What Is Astragalus Good For? 10 Potential Benefits

Medically Reviewed on 8/11/2022
What Is Astragalus Good For
Learn about the potential health benefits and side effects of astragalus

Astragalus, sometimes called milk vetch or Huang qi, is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for its purported health benefits.

Astragalus is referred to as an adaptogen, which means that it aids in protecting the body from stress. The antioxidant content in astragalus offers protection against cell damage, which can help lower the risk of diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

Astragalus also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which are believed to help strengthen the immune system, protect the liver, lower blood pressure, help manage diabetes, and prevent colds and upper respiratory infections.

Learn about the potential health benefits and side effects of astragalus.

How does astragalus work?

Astragalus supplements are often made from the root of the plant, with most supplements using Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus which are two species of the plant that are used medicinally.

Saponins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides are active substances found in several plants and are the components of astragalus that enable the plant to have such a favorable effect on human health. 

  • Saponins have a reputation for lowering cholesterol, boosting the immune system, and preventing cancer.
  • Flavonoids promote health through cell signaling. They have antioxidative properties, combating free radicals and aiding in the prevention of disease.
  • Polysaccharides have antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties, among other benefits.

10 potential health benefits of astragalus

1. Improves heart health

According to studies, flavonoids found in astragalus have cardioprotective properties, preventing plaque buildup in the arteries and narrowing blood vessel walls by protecting the inner wall of the vessel. Moreover, flavonoids can help lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

2. Boosts the immune system

Astragalus contains antioxidants that can help strengthen the immune system and protect cells against disease-causing free radicals. 

Astragalus can also boost resistance to infections because it has natural antibacterial properties. Many people use astragalus as a home remedy for the common cold or flu. However, similar to many other natural cold cures, it appears to work best when healthy people regularly take the supplement to fend off sickness before it arises.

3. Helps treat diabetes

Studies have shown that astragalus can naturally treat insulin resistance and diabetes

Saponins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides are all effective in treating and managing types I and II diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity, protecting pancreatic beta cells (which produce and release insulin), and acting as an anti-inflammatory in areas associated with diabetes symptoms.

4. Protects kidney health

People with diabetes often suffer from kidney disease. Recent human and animal studies have suggested that astragalus may be able to protect the kidneys and slow the progression of kidney problems in people with diabetes.

5. Good for the skin

Astragalus promotes tissue growth and may help boost skin health. It is used in some skincare products to help treat wrinkles and age spots.

6. May reduce side effects of chemotherapy

According to some studies, astragalus can promote faster healing and help alleviate some of the side effects of chemotherapy. Astragalus has been administered intravenously together with other Chinese herbs to treat nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and bone marrow suppression. Preliminary studies report that it has the potential to reduce these symptoms while improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

7. May relieve seasonal allergies

Although astragalus is not a cure for seasonal allergies, including it in the overall treatment has been shown to be beneficial in reducing symptoms such as runny nose or sneezing.

8. May help treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

In one study, an inhaled version of astragalus enhanced forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and FEV1/forced vital capacity 14 days following treatment in people with COPD. According to researchers, it improved the immune system in people with acute COPD exacerbations. However, further research is needed before astragalus can be recommended for COPD.

9. Provides supplemental treatment for chronic asthma

Astragalus has been used to treat chronic asthma and is an effective supplemental therapy. After treatment, tests have shown that inflammation, mucus production, and airway hypersensitivity can be significantly reduced. 

10. Improves male reproductive health

Some studies have suggested that astragalus can help increase male fertility by boosting sperm motility, sperm count, and the production of mature sperm. Flavonoids and other active ingredients in astragalus are thought to be responsible for this effect. 


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Can astragalus cause side effects?

Although astragalus is typically well tolerated, it can cause minor side effects such as:

Who should avoid astragalus?

Astragalus can interact with medications as well as other herbs and supplements. You may need to avoid astragalus if you are taking the following medications:

  • Antivirals: Theoretically, astragalus may alter the efficacy of antiviral drugs such as acyclovir and amantadine.
  • Blood pressure medications: Astragaloside IV (AS-IV), a triterpene saponin derived from Astragalus membranaceus, has been shown to have blood pressure-lowering properties. There may be interactions between astragalus and blood pressure drugs although not all astragalus preparations will be standardized to a fixed proportion of AS-IV.
  • Cancer therapies: One animal study reported that astragalus can reduce estrogen levels. Theoretically, it may reduce the effectiveness of some cancer medicines that block estrogen. 
  • Diuretics and drugs affected by diuretics: Astragalus may have diuretic properties. This can affect how well your body metabolizes certain medications and potentially interacts with other diuretics.
  • Immunomodulators: Astragalus has immune-boosting properties. It may therefore interact with medications that suppress the immune system, such as tacrolimus and cyclosporine, as well as medications that stimulate the immune system.

There is not enough information to determine whether astragalus is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women or those with underlying medical conditions.

Should you take astragalus supplements?

Astragalus supplements have not been tested for safety, and because dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. 

Although astragalus is being studied for its health benefits, more high-quality human studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn about the safety or effectiveness of astragalus supplements 

If you are considering taking astragalus, talk to a licensed nutritionist, pharmacist, or physician. It is important to remember that no supplement can treat, cure, or prevent disease.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/11/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Astragalus Root: Heart Benefits and Side Effects: https://www.webmd.com/heart/astragalus-root-heart-benefits-side-effects

Astragalus - Uses, Side Effects, and More: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-963/astragalus

Astragalus: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/astragalus

Astragalus: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/astragalus

Astragalus: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/astragalus#:~:text=Astragalus%20is%20used%20to%20protect,the%20skin%20for%20wound%20care