Astragalus: Immune Tonic
Following on the heels of NutriStart releasing our new immune supportive product, ImmuneStart, I will use this and the next blog to inform our readers of the many advantages of the herb Astragalus. In part, this is to explain why we chose to add it to the medicinal mushrooms that make up the bulk of ImmuneStart.
Astragalus (membranaceus) is a plant native to Northern China. It is the root of the plant, aged from 4 to 7 years that is used medicinally. In Traditional Chinese Medicine astragalus is considered on of the most valuable tonic herbs and is considered most effective when used on a long term basis.
During the big H1N1 scare of 2010 alternative doctor Andrew Weil was suggesting that one of the best natural defenses would be to use the Chinese herb Astragalus. Shortly thereafter he was attacked by the American FDA who took the position that Astragalus had no antiviral properties and in fact had no value at all for the human immune system. (Of course, one problem with flu vaccines aside from the whole debate about vaccinations per se, is that they are based on last year’s virus, which does not always address the new viruses that appear.)
The position of the FDA was based on the common but mostly unknown fact that the medical system in North America does not acknowledge studies done outside of North America. Since there were no such Western studies done on the herb, from their perspective, there literally are no studies to support Dr. Weil’s “claims”. Though there is not a large amount of clinical studies done on this traditional herb (which has been safely used for centuries) as you will note in the link below (with more to follow in the next blog), there are definitely enough studies to support the position that Dr. Weil took. More studies can be found at www.pubmed.com
From a Western scientific perspective, astragalus benefits may come from components including antioxidants, astragalosides, flavonoids, polysaccharides, saponins and triterpene glycosides, as well as many other unpronouncable chemical substances. In addition, Astragalus has been shown to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.
Other respected names, from the field of natural healing, that endorse the use of astragalus include Dr. James A. Duke, Micheal Tierra, Gary Null and Dr. Janet Zand.
Building immunity with Astragalus
Astragalus membranaceusFor thousands of years Chinese Medicine has used Astragalus for strengthening the immune system. This approach is more about strengthening the natural resistance of the body rather than actually directly killing the attacking bacteria or viruses. In modern herbal terminology it would then be considered an “adaptogen” which is defined as a substance that helps an organism to deal with physical, mental and/or emotional stressors.
In Chinese medicine Astragalus is used as an energy tonic and to treat fatigue, weakness and loss of appetite. It is useful for general digestive problems including bloating and gas. As well it was commonly used for treating wasting conditions, diarrhea and pro-lapse of the uterus. In cases of excessive sweating (especially night sweats) or fluid retention, Astragalus is used to control fluids and can perform a diuretic function, and is also supportive of the kidneys.
Next time I’ll look at more modern clinical applications for this time-tested herb and give you a taste of how it is being used for life extension.
UPDATE: Part 2 Astragalus and Longevity has been posted