Five ways astragalus helps your body heal itself
With a healing reputation in Eastern medicine that's already thousands of years old, the astragalus herb, renowned for its ability to deeply strengthen the immune system, is becoming even more widely used in Western treatments as well.
Derived from a perennial plant native to China, Mongolia and Korea, the plant's root is dried, prepared into a tincture, tablet or topical treatment, and applied as a natural remedy for all kinds of health conditions, from fatigue, ulcers and liver toxicity, to diabetes, blood pressure and circulation, and even cancer. The potency of this amazing herb is now so widely acknowledged that even the conventional medical community has begun using its isolated compounds as a base ingredient in certain prescription medications.
One of the features that makes astragalus so uniquely effective is the presence of a particular class of polysaccharides, which help to reduce inflammation, regulate blood flow and activate immune cells. It also has antioxidant effects, protecting cells against damage by free radicals, as well as adaptogenic effects, meaning it helps the body respond and adapt more positively to environmental stress factors, both physiological and psychological.
Of the seemingly numberless useful healing applications of astragalus, the following are among the most commonly recognized:
Recovery from cancer
Based on the understanding that common cancer treatments actually make patients more vulnerable to other illnesses by suppressing immune function, Chinese researchers set out in the 1970s to determine whether astragalus might help. What they found was that astragalus not only helped; it made the difference in life or death for some. By stimulating an otherwise depressed and ravaged bone marrow tissue into producing more white blood cells, the body's first line of defense, building up their sensitivity to harmful micro-organisms and thereby guarding against gastrointestinal poisoning, astragalus effectively increased survival rates among cancer patients.
Due to its powerful antioxidant properties, recent Chinese studies suggest that astragalus may play a helpful role in relieving symptoms of severe forms of heart disease, as well as improving overall heart function.
Cellular health gets a boost from astragalus, which helps to slow your DNA's degradation over time. Serving a function similar to the plastic caps on the tips of shoelaces, small pieces of DNA called telomeres help to keep chromosomes from unraveling. With each new cell replication; however, these telomeres become gradually shorter, until at last they are no longer useful. Clinical studies on mice have demonstrated the ability of astragalus root extract in helping extend the length, and therefore the life, of these precious telomeres.
Diabetes and blood sugar
Generally speaking, diabetics may do quite well on astragalus. One study has reportedly found that astragalus root can actually help to balance blood sugar - not just lower it, mind you, but balance it. Effectively, that means when blood glucose levels are too low, this amazing herb can help to raise it; conversely, when blood glucose levels creep too high, it can help to lower it. In this way, astragalus root may actually help protect against all kinds of symptoms and possible complications resulting from irregular blood sugar levels.
Seasonal allergies and colds
One study has shown astragalus may be beneficial in reducing symptoms related to allergic rhinitis and hay fever. Plus, due to its apparent antibacterial and antiviral properties, it is also used commonly in traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment or prevention of colds and influenza; though, in some cases it may actually worsen symptoms, especially when given to children with fever.
When used properly and at the appropriate dosages (no more than 25 grams per day), astragalus appears to offer maximum health benefits with very low risk for side effects. Very high doses, on the other hand, may actually work to suppress immune function. Astragalus may also react negatively with other herbal treatments or medications, especially lithium, or drugs designed to suppress the immune system; so be sure to do some research before you begin taking it. Questions also remain about its safety for those with health conditions labeled as "autoimmune," such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It is typically not recommended for use by pregnant women and nursing mothers. As with any treatment, conventional or alternative, it is strongly recommended to consult your preferred health professional with any questions and concerns you may have.
AIDS Breakthrough: Astragalus Root Could Replace HIV Drugs
Could an herbal therapy that's been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to strengthen the immune system hold the key to an effective treatment for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, better known as AIDS? A new study by scientists at the UCLA AIDS Institute says that's possible.
