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  Astragalus Root (Astragalus membrinaceus)  
 
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Astragalus has been used as an immunity booster in China for nearly 4,000 years. Astragalus is derived from the root of a plant (Astragalus Membranaceus) in the pea family. It is also known as milk vetch root (referring to astragalus species that grow in the United States) and huang-qi. Analysis shows that Astragalus contains polysaccharides, monosaccharides, flavonoid, alkaloid, including choline and betaine, folic acid, various amino acids, mucoitin, gum, cellulose, picrorhiza, and fourteen mineral trace elements, including selenium, zinc and iron.

It is an adaptogen, that is, it has a balancing effect on bodily functions. Astragalus is used by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine to strengthen or tone the body's overall vitality, improve digestion, and support the spleen. Chinese often keep it in their water container to get the tonic effect constantly. Studies confirm it contains medicinally active compounds, including a polysaccharide that stimulates the immune system.

It may protect body cells against heavy metals and chemical toxins. Astragalus is a good source of the essential trace mineral selenium. It is often combined in formulas with ginseng and other Chinese herbs. Tones the spleen and is useful in spleen deficiency problems such as poor appetite, fatigue and diarrhea. Also useful for prolapse syndromes such as prolapsed uterus, stomach, or anus. Herbal companies offer it fresh or dried and in capsules. concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.

Chinese drug store sell dry roots, some stores sell powdered root, some market the extract, while others make it the central ingredient of herbal teas. While some use only the root, others also use the leaves and flowers.

If it is taken separately, oral doses typically range from 1 gram to 30 grams of powdered root per day. Although doses can be much higher, some evidence shows that doses above 28 grams per day are no more effective than lower doses. Textbooks on Chinese herbs recommend taking 9-15 grams of the crude herb per day in decoction form. A decoction is made by boiling the root in water for a few minutes and then brewing the tea. When one quart of water used in this process, it is easy to drink the tea throughout the day. 3-5ml of tincture TID is sometimes recommended.
 

 
 

Astragalus Root (Astragalus membrinaceus) can help with the following:
 
 
Drug Side Effects  Chemotherapy Side-Effects/Risks
 Astragalus reduces bone marrow supression and gastrointestinal toxicity caused by chemotherapy and radiation. Research has also shown that subjects with advanced cancer showed a two to three fold increase in the strength of their immune response after being given astragalus. A second study showed that astragalus boosted immune response, even in animals that were treated with an immunosuppressive drug, cyclophosphamide. Astragalus is taken in China by cancer patients to boost immunity after drug or radiation treatment.

  Radiation, Side-Effects
 Astragalus reduces bone marrow supression and gastrointestinal toxicity caused by chemotherapy and radiation.

Immunity

  Weakened Immune System
 Astragalus is establishing its importance in the long-term recovery of people with moderate to severely weakened immune systems. It increases the activity of white blood cells and increases interferon production (the substance that prevents the development of a virus in living cells) in the body. These attributes make it suitable for use as a preventative against recurring colds, flu and bronchitis, as well as an adjunct to treating chronic illnesses and supporting long term recovery from debilitating viral infections.

Infections

  Chronic / Hidden Infection
 This popular Chinese herb is excellent for stimulating the immune system, essential for recovering from infective conditions.

  Colds and Influenza
 Astragalus extract at 300mg per day can boost immune function and produce antiviral effects.

Organ Health

  Hepatitis

Risks

  Cancer / Risk - General Measures
 In studies performed at the Nation Cancer Institute and 5 other leading American Cancer Institutes over the past 10 years, it has been positively shown that astragalus strengthens a cancer patient's immune system. Researchers believed on the basis of cell studies that astragalus augments those white blood cells that fight disease and removes some ot those that make the body more vunerable to it. There is clinical evidence that cancer patients given astragalus during chemotherapy and radiation, both of which reduce the body's natural immunity while attacking the cancer, recover significantly faster and live longer.

Astragalus does not directly attack cancer cells, but strengthens the body's immune system. In the above mentioned studies, both in the laboratory and with 572 patients, it also has been found that Astragalus promotes adrenal cortical function, which also is critically diminished in cancer patients.
 
