The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Astragalus

Astragalus

What is it?

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 taken by mouth for hay fever, diabetes, kidney disease, and to strengthen and regulate the immune system . 

Some people use astragalus as a general tonic, to protect the liver, and to fight bacteria and viruses. It is also used to prevent and reduce side effects associated with cancer treatment.

Astragalus is commonly used in combination with other herbs.

Astragalus is sometimes applied to the skin to increase blood flow to the area and to speed wound healing.

Astragalus is injected into the vein for the side effects of cancer treatment, heart failure, diabetes, lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus), and many other conditions.

There are several different species of astragalus. Some species contain a nerve toxin 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.

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for Astragalus are as follows:

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for…

  • Hay fever. Early research shows that taking a specific product containing 160 mg of astragalus root extract by mouth daily for 3-6 weeks improves symptoms such as running nose, itching, and sneezing in people with seasonal allergies.
  • Absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea). Early research shows that taking a combination of astragalus and other herbal ingredients by mouth helps improve the regularity of menstrual cycles in women with irregular menstruation.
  • Chest pain (angina). Early research shows that taking 20 grams of astragalus by mouth three times daily for 2 weeks can improve some measures of heart function in people with chest pain.
  • A condition in which the bone marrow stops making new blood cells (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 an herbal product containing astragalus and other ingredients by mouth for 6 months does not improve asthma symptoms or lung function in children with mild asthma.
  • Diarrhea caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research shows that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) daily for 21 days during each course of chemotherapy reduces diarrhea from chemotherapy treatments.
  • Diarrhea caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research shows that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) daily for 21 days during each course of chemotherapy reduces diarrhea from chemotherapy treatments.
  • Nausea and vomiting caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research shows that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) daily for 21 days during each course of chemotherapy reduces nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy treatments.
  • Tiredness in people treated with cancer drugs. Clinical research suggests that administering 500 mg of a specific astragalus extract (PG2 by Pharmagenesis) intravenously (by IV) three times weekly for 4 weeks during chemotherapy improves fatigue scores after one week but not after two and four weeks.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Early research shows that some herbal products containing astragalus and other herbal ingredients can reduce feelings of tiredness in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. However, not all doses seem to work. Also, it’s not clear if the benefit is due to astragalus or other herbal ingredients.
  • Long-term kidney disease (chronic kidney disease or CKD). Early research shows that using astragalus along with conventional drugs for kidney disease can improve some measures of kidney function compared to conventional drugs alone. However, it’s not known if astragalus can prevent death or increase the time until dialysis is needed.
  • Liver scarring (cirrhosis). Early research suggests that injecting a combination of astragalus and danshen in to the vein each day for up to 90 days might improve liver function in people with liver cirrhosis. It’s too soon to know if the improvement is due to astragalus, danshen, or the combination.
  • Heart failure and fluid build up in the body (congestive heart failure or CHF). Some early research shows that giving 60 grams of astragalus intravenously (by IV) for 20 days improves some symptoms of heart failure. However, other early research using the same dose shows no benefit. When taken by mouth along with conventional drugs for heart failure, some early research shows that astragalus can improve heart function and walking distance compared to conventional drugs alone.
  • Diabetes. Early research shows that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) or taking astragalus by mouth for up to 4 months improves fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Taking astragalus by mouth seems to improve these outcomes better than giving astragalus by IV. Taking astragalus by mouth might also improve the effect of insulin in the body. The effect of astragalus HbA1c, which gives an indication of average blood sugar over time, is unclear. Taking astragalus by mouth in combination with other herbal ingredients does not seem to improve blood sugar or insulin levels in people with diabetes.
  • Kidney damage in people with diabetes (diabetic nephropathy). Most early research shows that injecting astragalus into the vein improves some measures of kidney damage in people with diabetic nephropathy.
  • Vision problems in people with diabetes (diabetic retinopathy). Early research suggests that taking herbal products containing astragalus for up to 10 months may improve vision in some people with vision damage caused by diabetes.
  • Hearing loss. Early research shows 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.
  • HIV/AIDS. Evidence on the effects of astragalus in people with HIV/AIDS is not clear. People treated with a specific combination containing Baikal skullcap root, glossy privet fruit, astragalus root, and Eupolyphaga et polyphage (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.
  • Lung cancer. Platinum-based chemotherapy is used to treat a type of lung cancer called non-small-cell lung cancer. Analysis of early 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, two, and three years of treatment compared to platinum-based chemotherapy alone.
  • Symptoms of menopause. Early research shows that taking 3-6 grams of a specific combination of astragalus and dong quai called Dang Gui Buxue Tang might reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. However, lower doses do not seem to be effective.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the heart (myocarditis). . Several early studies have used astragalus for the treatment of viral infections of the heart, but results are not clear. The best evidence suggests that taking astragalus preparations along with conventional drugs can reduce abnormal heartbeats related to the heart infection. However, taking astragalus seems to improve only some but not all blood markers of heart damage.
  • A group of symptoms that indicate kidney damage (nephrotic syndrome). Patients with kidney disease are at a higher risk of infections. Early research shows that taking astragalus by mouth reduces infections in children with a certain kidney disease called nephrotic syndrome.
  • Obesity. Early research shows that taking a combination of astragalus with other ingredients along with a low-calorie diet does not improve weight loss in overweight or obese women.
  • Fatigue after a stroke. Early research shows that taking astragalus for 4 weeks might improve fatigue in people who recently had a stroke.
  • Kidney failure. People who undergo heart surgery have an increase risk of sudden kidney failure after surgery. Giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) before, during, and after heart surgery seems to reduce kidney failure following heart surgery.
  • An autoimmune disease that causes widespread swelling (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE) . Early research shows that giving astragalus intravenously (by IV) for 12 days each month for 3 months with conventional drugs can improve symptoms and reduce infections in people with lupus.
  • A heart condition marked by four heart defects (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.
  • Cervical cancer.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Other conditions

More evidence is needed to rate astragalus for these uses.

Astragalus seems to stimulate and increase the immune system and reduce inflammation.

When taken by mouth: Astragalus is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults . Doses of up to 60 grams per day have been safely used for up to 4 months. Astragalus may cause rash, itchy skin, nasal symptoms, or stomach discomfort. However, these events are uncommon.

When given by IV: Astragalus is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when given intravenously (by IV) under the supervision of a medical professional. Doses of 80 grams per day intravenously (by IV) have been safely administered for up to 4 months. Astragalus may cause dizziness or irregular heartbeat.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if astragalus is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. However, some research in animals suggests that astragalus can be toxic to the mother and fetus. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other immune system conditions: Astragalus might make the immune system more active. This could worsen the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. Avoid using astragalus if you have any of these conditions.

Cyclophosphamide

Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) is used to make the immune system less active. Astragalus increases the activity of the immune system. Taking astragalus along with cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) might decrease the effectiveness of cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar).

Lithium

Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Astragalus may increase urination and water removal like a “water pill” (diuretic). As a result, taking astragalus might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.

Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)

Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Astragalus increases the activity of the immune system. Taking astragalus along with medications that decrease the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.

Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

There are no known interactions with foods.

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, Huangqi, Hwanggi, Membranous Milk Vetch, Milk Vetch, Mongolian Milk, Ogi, Phaca membranacea, Radix Astragali, Radix Astragalus, Réglisse Bâtarde, Réglisse Sauvage.


 

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