Traditional Chinese medicine uses the root of the astragalus plant to enhance vitality and power. One can also take astragalus as a supplement to stimulate the immune system and reduce fatigue (feeling of tiredness more than usual).
The scientific name of the plant is Astragalus membranaceus.
The common names of astragalus are-
- Huang chi
- Huang qi
- Milk vetch
- Radix astragali
Astragalus belongs to an assembly of medicinal plants from the Leguminosae family. The root of A. membranaceus has a sustained history of use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is often used simultaneously with other herbs as a tonic to boost stamina, strength, and vitality. Extracts of astragalus are marketed as dietary supplements to improve immune function and reduce fatigue. Advantageous effects of astragalus are credited to its polysaccharides and triterpenoid saponin compounds. Some in vitro and animal studies reveal that astragalus and its elements have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral activities, along with exercising shielding impacts on the heart, kidney, bones, and the nervous system.
Astragalus also exhibited sodium-excreting properties and a viral-type immune response in small studies involving healthy beings. A recipe containing astragalus as a significant ingredient reduced fatigue in athletes; as adjuvant therapy, it assisted in controlling fatigue in stroke patients. Astragalus may benefit patients with IgA nephropathy when worked in the injectable form and is also known to lower diabetes and ketoacidosis in Chinese medicine. An astragalus-based TCM formula was also revealed to maintain residual renal function in dialysis patients; a case report, too, suggested that it may decrease proteinuria correlated with idiopathic membranous nephropathy. Not only this, but a systematic review also concluded that adjunctive use of astragalus in addition to standard therapies might be sufficient for short-term declines of albuminuria, proteinuria, and serum creatinine in patients with diabetic kidney disease. However, additional research is demanded to ascertain long-term safety and efficacy.
Astragalus also exhibits properties against stomach cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, and ovarian cancers in preclinical studies. Its simultaneous treatment with aldesleukin potentiated tumoricidal activity while lessening the side effects. Astragalus was efficient in protecting against oxaliplatin neurotoxicity and also improved platinum-based chemotherapy. Its saponins were proved in inverting the toxicities of fluorouracil and expanding the therapeutic benefits of vinblastine, in conjunction with reducing the neutropenic and anemic effects.
Despite generally being safe due to the antioxidant and estrogenic effects, astragalus may seldom intervene with some anticoagulants, diuretics, antihypertensive drugs, and chemotherapeutic drugs, impacting hormone-sensitive cancers. However, these conclusions are based on preclinical studies and cannot be extrapolated to clinical guidance. The physiological concentration used in these studies is questionable in humans, making it tricky to foretell the downstream effects/interactions.
MECHANISM OF ACTION
The chief components of astragalus are polysaccharides, triterpenoid saponins, and flavonoids manifesting antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and immunomodulating results. In vitro research suggests that saponin astragaloside graduates osteoblastic differentiation by managing the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway. Cardioprotective outcomes from astragaloside IV may happen via the notch1/hes1 signaling pathway. In addition, it expands fibrinolytic potential via improvement in tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA) synthesis and downregulation of PA inhibitor type 1 (PAI-1). Additional anticoagulant activities are credited to the upregulation of KLF2 mRNA character and inhibition of the NF-kB signaling pathway.
Mechanisms by which astragalus and its components may exercise anticancer effects have also been investigated. Astragalus overpowered chromosome organization, histone modification, and regulation of macromolecule metabolism, plus numerous cancer signaling pathways in human colorectal cancer cell lines. Saponins caused S phase and G2/M arrest and repressed p21 expression and cyclin-dependent kinase action. Modulation of mTOR signaling and COX2 downregulation also occurred, reducing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels to overcome angiogenesis. Caspase 3 activations, G2/M phase cell cycle arrest, cyclin B1, p21 and c-myc regulation, and downregulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 took place in gastric adenocarcinoma cells. In conjunction with vinblastine, saponins heightened the downregulation of proangiogenic and proliferative factors while attenuating neutropenia and anemia recognized with this chemotherapy. These saponins may also exert more notable apoptotic effects in combination with calpain inhibitors. Polysaccharides potentiate the immune-mediated antitumor action of interleukin-2 in vitro, promote lymphocyte responses, intensify natural killer cell activity, potentiate monocyte activity, boost phagocytosis perhaps by regulating tumor necrosis factor generation, and activate macrophages to liberate nitric oxide as well as tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which immediately obstructs the growth of breast cancer cells. Apoptotic effects by polysaccharides in hepatocellular carcinoma cells were credited to lowered Notch1 expression.
Formononetin procured from astragalus was determined to have estrogen-receptor-modulating effects. Angiogenic effects of astragaloside IV seemed synergized when merged with ferulic acid from Angelica Sinensis.
APPLICATIONS AND DOSAGE
Astragalus can be used as a single herb but is frequently administered in alliance with other Chinese herbs chosen depending on the TCM analysis.
Astragalus can be offered as a decoction, aqueous injection, alcohol extraction (tincture), dried or powdered root, or standardized extract. The dose differs depending on the route of administration and situation. The oral amount of aqueous decoctions has ranged from 3-6g of dried root per 350ml water to 60g daily. Extracts of 2.8g three times daily have been adopted for post-stroke fatigue, and 4.5g-15g daily have been employed in congestive heart failure. Standard dosing of dried root ranges from 2-4.8g.
For cancer, the most popular route of administration is injectables of Astragalus or Astragalus polysaccharides at a dose of 250-500mg numerous times, either weekly or daily.
Astragalus finds its uses to :
- Fortify the immune system
- Boost stamina and strength
- Diminish nausea (feeling to throw up) and vomiting (throwing up) caused as a result of chemotherapy.
- Lessen cancer-related fatigue Have a transparent conversation with your healthcare provider regarding taking supplements.
There are no acknowledged contraindications to astragalus. Theoretically, given the immune-modulating characteristics of astragalus, it may have the potential to exacerbate auto-immune health. It thus should be used guardedly by anyone with auto-immune conditions, mainly if it is not well managed.
The side effects were reported in a study but are known to last for only 24 hours :
- Fatigue (feeling weaker than usual)
- Low blood pressure
- Immunosuppressants: Apparently, astragalus may antagonize the effects of immunosuppressants such as tacrolimus and cyclosporine. Clinical importance is yet unknown.
- Hormonal therapies: Astragalus and its ingredients have estrogenic properties and may hinder their actions. Clinical relevance is unknown.
- Anticoagulants: In vitro studies recommend that astragalus and its constituents have anticoagulant properties, increasing bleeding risk when used with these drugs.
- Diuretics: In a small study, astragalus was proved to have natriuretic effects and may have additive effects with these medications.
- Antihypertensive drugs: Astragalus extract can lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and may have additive effects with other antihypertensive medicines.
- P-glycoprotein substrates: Astragalus polysaccharides can restrain P-glycoprotein efflux pump function. This inhibited pump function may increase the cytotoxicity of chemotherapy medications, including doxorubicin, etoposide, and vincristine. Clinical relevance is unknown.
- Gemcitabine: Pre-treatment with an astragalus extract was pronounced to affect the pharmacokinetics of gemcitabine in a murine model. Clinical relevance is unknown.
- If you’re on blood thinners such as warfarin. Astragalus can raise your chance of bleeding.
- If you’re using immunosuppressants (medications that undermine your immune system). Astragalus can render them less effective.
- If you’re taking medicines to drop your blood pressure. Astragalus by itself has the quality of lowering blood pressure. Taking both of them together can bring down the blood pressure to dangerous levels.
- If you’re on diuretics, also called water pills. Astragalus may amplify their effects.