 


KEY
May do some good
Likely to help







GLOSSARY

Adaptogen:  Derived from the Greek words adapto, which means to adjust and make suitable, and from the suffix gen, which means producing. An adaptogen, therefore, is a substance that produces suitable adjustments in the body. Adaptogens tend to regulate body functions and when the job is completed, they are eliminated or incorporated into the body without side effects. Adaptogens such as the herbs garlic, ginseng, echinacea, ginkgo, goldenseal, and taheebo are natural substances that benefit the body.

Choline:  A lipotropic substance sometimes included in the vitamin B complex as essential for the metabolism of fats in the body. Precursor to acetylcholine, a major neurotransmitter in the brain. Choline prevents the deposition of fats in the liver and facilitates the movement of fats into the cells. Deficiency leads to cirrhosis of the liver.

Decoction:  Liquid prepared by boiling plant material in water for a period of time.

Diarrhea:  Excessive discharge of contents of bowel.

Folic Acid:  A B-complex vitamin that functions along with vitamin B-12 and vitamin C in the utilization of proteins. It has an essential role in the formation of heme (the iron containing protein in hemoglobin necessary for the formation of red blood cells) and DNA. Folic acid is essential during pregnancy to prevent neural tubular defects in the developing fetus.

Gram:  (gm): A metric unit of weight, there being approximately 28 grams in one ounce.

Herbs:  Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with one teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted. The high doses of single herbs suggested may be best taken as dried extracts (in capsules), although tinctures (60 drops four times per day) and teas (4 to 6 cups per day) may also be used.

Immune System:  A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.

Iron:  An essential mineral. Prevents anemia: as a constituent of hemoglobin, transports oxygen throughout the body. Virtually all of the oxygen used by cells in the life process are brought to the cells by the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Iron is a small but most vital, component of the hemoglobin in 20,000 billion red blood cells, of which 115 million are formed every minute. Heme iron (from meat) is absorbed 10 times more readily than the ferrous or ferric form.

Mineral:  Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.

Selenium:  An essential element involved primarily in enzymes that are antioxidants. Three selenium- containing enzymes are antioxidant peroxidases and a fourth selenium-containing enzyme is involved in thyroid hormone production. The prostate contains a selenium-containing protein and semen contains relatively large amounts of selenium. Clinical studies show that selenium is important in lowering the risk of several types of cancers. In combination with Vitamin E, selenium aids the production of antibodies and helps maintain a healthy heart. It also aids in the function of the pancreas, provides elasticity to tissues and helps cells defend themselves against damage from oxidation.

Stomach:  A hollow, muscular, J-shaped pouch located in the upper part of the abdomen to the left of the midline. The upper end (fundus) is large and dome-shaped; the area just below the fundus is called the body of the stomach. The fundus and the body are often referred to as the cardiac portion of the stomach. The lower (pyloric) portion curves downward and to the right and includes the antrum and the pylorus. The function of the stomach is to begin digestion by physically breaking down food received from the esophagus. The tissues of the stomach wall are composed of three types of muscle fibers: circular, longitudinal and oblique. These fibers create structural elasticity and contractibility, both of which are needed for digestion. The stomach mucosa contains cells which secrete hydrochloric acid and this in turn activates the other gastric enzymes pepsin and rennin. To protect itself from being destroyed by its own enzymes, the stomach’s mucous lining must constantly regenerate itself.

TID:  Three times a day.

Tincture:  An alcohol or water-alcohol solution, usually referring to a preparation from herbal materials.

Trace Element:  Essential mineral that is essential to nutrition. Nutritionists prefer to call minerals either minerals or trace minerals depending on the amount needed by the body, while analytical chemists prefer to call minerals, trace elements.

Zinc:  An essential trace mineral. The functions of zinc are enzymatic. There are over 70 metalloenzymes known to require zinc for their functions. The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Zinc is necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol, to get rid of the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and to transfer it to the lungs. Zinc is involved in the health of the immune system, assists vitamin A utilization and is involved in the formation of bone and teeth.