Astragalus

What other names is Astragalus known by?

Astragale, Astragale à Feuilles de Réglisse, Astragale Queue-de-Renard, Astragale Réglissier, Astragali, Astragalo, Astragalus Membranaceus, Astragalus mongholicus, Astragli Membranceus, Beg Kei, Bei Qi, Buck Qi, Chinese Astragalus, Huang Qi, Huang Se, Hwanggi, Membranous Milk Vetch, Milk Vetch, Mongolian Milk, Ogi, Phaca membranacea, Radix Astragali, Radix Astragalus, Réglisse Bâtarde, Réglisse Sauvage.

What is Astragalus?

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.

Is Astragalus effective?

There isn't enough information to know if astragalus is effective for the conditions people use it for, including: common cold, chest pain, diabetes, and cancer.

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.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • 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 (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.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Cervical cancer.
More evidence is needed to rate astragalus for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


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