The research, set to be published in the Journal of Immunology November 15th, concludes astragalus root contains a substance that could make it a powerful weapon in the fight against the HIV virus that causes AIDS. "This has the potential to be either added to or possibly even replace the HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy), which is not tolerated well by some patients and is also costly," co-author Rita Effros, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and member of the UCLA AIDS Institute, said in a press statement.
So what specifically appears to make astragalus effective in treating HIV infection? The key finding in the UCLA study shows a substance in the herbal therapy prevents or slows down the progressive shortening of a part of immune system cells called telomeres.
Generally speaking, astragalus is a relatively safe herb which can be used for long-term immune support. However, persons with fever or autoimmune diseases should exercise caution. It should also be noted that astragalus should be used as part of a comprehensive healing regime and not as a standalone "cure" for any disease.
Astragalus "super herb" protects, supports immune system function
Astragalus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for literally thousands of years. Today, in the western world, it's being rediscovered as a powerful adaptogenic herb with a remarkable ability to balance and boost immune function. With more and more people concerned about immune function today -- especially with the swine flu pandemic on peoples' minds -- ancient herbs like astragalus are experiencing a resurgence in interest.
Here, we present a unique collection of supporting research quotes about astragalus and how it protects and enhances the immune system. Feel free to forward this information to friends, family members or coworkers who may benefit from it.
Astragalus and the immune system
One of the best known herbs used in Chinese medicine, astragalus strengthens the digestion and stimulates the immune system. It also aids adrenal gland function, acts as a diuretic and dilates blood vessels. Astragalus can be used to boost the immune system in people who frequently suffer from infections such as colds. It can also be used in convalescence and to aid in cancer treatment and recovery from chemotherapy. Astragalus should not be used in cases of acute infections or fevers.
Astragalus is one of the best-researched immune system stimulants now available. It works like echinacea, in that both herbs increase the number and activity of immune cells. However, astragalus concentrates on building the immune system, and unlike echinacea, it can be taken on a daily basis. Echinacea boosts immune system activity and promotes fast recovery, especially when taken at the onset of symptoms. The most potent formulas have a peculiar tingling and numbing effect on the tongue.
Examples of popular adaptogenic herbs include astragalus, Reishi, Siberian ginseng, and glycyrrhiza, also known as licorice root. The herb astragalus has been researched thoroughly and is available from an abundance of sources. Studies have revealed that astragalus is quite effective in enhancing immune function and can be used to treat a wide variety of illnesses, ranging from the common cold to cancer. Instead of directly attacking infectious organisms, astragalus aids the body by fortifying the existing immune system.
Another traditional energy tonic, astragalus strengthens the immune system and is good for both digestion and lung function.
Astragalus was originally used in China for a variety of reasons including immune system support, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Dr. Mauligit of Texas University found it helped to restore immune function in cancer patients. Astragalus helps to invigorate vital energy, drain pus, reduce swelling and strengthen the spleen. It is helpful for lingering diarrhea. It has been shown to augment interferon response to viruses.
Astragalus (Huang chi root) in Chinese medicine, is known to strengthen the body's natural defenses that involve the immune system. It is one of the main herbs used in fu-zheng therapy to enhance the immune system during chemo and radiation therapy. It seems to increase not only interferon levels but also natural killer-cell and T-cell activity. It also makes the T-cells more aggressive. Astragalus has been shown to have liver-protective activity against a number of toxic substances, including carbon tetrachloride.
Research in animals has shown that Astragalus apparently works by stimulating several factors of the immune system, including enhancing phagocytic activity of monocytes and macrophages, increasing interferon production and natural killer cell activity, enhancing T-cell activity, and potentiating other antiviral mechanisms. Astragalus appears particularly useful in cases where the immune system has been damaged by chemicals or radiation. In immunodepressed mice, astragalus has been found to reverse the T-cell abnormalities caused by cyclophosphamide, radiation, and aging.
