Sunday, 4 March 2012

Astralagus (Astragalus membranaceus)

Astragalus is an herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine that helps strengthen the body, prevent disease and sickness, and level out the effects of stress. In fact there is so much to say about it that cutting this draft down from pages has been real hard.

It may protect us from cancer and diabetes because the plant contains antioxidants that protect from free radicals (like pomegranate, acai and the hip Indian gooseberry). Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, for preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, to lower blood pressure, to treat diabetes, and to protect the liver. Studies have shown it to be anti-viral, and it is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Thus, it's great topically for wounds, too. It may even help with seasonal allergies!

In the United States, researchers have looked at astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy or radiation. In these studies, astragalus supplements seem to help people recover faster and live longer. Research on using astragalus for people with AIDS has produced mixed results.

Read more at the University of Maryland Medical Center

A Note About Safety

At low-to-moderate doses, astragalus has few side effects. However, it does interact with a number of other herbs and prescription medications. Astragalus may also be a mild diuretic, meaning it helps the body get rid of excess fluid. (So watch your potassium level!)

There is not much evidence about whether astragalus is safe for women who are breastfeeding or nursing. Talk to your doctor before taking any medication, including herbs.

If you take any of the following medications, you should not use astragalus without first asking your doctor:

Drugs that suppress the immune system -- Astragalus may interfere with how these drugs act. If you have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, or take cyclophosphamide, a medication used to reduce the chances of rejection in transplant recipients, or corticosteroids, do not take astragalus.

Lithium -- Astragalus can make it harder for the body to get rid of lithium, so dangerously high levels of the drug could build up.

University of Maryland Medical Center
Pictures from Hierbas Medicinales and Methow Valley Herbs

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