Astragalus: Part 2
Astragalus and Longevity
Having been side tracked by the importance of the Radiation blogs I overlooked uploading part 2 of the Astragalus blog. Since the final radiation blog opens with herbs that protect us against radiation damage, and Astragalus is near the top of that list, now would be a good time to pass on the more detailed Astragalus information.
In part two of the Astragalus blog I will open with the most modern research which links Astragalus to prolonging human life. Then we will have a look at current clinical uses in alternative medical systems and finally see how it is commonly used by individuals.
Astragalus and Telomeres
The 2009 Nobel prize in Physiology of Medicine was given for the discovery of how chromosomes can be copied without degenerating. The trick was to maintain healthy telomeres, which are the protective ends of the chromosomes. These teleomeres cover and protect the ends of the chromosomes so that when they are reproduced they will not break down. And, the enzyme telomerase works to form new telomeres to continue the process of rejuvenation in the body. Each time a cell divides the telomeres shorten or fray slightly. As we get older the telomerase enzymes stop being produced within the genes and the body ages over time.
Recent research found that molecules contained in the Astragalus root, cycloastragenols and astragalosides had the ability to activate telomerase enzyme production. In large doses they could both prevent the depletion of telomeres and rebuild new ones. While there is a patented product that is an isolated version of these molecules (“TA-65”) it has also been found that any high doses of an Astragalus extract, rich in astragalosides, can have much the same effect.
For more information on the subject, visit the website of Jim Green (link below). This scientist has been documenting his anti-aging experiments with Astragalus on his website. He also gives an indication of the quantity of Astragalus one needs to take to get to the amount of astragalosides required to attain rejuvenation.
Clinical Applications for Astragalus
Astragalus and Heart Disease
Angina pain: Astragalus showed to be as effective as a pharmaceutical drug without side effects. Clinical observation on the treatment of ischemic heart disease with Astragalus membranaceus
Arterial plaque: animal studies shows Astragalus helps prevent the build-up of cholesterol plaque on arterial walls. Astragalus also appears to have the ability to dilate the coronary arteries. Phytotherapeutic aspects of diseases of the cardiovascular system. Saponins and possibilities of their use in prevention and therapy
Congestive Heart Failure: Study on effect of Astragalus injection in treating congestive heart failure: Astragalus injection can be took as one of the important auxiliary drugs for treatment of CHF especially in severe cases.
Viral myocarditis: Astragalus used to treat this viral infection of the heart. Herbal medicines for viral myocarditis
Astragalus and Cancer Treatment
Chemotherapy: Astragalus shown to prevent the depletion of white blood cells during chemotherapy. In a study done with 115 patients on chemotherapy, over 80% showed higher white blood cell counts when taking Astragalus. As such it has been shown to improve survival rates in people undergoing chemotherapy. Clinical study on effect of Astragalus in efficacy enhancing and toxicity reducing of chemotherapy in patients of malignant tumor.
Astragalus and Immunity
Colds: using Astragalus throughout the cold season can reduce the both the number of colds caught and the duration of those colds that were caught. Astragalus also is prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory infections. Clinical effect of milkvetch extract oral liquid in preventing and treating children’s recurrent respiratory tract infection
Interferon: Astragalus increases the creation of interferon in the body, which actually remained elevated for 2 months after discontinuing use. Immunomodulatory effects of Astragalus polysaccharide in diabetic mice
NK Cells: part of what makes Astragalus so helpful for the immune system is its ability to increase levels of natural killer cells in the body. These cells circulate through the blood and lymph fluid attacking foreign invaders including cancer and virus cells. Astragalus is also used to treat Immune suppressive diseases, including AIDS. In vitro and in vivo anti-tumor effects of Astragalus membranaceus
Herpes: Anecdotal information indicates that consistent use of Astragalus may inhibit the outbreak of genital herpes. In a lab study Astragalus was found to inhibit the oral herpes virus in a test tube. Experimental study of the effect of Astragalus membranaceus against herpes simplex virus type 1
Astragalus and the Liver
Detoxification: Chinese studies suggest that Astragalus can detoxify the body of some drugs and heavy metals.
Liver Problems: Chinese clinical trials imply that Astragalus may be of benefit to those with chronic viral hepatitis. Anti-hepatitis B virus activities of astragaloside IV isolated from radix Astragali.
Astragalus and Diabetes
Diabetic Nephropathy: Astragaloside IV (AGS-IV), a new glycoside of cycloartane-type triterpene isolated from the root of Astragalus membranaceus (Fisch.) Bunge, has been used experimentally for its potent immune-stimulating, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidative actions. This study results indicate that AGS-IV exerts protective effects against the progression of peripheral neuropathy through several interrelated mechanisms. Inhibitory effects of astragaloside IV on diabetic peripheral neuropathy in rats.
How to use Astragalus
Unlike echinacea (another immune enhancing herb) which is best used as needed or for short durations, Astragalus is most effective when taken long term, especially during flu season. In both Chinese and Western herbalism, Astragalus is considered both safe and effective when used long term. ( Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk TJ. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press; 1986:457-459.) Western science, while lacking in long term safety studies on humans, goes so far as to suggest that it is safe for cancer patients to use. Immune system effects of echinacea, ginseng, and astragalus: a review.
In both Chinese and Western herbalism, Astragalus is considered safe and effective to use on children as a general immune supportive. The only contraindication is that Astragalus should not be used when a fever is present (as it may intensify and/or prolong it) or during cases of acute infections. Astragalus root is traditionally either added to soup and simmered for at least 15 minutes or taken as a tincture or decoction.
Astragalus dosage can range from 1 to 25grams daily, however extremely high doses can impede immune function.
Astragalus Tincture: 3 to 5 ml of tincture three times daily.
Astragalus Decoction: 3 to 6 grams of dried root simmered for at least 15minutes in 12 oz of water, taken 3 times daily.
Powdered Astragalus root: 500mg to 1000mg in capsules three times daily.
Standardized Astragalus extract: 250mg to 500mg three times daily
Astragalus Warnings and Contraindications
Side effects from Astragalus seldom occur and, aside from any particular individual allergic reaction, are limited to mild gastrointestinal distress.
Astragalus and Pregnancy
Western science has not determined if Astragalus is safe for very young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with advanced kidney or liver diseases. A study done with an isolated component of Astragalus, given intravenously to rats and rabbits, showed a statistically significant increase in fetal deaths among the subjects. In light of these findings it is perhaps prudent to advise caution to women who might use “Astragaloside IV” to combat cardiovascular disease during pregnancy, and pregnant women should definitely consult with a health professional before using Astragalus. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19367606
Astragalus Drug Interactions
Astatragalus should not be taken with drugs used to suppress the immune system, such as those given to transplant recipients.
As indicated by the above material (and the previous Astragalus blog), this amazing Chinese herb is the obvious choice to add to our medicinal mushroom mix as part of our long term immune supportive product, known as ImmuneStart.