Health Benefits of Astragalus

Astragalus, also known as milk vetch or huang qi, is a plant known for its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. The root of the plant has been used as a medicine and diet supplement for thousands of years. Known for its immune-boosting properties, it has been commonly used for ailments ranging from the common cold to diabetes. 

You can buy astragalus as a liquid extract, capsule, and tea. It may also be injected in a medical setting. 

Health Benefits

While there is still limited research on the health benefits of astragalus, it contains many active plant compounds that may be responsible for its healing properties, like strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation. 

Supports the Immune System 

The compounds in astragalus may enhance and support your immune system. Some evidence shows that astragalus may increase your body’s production of white blood cells, which can help fight off illness or infection. 

While research is limited, another study found that astragalus may help people fight viral infections, including the common cold and liver diseases. 

Improves Heart Health 

Astragalus may help to improve heart function, especially for those with certain conditions like heart failure

In a clinical study, patients with heart failure who took daily astragalus supplements alongside their treatment found that they experienced greater improvement than those who didn’t take the supplements. Some studies also suggest that astragalus may reduce symptoms of myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle. 

Manages Blood Sugar Levels

For those with type 2 diabetes, astragalus may help lower and manage blood sugar levels. 

A study showed that taking astragalus daily can improve blood sugar levels after fasting and after meals when taken for several months. While further research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of astragalus root, it’s used for diabetes management in China. 

Reduces Allergy Symptoms 

Though studies are limited, some evidence points toward astragalus as a means of reducing the symptoms of seasonal allergies. One clinical study found that taking astragalus twice daily may reduce symptoms like sneezing and runny nose in people with allergies. 

Increases Energy and Stamina

Some evidence shows that astragalus may help improve strength and stamina.

One study on mice found that astragalus improved exercise performance and reduced fatigue. While human trials may be needed to confirm these results, the research points toward a potential increase in performance and stamina during exercise. Another study found that astragalus — when combined with other supplements — may reduce symptoms of fatigue in those with chronic fatigue syndrome

Continued

Health Risks

While there are few risks of astragalus use, some side effects have been reported, including: 

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Runny nose

It may be safe for most people to use, but astragalus may interact poorly with some medications — and people with certain medical conditions should consult a doctor before using it. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with autoimmune diseases, and people taking immunosuppressant drugs should avoid taking astragalus.

Amount and Dosage

Astragalus root can be found as a capsule, liquid extract, or tea. Some recommend boiling the astragalus directly into a tea to release its active compounds. 

While there's no official recommendation for the most effective astragalus dosage, 9 to 30 grams per day is a typical dose. However, you should consult a doctor if you’re looking to use astragalus to supplement treatment for a medical condition, as some doses may be more effective than others. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 05, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

The American Journal of Chinese Medicine: "Astragalus membranaceus: A Review of its Protection Against Inflammation and Gastrointestinal Cancers."

American Journal of Public Health: "Chinese herbal medicine and interferon in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials."

Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine: "Astragalus membranaceus injection combined with conventional treatment for viral myocarditis: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials."

Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine: "Effects of astragalus on cardiac function and serum tumor necrosis factor-alpha level in patients with chronic heart failure."

Chinese Journal of Modern Developments in Traditional Medicine: "Effect of lixu jieyu recipe in treating 75 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome."

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Astragalus."

Integrative Cancer Therapies: "Immune system effects of echinacea, ginseng, and astragalus: a review."

Institute for Traditional Medicine: "An Introduction to Chinese Herbs."

Institute for Traditional Medicine: "Astragalus."

Journal of Ethnopharmacology: "The effect of Astragalus as an adjuvant treatment in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A (preliminary) meta-analysis."

Molecules: "Astragalus membranaceus improves exercise performance and ameliorates exercise-induced fatigue in trained mice."

Mount Sinai: "Astragalus."

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Astragalus."

Phytotherapy Research: "Efficacy and safety of Astragalus membranaceus in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis."

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.