What is Astragalus?
Astragalus root has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Like barberry root, it is said to support immune function. Astragalus is a powerful adaptogenic herb that has gained popularity recently as research has emerged about the possibility that it can protect DNA and increase longevity. Recent research has shown that astragalus may protect the telomeres from degradation.
Flashback to freshman biology: Telomeres are attached to the end of chromosomes. During the DNA replication process, telomeres keep the DNA together (like how the plastic caps on the end of shoelaces keep them from unraveling). Every time DNA replicates, the telomeres get slightly shorter and eventually when they get small enough, the process of cell death begins. Research has linked this process of cell death to aging and cancer.
Astragalus can help activate an enzyme called telomerase (hTERT) which stimulates the production of additional telomeres. (1,2)
“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
Astragalus has a unique structure of polysaccharides that are said to have additional benefits:
“The most notable compounds are called formononetin, calycosin and astragaloside IV, and seem to do the following things in your body:
- Reduces the amount of nitric oxide released from cells, which reduces inflammation
- Causes certain genes and metabolic pathways to be shutdown which would otherwise cause blood and chemicals to flow to wounds
- Activates other genes and pathways which activates different immune cells”
How Astragalus is Used
Astragalus has traditionally been used both as a supplement/natural remedy and in cooking in traditional Chinese culture. It is a tough, starchy root, and can be added to soups or made in to a decoction by boiling the root in water.
I keep Astragalus on hand, both in root form (pictured above) and in capsule form. I don’t take it daily but use it in times of high stress or while traveling to counteract the effects of foods I would not normally eat. I know many people who take it daily for its anti-aging effects but haven’t tried this personally.
In traditional cultures, it is generally considered safe for use (even regularly or at moderate doses), but because it does stimulate the immune system, I am careful not to overuse with my autoimmune disease. Logically, those who are pregnant or nursing or have any medical condition should consult a doctor before taking this or any supplement or herb. Also, those taking any kinds of medication should check with a doctor to rule out drug interaction before taking. I’m not a doc and don’t play one on the internet so check with yours.
Ever used Astragalus Root? Ready to give it a try? Share below!
- Bernardes de Jesus, Bruno, et. al. “The telomerase activator TA-65 elongates short telomeres and increases health span of adult/old mice without increasing cancer incidence”
- Astragaloside IV Downregulates ?-Catenin in Rat Keratinocytes to Counter LiCl-Induced Inhibition of Proliferation and Migration
- Clinical observation on the treatment of ischemic heart disease with Astragalus membranaceus
- Effect of astragalus injection on immune function in patients with congestive heart failure
Discussion (34 Comments)
I’ve been taking it a few months. Its supposed to be a healing agent for adrenal issues, and its a long term method, nothing in a few weeks or even months. But I also have auto immune issue..THYROID ( Both hyper and Hypo symptoms at the same time ) My doctors, which I am stuck with, know next to nothing on the subject of astralagus. Where could I find more info? As I am uncertain as to where to proceed. The adrenal issue prevents me from addressing the thyroid at this time, so it is of greater urgency to fix those little glands. I am mostly self taught, because I lack the funds and patience to visit 40+ docs to find one that listens. Thank you for anything you can direct me to !
Ahhh I think many of us are self taught. Traditional meds such as herbs scare “modern medicine” as going back to the old ways takes money from them!
When I’m searching for information I read as many articles as I can from different sources. I try to use the overall conscientious on the topic if ONLY 1-2 sources state negative info and 20 list positive then I generally ignore the lesser sites. 🙂
Your comment caught my attention because I have hypothyroidism. I have just recently come across astragalus root to help both the immune system and provide energy. Have you discovered anything that you might share?
I have purchased the powder form, how much would you recommend in my tea? A teaspoon once a day? I want the benefits without over doing it.
I have it in root form, and almost every day, i pour hot water into the root form and drink it. I have been told it’s good for your well being. I also chuck a few pieces when making soup.
Hi Katie! My friends & fam take astragalus during tick season to prevent Lyme disease. An important note though is that people who have Lyme (like me) should NOT take astragalus.
