Known as an organ toning and balancing herb, Astragalus provides a powerful stimulus to the immune system.
Astragalus is the dried root of a perennial that attains a height of about 20 feet and is grown in Northern China.
According to traditional Chinese Medicine, Astragalus is classified as a warm, sweet tonic that enhances the functioning of the spleen and lung. It is recommended for general strengthening, treating excessive perspiration, eliminating toxins and promoting the healing of damaged tissues. In addition, it is used for the treatment of edema, night sweats, skin ulcerations and abscesses.
Analysis of Astragalus has revealed some of the following components that are responsible for its active effect: polysaccharides, gluconic acid, mucilage, amino acids, choline, betaine, folic acid, kumatakenin, and flavones, including quercetin, isorhamnepin and ramnocitrin.
Several fractions of polysaccharides are believed to be responsible for the major immune stimulating effect of Astragalus. When injected into rats, they increase the number of macrophages, enhance T-cell transformation (from suppressors to helpers), and increase phagocytosis. In mice, Astragalus has been shown to promote the ability of the immune system to produce interferon and increase the cleaning rate of toxins.
In human and clinical trials, Astragalus has demonstrated its ability to substantially increase the one, three and five year survival rate of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Additionally, Astragalus has been shown to increase the number of antibodies (IgA and IgG) in the blood and to induce the production of interferon by white blood cells.
Astragalus may also be an effective protector against the ravages of chemotherapy. Some of the standard anticancer drugs cause degeneration of the liver which expresses itself as an elevation of key liver enzymes. Such enzyme activity was not elevated in a group of animals that received Astragalus in addition to chemotherapy.