Originally recorded in the most famous ancient Chinese medical book, Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, in 200 AD, astragalus root is a powerful non-toxic herb with several healing properties. It’s used worldwide in both Eastern and Western medicine today to boost immune function, prevent cancer, improve memory, and even shrink tumors.
But this seemingly miraculous herb is not without its risks—it may affect your blood pressure, interact with certain medications, or suppress your immune response if taken in high doses regularly. It’s important to read up before beginning your astragalus regimen — below is everything you need to know.
- Astragalus root is an herb often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It’s proven to boost immunity, regulate digestion, improve memory, shrink and stabilize tumors, and even address the side effects of treatments for cancer and AIDS.
- While astragalus root provides a variety of health benefits, it isn’t without its risks: It may interact with certain medications, suppress the immune system, or cause a mild allergic reaction.
- You should consult your doctor or another healthcare provider before beginning a daily astragalus regimen. However, the typical dosage is between 9-30 grams and the herb can be purchased as a powder, pill, capsule, liquid extract, lotion, or cream over the counter.
What Is Astragalus Root?
Astragalus root, or astragalus membranaceus, is an herb that’s been used as an adaptogen in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for millennia. This means it’s used on its own or combined with other herbs to help the body modulate when faced with physical and emotional stress. Astragalus has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which means it can be applied topically for wound care.
It also has antiviral capabilities, meaning it can be taken in supplements to strengthen the immune system and prevent the common cold. A mild diuretic, it also helps the body cleanse itself of excess fluid. Astragalus is even proven to reverse induced memory loss.
Yellow in color, astragalus is called Huang qí, meaning “yellow life force,” in Chinese medicine. It’s considered one of the most useful herbs in TCM. However, TCM acknowledges its risks (like complications when used alongside other medications and the potential to worsen some infectious diseases).
U.S. researchers have studied astragalus root as a means of strengthening the immune systems of those weakened by chemotherapy or radiation (studies prove it helps people recover faster and live longer). Research into astragalus as a treatment for AIDS patients has yielded mixed results.
Several bioactive compounds found in astragalus root contribute to its healing effects. For example, polysaccharides are known for their immune and digestive system-boosting and detoxifying properties. Flavonoids are an antiviral, anti-inflammatory antioxidant that prevents cancer and infection. Saponins are a toxic chemical if over-consumed, but in moderation, they may prevent certain cancers in moderation.
Benefits of Astragalus Root
Astragalus root offers a variety of health benefits. It’s proven to boost your immune system and memory, aid digestion, prevents diseases from colds to cancer, and even possibly ease symptoms for HIV-positive people. It’s capable of preventing, shrinking, and stabilizing tumors, not to mention promoting healthy heart function and preventing heart disease (by widening blood vessels to increase blood flow to the rest of the body), improving kidney function and preventing kidney disease, helping control blood sugar levels, and even aiding with chronic fatigue syndrome and seasonal allergy symptoms.
However, astragalus root isn’t without its side effects and safety concerns. It’s important to be aware of the risks before consuming or applying it. Side effects may include mild allergic reactions such as a rash, itching, stomach discomfort, or nasal symptoms (although these symptoms aren’t common).
Astragalus may interact with medications that suppress immune system function, as very high doses of astragalus will suppress the immune system as well. This means that if you have an autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, or you’re currently pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid astragalus root. Since astragalus lowers your blood pressure, it may interact with blood pressure medications (so if you have high blood pressure and are on medication, you should consult your doctor before using astragalus).
Dosage and Administration
We’re unable to give specific and targeted medical advice in a blog article, so you should consult your doctor or one of our board-certified herbalists before adding astragalus to your daily routine.
That said, the typical dose is somewhere between 9–30 grams per day. Doses of up to 60 grams a day can be taken safely for up to four months with supervision from a healthcare professional. Bear in mind that high doses of astragalus may suppress your immune system, so avoid taking astragalus in high doses during cold and flu season (or if you suffer from an immune condition, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding).
Astragalus is typically sold over the counter as a pill, capsule, dried root powder, or liquid astragalus extract. You can add the powder form of these herbal supplements to food or beverages (i.e., an herbal tea or soup). It’s also found in creams and lotions that can be applied topically.