of this native Chinese plant is the source of its medicinal power. Once the root has been dried, it’s sometimes sold in flat yellowish slices in Asian grocery stores; more often, however, the dried herb is processed into different supplements.
Capsules come in 500 mg amounts, with an effective dose of 1 to 2 grams (or 1,000-2,000 mg) three times a day. Liquid extracts. You’ll probably need approximately 1-2 dropperfuls four times a day.
Astragalus complements other immune-stimulating or antiviral herbs, such as echinacea, licorice, or goldenseal. And often a group of herbs is combined into a single product.
Select a product that contains a standardized extract containing 0.5% glucosides and 70% polysaccharides, the herb’s active ingredients.
Over many centuries of continuous use, no side effects have ever been associated with astragalus. This means that you can use the higher doses of astragalus and be pretty confident you’ll not experience any side effects.
For product recommendations and orders click here for the Natural Apothecary or call 773-296-6700, ext. 2001.
David Edelberg, MD