Astragalus is an Asian native plant known by various names: Huang Qi, Milk Vetch, Astragalus membranaceous, Bei Qi and Hwanggi. The term Huang Qi means "yellow leader" in English and it was named as such because of the plant’s yellow root. This root is the part of the plant that’s used for medicinal purposes. It is boiled in water to make a concoction often combined with other powerful herbs like ginseng.
Astragalus has always been one of the most potent herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s famed for its ability to boost the immune system and treat common colds and flu with its high concentration of active compounds such as flavonoids, polysaccharides and saponins. Nowadays, you can easily find this herb in health food stores and online retailers in the form of tea or supplements. Let’s take a look at the list of the health wonders linked to this potent herb.
Bolsters Immune Function
Researchers have been investigating the ability of astragalus to boost the immune system. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, this herb can bolster the immune function. One theory suggests that it increases the production of immune cells. Other experts say that the herb also contains antiviral properties. It has been found to increase the count of white blood cells, stimulate production of antibodies and up bodily resistance to viruses and bacteria.
However, more studies are needed to be done to further establish the immune-boosting powers of astragalus. One recent study looked at the ability of this herb to aid people undergoing chemotherapy treatments who have weak immune system. For now, it’s recommended to consume astragalus tea during flu and cold season such as from the early fall until winter time.
Helps Prevent Heart Disease
Another wonderful benefit of this herb is that it helps protect against various heart problems. It has a diuretic effect that causes the blood vessels to relax as well as tone down the level of blood pressure. Therefore, it can ward off hypertension, arrhythmia and other cardiovascular conditions. It can also help improve the overall function of the heart and cardiovascular system.
Improves Digestive Health
Some studies show that this herb can decrease acidity level in the stomach. At the same time, it promotes metabolic function and enhances the waste elimination process. People who are suffering from stomach ulcers and are prone to acid indigestion have found relief in the regular consumption of this herb.
Benefits Cancer Patients
As mentioned earlier, astragalus has also been the subject of studies involving cancer treatment. Because of its ability to enhance immune function, many experts believe that it can be helpful for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments. But that’s not all, this herb may possibly alleviate the side effects from these said treatments while enhancing their effect in cancer patients.
Regular consumption of astragalus can tone down the levels of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. It works by preventing fats from being absorbed from the intestines. The herb facilitates quick excretion of these fats from the body. Moreover, it stops fatty plaque deposits from getting clogged into the arteries so that the blood can move more freely.
Helps HIV and AIDS Symptoms
The immune-bolstering powers of this herb make it an integral part of treatment for HIV and AIDS patient. The active compounds that are found in astragalus can enhance the immune function of these patients. Some even use them in place of common medications used for HIV patients.
In Chinese medicine, astragalus is a staple in diabetes management. This herb can effectively lower blood sugar level while preventing the pathological alterations in the retina. It also enhances the function of the liver and kidneys.
Like with most herbs, it’s important to know the safety concerns regarding the use of astragalus. People who are suffering from autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes or systemic lupus erythematosus are advised against using this herb unless prescribed by a doctor. Those who have just undergone transplant surgery should also not use this herb.