Astragalus is an herb. The root is used to make medicine.
Astragalus is used for many conditions, but so far, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to determine whether or not it is effective for any of them.
Astragalus is used for the common cold, upper respiratory infections, allergies, fibromyalgia, anemia, HIV/AIDS, and to strengthen and regulate the immune system. It is also used for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), kidney disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Some people use astragalus as a general tonic, to protect the liver, and to fight bacteria and viruses.
Astragalus is commonly used in combination with other herbs. For example, in combination with Ligustrum lucidum (glossy privet), astragalus is used orally for treating breast cancer, cervical cancer, and lung cancer.
Astragalus is sometimes applied to the skin to increase blood flow to the area and to speed wound healing.
There are several different species of astragalus. Some species contain a toxin called swainsonine and have been linked to livestock poisonings. Some of these species include Astragalus lentiginosus, Astragalus mollissimus, and others. However, these species of astragalus are usually not found in dietary supplements used by humans. Most astragalus supplements contain Astragalus membranaceus.
How does it work?
Astragalus seems to stimulate and increase the immune system.
Possibly Effective for:
- Reducing side effects of chemotherapy. Early research suggests that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) or using Chinese herbal mixtures containing astragalus might reduce nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and bone marrow suppression (a decrease in the cells that provide immunity) that is associated with chemotherapy treatments.
- Diabetes. Early research suggests that astragalus, given intravenously (by IV) or taken by mouth as a combination product, might help control blood sugar and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Seasonal allergies. Early research shows that taking a specific astragalus root extract (Lectranal, Milsing d.o.o., Croatia) by mouth for 3-6 weeks improves symptoms such as running nose, itching, and sneezing in people with seasonal allergies.
- Chest pain (angina). Early research shows that taking astragalus by mouth three times daily for 2 weeks can improve heart function in people with chest pain. Also, giving a solution containing astragalus, Panax ginseng, and dong quai (Yi-qi-huo-xue, China) intravenously (by IV) seems to reduce the severity and frequency of chest pain and improve the ability to exercise.
- Lack of new blood cells from bone marrow (aplastic anemia). Early research shows that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) together with the steroid stanozolol improves symptoms and blood cell counts more than just the steroid alone in people with aplastic anemia.
- Asthma. Early research shows that taking a combination of astragalus, cordyceps, Radix stemone (Bai Bu), bulbus fritillariae cirrhosae, and Baikal skullcap by mouth for 6 months does not improve asthma symptoms or lung function in children with mild asthma.
- Athletic performance. Early research shows that taking a combination of astragalus and six other herbs (Huangqi Jianzhong Tang) by mouth for 8 weeks increases athletic performance in young athletes.
- An inherited blood disorder called beta-thalassemia. People with beta-thalassemia have a shortage of a certain blood protein, called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is found on red blood cells and carries oxygen throughout the body. People with beta-thalassemia also have a shortage of red blood cells. Early research in children and adolescents shows that taking astragalus by mouth daily, alone or with other herbs, improves hemoglobin and red blood cell levels in people with beta-thalassemia
- Chronic fatigue syndrome. Early research shows that taking herbal mixtures containing astragalus by mouth can reduce feelings of tiredness in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Heart failure. Some early research shows that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) for 7-30 days or taking astragalus twice daily for 14-30 days improves some symptoms of heart failure.
- Hearing loss. Early research suggests that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) daily for 10 days can improve hearing in people with sudden deafness or hearing loss caused by very loud noise.
- Hepatitis B. Early research shows that taking certain Chinese herbal combinations containing astragalus by mouth for up to 48 weeks can increase the chance of the hepatitis virus becoming inactive in the body in people with hepatitis B.
- HIV/AIDS. Evidence on the effects of astragalus in people with HIV/AIDS is inconsistent. People treated with a specific combination containing Baikal skullcap root, glossy privet fruit, astragalus root, and Eupolyphaga et polyphasee (Ailing granules) for 4 months show improvements in HIV/AIDs symptoms and immune function. However, taking a different combination containing licorice, yin chen, white mulberry, astragalus, and safflower by mouth for 12 weeks does not show the same benefits.
- Infections associated with a certain kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome. Early research shows that taking astragalus, as Huangqi oral granules (China), reduces infections in children with nephrotic syndrome.
- Lung cancer. Platinum-based chemotherapy is used to treat a type of lung cancer called non-small-cell lung cancer. Analysis of research suggests that taking herbal products containing astragalus along with platinum-based chemotherapy can reduce the risk of death in people with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer after one year of treatment compared to platinum-based chemotherapy alone.
- Menopausal symptoms. An early study suggests that taking a specific combination of astragalus and dong quai (Dang Gui Buxue Tang, China) does not reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.
- Menstrual disorders. Early research shows that taking certain Chinese herbal combinations containing astragalus by mouth might help improve the regularity of menstrual cycles in women with menstrual disorders.
- Heart attack. Early evidence suggests that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) might improve heart function in people hospitalized due to a heart attack.
- Kidney disease. Several early studies show possible beneficial effects of astragalus for people with various types of kidney disease. Giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) or taking astragalus by mouth along with burdock seems to improve kidney function in people with kidney disease caused by diabetes. Similar findings were found in other studies for other astragalus preparations, which were given as a shot into the muscle or taken by mouth in people with various types of kidney disease.
- Kidney failure. Giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) prior to, during, and following a certain type of heart surgery seems to protect against kidney failure following surgery.
- A chronic inflammatory disease called systemic lupus erythematosus. Early research shows that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) for 12 days monthly for a total of 3 months can improve symptoms and reduce infections in people with systemic lupus erythematosus.
- A heart condition called tetralogy of Fallot. Giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) along with conventional treatment for 7 days after surgery to correct a heart condition called tetralogy of Fallot seems to improve heart function and reduce time until recovery compared to conventional treatment alone.
- Infection in the heart (viral myocarditis). Several studies have used astragalus for the treatment of viral myocarditis. However, results are inconsistent. Some studies show some benefits, while others do not.
- Weight loss. Early research in healthy women suggests that taking a combination of astragalus, rhubarb, turmeric, red sage root, ginger, and gallic acid with a low-calorie diet does not improve weight loss.
- Cervical cancer.
Side Effects & Safety
Astragalus is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken appropriately by mouth or intravenously (by IV). Doses of up to 30 grams/day by mouth for 3 months, 40 grams/day by mouth for 2 months, or 80 grams/day intravenously (by IV) for one month have been used safely. The side effects of astragalus are not known.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the safety of astragalus in humans during pregnancy and breast-feeding. However, some research in animals suggests that astragalus can be toxic to the mother and fetus. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other immune system conditions: Astragalus might make the immune system more active. This could worsen the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. Avoid using astragalus if you have any of these conditions.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) interacts with ASTRAGALUS
Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) is used to decrease the immune system. Astragalus increases the immune system. Taking astragalus along with cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) might decrease the effectiveness of cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar).
- Lithium interacts with ASTRAGALUS
Astragalus might have an effect like a water pill or "diuretic." Taking astragalus might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.
- Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants) interacts with ASTRAGALUS
Astragalus increases the immune system. Taking astragalus along with medications that decrease the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
The appropriate dose of astragalus depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for astragalus. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.