Question: my best friend, a 28-yr old guy, was recently diagnosed with Gynecomastia (has painful nodule behind nipple). He’s super active and eats healthy. He has had pretty bad allergies for the past 10-15 years, year round nasal congestion, dripping, sneezing, etc. Flares with diff things but is constant. Don’t know if it’s related just thought I should mention. So his doctor gave him a list of things high in phytoestrogens to avoid, including astragalus (he had been taking it). Do you know if this is true? This dr is a GP, he hasn’t seen the endocrinologist yet.
If you have any other input on his health situation, things to ask the dr, etc I’d be extremely grateful. He is exposed to chemicals in his job which is probably unavoidable but if there are specific chemicals he should avoid, that would be really helpful.
Thanks in advance!!
Thank Katie, Great information. I use Astragalus for patients with weak constitutions as long as a patient is not in the midst of an illness. Never want to close and lock the house door is a burglar is still inside. (ancient wisdom) As the research from UT said, water extraction is how you’ll get the beneficial polysaccharides. Yup, you can even adding a few dried roots to chicken soup. This is common practice in Asia. But I find the easiest way to get an appropriate dose of astragalus is with water extracted granules. In fact, nearly all research on this herb (and other Traditional Chinese herbs) use granule extracts because the dried granules are easily tested for potency and purity. Herb batches need to be standardized for accurate research outcomes. Glad to see you didn’t mention a alcohol tincture. Research has proven the beneficial polysaccharides like astragaloside IV are not broken down by alcohol or glycerin, so with this herb in particular, water extraction is key to getting the beneficial compounds.
Astragalus makes a delicious infusion. 1 oz of root to 1 quart of boiling water- let sit covered for 4-6 hours, strain, squeeze compost. I use it as stock to cook my grains or greens. You can add root slices to stews and soup- just don’t eat them they are stringy. The immune boosting properties are amazing and tasty, the flavor is sweet and earthy. In TCM it is referred to as a junior ginseng- astragalus isn’t as active or as warming- perfect for kids and women.
I have cancer (heavily) on both sides of my family. At 25 I even had a scare. I’ve just turned 40 and was wondering if you could send me the cancer refrences? I’m sorry to ask, but computers still confuse me. I love your articles and liked you on FB but you’re not showing up in my feed? Thanks again for helping us with your own family to care for as well.
If you click through one of her links you’ll come to this article: https://blog.healthkismet.com/2012/07/13/astragalus-health-benefits/
At the bottom there’s a long list of references to its different health benefits, including cancer. (Caveat: I wrote it).
I am in the similar boat as you are. I myself have not been diagnosed with cancer, but all of three silblings are not as lucky. But because of my silbings, I have done a lot of resarch and learning. With my Eastern upbringing, I truly believe in nutrigenomics and herb. A year ago, I discovered some supplement. The ingredients relate to this blog post are Astragalus, Resveratrol, TA-65 to name a few. All my siblings and I have been taking them now. I won’t name the brand here to comply to the comment policy. You can contact me in private if you want.
A sidenote. I do find that I can’t have too much Astragalus at a time because it brings too much yang to my body. (Chinese medicine has this notion of each plant has a nature of ying, yang or neutral).
When my son’s seasonal allergies are flaring up I make him a capsule with astragalus liquid. Seems to help.
Interesting! I have taken Astragalus for years and years in times of stress and illness, with great success to my immune system. I take a liquid tincture though with another 7 commonly used herbs in Chinese medicine.. I have never seen or heard of it in dried root form here in Australia.
Thank you for writing about this marvel – I spread my love of Astragalus to anyone who will listen! Haha 🙂
I’m a fan of astragalus and think it’s a good way to drink tea. I have seen powdered astragalus root available in stores to be used as tea begin to sprout up, but it’s definitely not commonplace yet.
It’s a bit bitter, so boiled astragalus w/ some honey and lemon juice makes for a good drink……just a little bit of bite w/ some sweetness and pucker thrown in.
I have bought some astragalus roots but don’t know who to use them. Do I soak them over night, do I boil them and do I eat them?
I make tinctures with Astragalus Root. 1 part root and 4 parts alcohol. I let sit for about 6 weeks.
I boil 2-3 ounces in a small pot of water…I get 2 cups from it then add another 2 cups & re-boil. You can sweeten it to taste & add lemon, which I’ve tried but I like it plain, as well. I’ve refridgerated the root for the next morning & it seems to be fine. I only drink 2 cups at a time. 🙂
I have hashimotos disease so would astragulus be ok to take?