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Schisandra berries and astragalus root work in synergy to heal the liver - Study
The liver is an amazing filtration system for the entire body. It not only processes the body's blood but also breaks down nutrients for cellular utilization throughout the body. It produces cholesterol to help transport fats, generates proteins for blood plasma and eliminates bile through the gall bladder. The liver also removes bacteria from the bloodstream and filters out any poisonous substances. Signs of a weak liver can be observed through poor skin conditions.
The liver can regenerate itself
The most amazing aspect of the liver is that it can regenerate itself. Researchers are finding new ways to aid the liver in this cellular regeneration process. Certain wild and whole foods contain powerful phytonutrients that restore liver cells. Research from the Second Military Medical University, in Shanghai, China, found that schisandra berries and astragalus root work together in synergy to powerfully restore the liver.
Study shows synergestic miracles of schisandra berries and astragalus root for healing the liver
A group of active compounds called lignans, found in schisandra berries, were studied for their antioxidant role in compromised liver cells of Sprague-Dawley rats.
Polysaccharides, which are long chains of polymeric carbohydrate molecules, were obtained from astragalus root and combined with the lignans from the schisandra berries. The combination proved to be more effective for regenerating liver cells than stand-alone treatments.
Documenting the liver damage
In the study, male Sprague-Dawley rats were burdened with toxic amounts of carbon tetrachloride. This poisoning period lasted three months and significantly elevated serum alanine aminotransferase levels (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase levels (AST), malondialdehyde (MDA) and alkaline phosphatase activities (ALP). There were no observed changes in the livers of control rats. The poisoning also lowered levels of reduced glutathione (GSH), catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Restoring the liver cells using schizandra and astragalus
After the carbon tetrachloride liver poisoning was documented and complete, the researchers began administering schisandra treatments (450 mg/kg), astragalus treatments (135 mg/kg) and combination treatments to compare the differences.
The treatments lowered levels of serum ALT, AST, ALP and hepatic MDA concentration in the liver, as well as raised SOD and CAT activities, and GSH concentration. The evidence was becoming clear: these herbal treatments speed up the regeneration of the liver.
In the end, the most powerful and stunning results came from the combination groups. When schisandra and astagulus are used together, severe fatty degeneration of the liver is reduced to only "mild damage." Researchers saw the changes directly through histopathological examinations. All indication showed that schisandra and astagalus are liver-protective, exhibiting powerful antioxidant properties in a synergistic manner. The lignans from the berries and the polysaccharides from the root combine naturally to regenerate liver cells.
In TCM, this herb is used for night sweats, chi deficiency (characterized by fatigue, weakness and poor appetite/digestion) and diarrhea. It also helps persons who are susceptible to asthma and people with diabetes. Huang Qi is typically used in herbal formulas comprising also of other herbs, and it's also added to rice and soups.
An important effect of Astragalus is in its ability to fortify the “Upright Qi.” Upright Qi is the energy allocated by the body to maintain upright posture and to maintain the position of the organs in their healthy position in their battle with gravity. As one gets older, this Upright Qi is naturally depleted.
Astragalus promotes healthy skin.
Astragalus helps to support healthy functioning of the excretory and nervous systems.
Astragalus has been shown to optimize sperm motility.
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Who can use it?
As an energizer, Astragalus is famed for its strengthening effects on the outside of the body, in particular to the musculature. It is therefore beneficial in particular to younger adults, who tend to be physically active and require abundant external energy. Astragalus is used to strengthen the legs and arms, and is commonly used by people who work outdoors, especially in the cold, because of its strengthening and warming nature.
What are herbal extracts?
Herbal extracts are an excellent way of getting the nutrition and goodness from a herb, without the trouble of sometimes elaborate preparation. They are also a way of getting the goodness in as concentrated a form as possible.
