Astragalus has been found to be exceptionally effective for the immune system. Clinical studies have shown that astragalus both protects the human heart from Coxsackie b2 virus and helps repair damage in previously infected people. Other studies have shown that astragalus enhances the body’s own natural killer cell activity.
As an anti-tumor agent, astragalus prevented cancer metastasis in 80 percent of mice tested. Still other studies have shown that astragalus stimulated T-cell activity and restores immune function in cancer patients with impaired immune functions. The action of astragalus is comprehensive. Robyn Landis and K. P. Khalsa note that “astragalus stimulates phagocytosis aggressiveness of their activity. Increased macrophage activity has been measured as lasting up to seventy-two hours. It increases the number of stem cells (the ‘generic’ cells that can become any type needed) in the marrow and lymph tissue, stimulates their maturation into active immune cells, increases spleen activity, increases releases of antibodies, and boost the production of hormonal messenger molecules that signal for virus destruction.” And as Rob McCaleb noted in HerbalGram 21 (summer 1988) researchers at the University of Texas Medical Center found that astragalus was able to completely restore the function of cancer patients’ compromised immune cells.
Finally, research has also shown that astragalus protects the liver from a variety of liver toxins, such as carbon tetrachloride and the anticancer compound stilbenemide. The liver is an important organ in the body’s immune support system. A good way to use astragalus for medicine is to make it into a soup stock or to cook rice in a strong astragalus infusion or tea. Astragalus is quite tasty and has been used this way throughout the world for many thousands of years. The sliced root should be removed after cooking and discarded as it is too fibrous to eat.
Preparations and Dosage
Astragalus may be taken as tea, in capsules, as tincture, or in food.
Tea: 2 to 3 ounces (50 to 75g) of herb to a pot of tea; drink throughout the day.
Capsules: Grind herb to powder and encapsulate; take 3 capsules 3 times a day as immune tonic.
Tincture: 1:5 with 60 percent alcohol, 30 to 60 drops up to 4 times a day.
Food: Two of the best ways to use astragalus as food are as a broth base for soups and as a rice.
Side Effects and Contraindications
No toxicity has ever been shown from the ingestion of astragalus. And the Chinese report consistent use for millennia in the treatment of colds and flu and suppressed immune function. This is certainly one of the top herbs to use to restore a depressed or damaged immune system.
3 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 cup vegetable soup stock (if desired)
2 tbsp. dried astragalus root
3 tbsp. dried garlic powder or 10 cloves peeled fresh garlic
Place all ingredients in pot and simmer for two or three hours, covered.
To use: If you feel you are getting sick make and consume the entire recipe. As a preventative take a cup or two during the week. If you use fresh garlic, eat it after the broth is done or as the broth is consumed.
Immune Enhancing Rice
3 tbsp. dried astragalus root
4 cups water
2 cups brown rice
Add astragalus to water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 hours covered. Remove from heat and let stand overnight. Remove astragalus, add water to bring back up to 4 cups, add rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until done, approximately 1 hour. Use this rice as you would any rice, as a base for meals throughout the week.
Astragalus is important to Chinese folk medicine since it enhances the body’s defenses. It has been used to treat infections of the mucous membranes of the body especially the urinary and respiratory tracts. It is commonly combined with ginseng as a prophylactic against winter colds and viruses. Some say it is used to prevent cancers. It is also said to rejuvenate the digestive organs and regulate blood sugar.
It is especially famous in cases of diabetes for reducing the complications of poor circulation such as high blood pressure and failure to heal wounds.
Astragalus contains bitter principles that are thought to be responsible for its folk medical claims. These compounds have not been characterized, but crude extracts of the root has shown a variety of important properties. Astragalus has been used to treat infections, diabetes, edema, nephritis, ulcers, and prolapse of digestive organs.
The bitter extracts of astragalus are diuretic, antiseptic and antispasmodic. One study showed that these extracts stimulate the activity of white blood cells, an important component of the immune system.
Astragalus is high or very high in:
Astragalus root contains bitter compounds that increase the flow of urine, are antiseptic, increase the productions of digestive fluids including bile and relieve muscles spasms. Astragalus also contains mucilaginous compounds that enhance immune response, increasing the production of lymphocytes and macrophages. The herb also increases heart action and lowers blood pressure and blood sugar. It has been used to treat fatigue, debility, urinary tract infections, edema, nephritis, ulcers, prolapse of organs and night sweats.
Uses: Our two favorite uses are in teas and food recipes. Like many other bulk herbs, we add it to salads, meat dishes, soups, stews, etc. in small amounts for added nutrition and fiber without affecting the flavor (it has a rather mild flavor so you hardly know it's there). Otherwise, we make it into a strong tea/infusion, and use it in place of water in many recipes. Astragalus can be used to benefit men, women (including before, during or after pregnancy, and nursing) and children. It can be used as often as you would like.
Storage: It should be kept in an airtight container and stored in a dark, dry, and cool place.
Questions?: Check out Frequently Asked Questions.