Astragalus is an herb often taken medicinally for treating and preventing various conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. The plant appears to have antioxidant activity and seems to stimulate the immune system. Although preliminary evidence suggests that this supplement does indeed work, more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of these herbal products.
What Is Astragalus?
Astragalus root is an herb traditionally used in Chinese medicine to support the immune system. It is also said to be useful for treating and preventing several medical conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and others. There are more than 2,000 different species of astragalus plants, although only a few are used medicinally.
Astragalus root contains a variety of different active compounds, such as flavonoids, and it is probably a combination of these compounds that is responsible for most of the plant's medicinal properties.
Astragalus seems to have antioxidant activity and appears to stimulate the immune system in several different ways, at least in laboratory studies. There is some evidence that the supplement may stimulate stem cell production and specialization -- at least when given by IV.
Early laboratory studies indicate that the herb might work as an antibiotic and might improve sperm motility. Astragalus might cause dilation of blood vessels and increase the ability of the heart to pump blood, which could be a useful effect for a variety of different heart conditions.
Is Astragalus Effective?
Preliminary evidence suggests that the supplement may actually work for a few different uses. For instance, early research indicates that it might help prevent the common cold or may be useful for people with cancer or hepatitis.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed March 24 2009.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Herbs at a glance: astragalus (April 2008). NCCAM Web site. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/astragalus/. Accessed March 24, 2009.
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