How are herbal extracts made? The raw herbs are prepared by hot water extraction, the water is then evaporated off until all that is
lelf is the essential oils and active ingredients. These are then bound together in an
excipient, small amounts of non-GM corn flour. This is the most pure and unadulterated way to enjoy tonic herbal extracts possible.
Purity: This vegan product is free from wheat, gluten,
soya, added sugar, salt, test, lactose, preservatives, or any other fillers. Not tested on animals.Directions: these tonic herbs are food grade and safe to use as you would culinary herbs. They can be added to any foods or drinks. Suggested uses are either to add 1/2 a teaspoon to a healthy juice or
smoothie, or to prepare them as an instant tonic tea, but simply putting 1/2 a teaspoon in a cup or mug, and adding hot water.
Recommended upper limit: do not exceed 1 teaspoon of herbal extract today unless guided to by a qualified
Certain herbs have beneficial adaptive properties that they pass on to those who consume them to support healthy function. Ginseng has been given the Greek name, Panax, which means "all curing" as it has remarkable adaptogenic qualities that benefit individuals no matter what phase of life or stressors they are encountering.
There are three major types of ginseng: American, Chinese and Siberian. All of these are considered adaptogenic herbs due to their ability to help us adapt effectively to physical, emotional and environmental stressors. Ginseng root was so valuable to the Chinese for its medicinal qualities that it was prized beyond gold.
Often times, the whole plant is consumed altogether, but the root is the most highly prized part of the plant, as it contains the richest source of adaptogenic molecules. The major active compounds in ginseng are ginsenosides, which are saponin molecules in the roots of the plant. These saponins contain a 4 trans-ring rigid steroid skeleton. The various ginsenosides are referred to as Rb1, Rb2, Rb3, Rc, Rd, Re, etc.
Ginseng enhances the overall circulatory patterns in the body, which brings fresh oxygen to major regions and improves cellular energy production. It also helps calm and balance the adrenal function, allowing for optimal stress hormone release. This mechanism has been shown to improve blood sugar signaling in individuals with diabetes and boost energy levels in those with chronic fatigue syndrome.
It has also been thought to strengthen the digestive system, facilitate liver regeneration and detoxify poisons. It also boosts red blood cell formation and has the ability to prevent or help to eliminate anemia. It also enhances blood flow to the brain, which reduces inflammatory neurodegenerative states and improves creative thinking and memory.
The health benefits of American ginseng:
American ginseng grows wild throughout the Appalachian and Ozark regions of the United States and into regions of Canada. It is also commonly found in areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
American ginseng is thought in Oriental Medicine to take on the yin characteristics of cooling, relaxing and calming qualities. Studies have shown that it contains more Rb1, Rd and Re ginsenosides in comparison to Chinese ginseng. But has no Rf and much lower ratio of Rg:R1 than Asian ginseng. This cooling effect is good for people with anxiety, anger, high stress and high blood pressure among other things. It is also particularly good for the lungs and spleen.
This is also called Panax ginseng and is thought in Oriental Medicine to have the yang qualities of warming, stimulating and energizing. This is due to the increased Rg1:Rb1 ratio. Rg1 is a stimulant of the central nervous system while Rb1 is a depressant of the central nervous system. This is the biochemical rationale for the increased stimulation people get from Chinese or Asian ginseng.
Chinese or Asian ginseng is particularly good for those with cold hands, low energy, low libido and mental lethargy. The increased central nervous system activity will benefit these conditions.
Siberian ginseng is also called Eleuthero and is found in Northeastern Asia regions of China, Japan and Russia. This is from the same family but a different genus than the Panax species. This is used commonly by Russian athletes and has been credited for improving their strength, stamina, coordination and balance.
Siberian ginseng contains eleutherosides, which are chemically different from ginsenosides. These eleutherosides contain polysaccharides that help stimulate the immune system. This herb grows in colder climates and has adapted effectively to this environmental stress. In humans, it helps boost our mental function and ability to overcome cold and flu symptoms.
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