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11 Astragalus Root Benefits and How It Works

astragalus health benefits

Key Takeaways

  • Astragalus root is a protective tonic herb used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years.
  • It's an adaptogen, aiding the body in coping with stress and boosting the immune system.
  • Active compounds in astragalus include polysaccharides, saponins, and flavonoids, providing immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Potential benefits: increasing testosterone, balancing estrogen, strengthening the immune system, reducing inflammation, easing joint pain, improving respiratory health, enhancing mood, promoting healthy skin and hair, and possibly supporting against COVID-19.
  • Take astragalus daily for prevention in various forms like powder, capsules, or liquid extracts.
  • Consult a healthcare provider before use, especially during pregnancy, breastfeeding, autoimmune conditions, or while on immunosuppressive medications.

Astragalus membranaceus is characterised as a protective and supportive tonic herb that has long been used as a natural remedy for treating a variety of ailments.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is called Huang qi and is believed to produce numerous therapeutic effects. In a more modern context, you may also hear it referred to as Milkvetch Root.

In TCM, the use of this herb dates back to more than 2,000 years and according to TCM theory, the major benefit to taking astragalus root is its ability to nourish the body's vital energy and to improve immune function.

Numerous modern studies and trials are beginning to support many of the different health benefits associated with astragalus root that Chinese Medicine has spoken of for millennia now.

Read on below as we take you through some of the key benefits of taking astragalus root extract and how you can implement it in your daily routine!
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How Does Astragalus Work?

Astragalus is said to be an adaptogen, meaning that it can help your body ‘adapt’ to changing conditions and better cope with stress and other impactful factors in your life. Adaptogens like astragalus, lion's mane mushroom & ashwagandha can have many different effects on the body and state of mind.

Studies indicate that it has a calming effect that helps promote relaxation and can reduce stress - with some studies also suggesting that its benefits also extend to reducing inflammation and supporting the immune system.

There are a number of active compounds that help provide the numerous health benefits associated with astragalus with arguably the most important being the astragalus polysaccharides. To keep it simple - these are complex carbohydrates found naturally in a number of plants and mushrooms.

Polysaccharides have been indicated to be effective in combatting a range of different viruses, bacteria and fungi, as well as helping to stimulate the immune system by strengthening the white blood cell count.

On top of that, they’ve also been shown to help with tissue repair and regeneration, reducing inflammation and alleviating pain.

Another key compound that is believed to deliver a range of health benefits in astragalus root is saponins.

Saponins are a type of steroid glycoside compound that is thought to help remove toxins from the body, cleanse the liver and kidneys and help lower cholesterol levels and rid the body of harmful toxins.

The last major active compound found in astragalus root thought to provide unique benefits are called flavonoids. Flavonoids are shown to have strong antioxidant properties as well as anti-inflammatory effects. Antioxidants are believed to work by neutralizing harmful substances called free radicals while anti-inflammatories help to reduce inflammation in cells and damaged tissue.

What Are the Astragalus Root Benefits?

1. Astragalus and Testosterone: How It Affects Libido

does astragalus increase testosterone

There is some scientific evidence to suggest that taking astragalus can help naturally increase testosterone levels and it can often be found as an ingredient in testosterone boosting supplements.

However, whilst there are some studies to suggest that astragalus may be effective in enhancing testosterone levels, the research is still relatively new.

One in vitro study conducted on rats found that the presence of astragalus had positive effects on the Leydig cell function which resulted in an increased production of testosterone.

Leydig cell function refers to the testes' ability to produce hormones such as testosterone. The effective functioning of this part of the male reproductive system is important for producing sperm.

Those who suffer from insufficient Leydig cell function may experience low libido or erectile dysfunction.

Although further research definitely needs to be done before any conclusions can be made about the effectiveness of astragalus in increasing testosterone, current studies indicate it may be a promising supplement for those looking to boost their testosterone levels.

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2. Astragalus and Estrogen: Balancing Hormones Naturally

One of the intriguing aspects of astragalus is its potential interaction with estrogen receptors. Formononetin, a compound derived from astragalus, has been shown to have estrogen-receptor-modulating effects (50). This modulation can play a vital role in balancing hormones naturally.

Estrogen receptors are part of a group of proteins found inside cells. They are activated by the hormone estrogen and play a crucial role in various bodily functions, including the regulation of the menstrual cycle and reproductive system in women.

The ability of astragalus to modulate estrogen receptors may offer a natural approach to hormone balance. This could be particularly beneficial for conditions where estrogen plays a key role, such as in certain hormonal imbalances, menopause symptoms, or even hormone-sensitive cancers.

3. Astragalus and The Immune System: Strengthening Defenses

a child wearing a mask, astragalus to boost immune system

Astragalus has been used in TCM for millennia for its immune-boosting properties and more recently, studied extensively for its ability to strengthen the body’s immune system.

The immune-strengthening affects of astragalus root are thought to come from its ability to help increase the number of natural white blood cells (WBC) while also improving the activity of macrophages.

Macrophages are specialized cells that when activated, can release chemicals that destroy harmful substances.

Macrophages are also involved in a crucial process called phagocytosis. Phagocytosis is vital for the removal of microorganisms, foreign substances, and apoptotic cells.

As mentioned earlier - astragalus is known to contain a host of powerful active compounds such as saponins, polysaccharides, amino acids and vitamins which all combine to create a potent immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and antiviral effect.

One study shows the impressively positive effects of astragalus on 48 patients who suffered from seasonal allergic rhinitis and their relieving symptoms after taking the natural substance. This study indicates that astragalus may be beneficial in easing symptoms of allergy due to the anti-inflammatory effects of its active compounds.

Astragalus is also considered to possess adaptogenic properties - meaning it can help the body improve its resistance to physical and psychological stress.

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4. Astragalus for Inflammation: A Herbal Approach to Relief

Now that we have discussed the anti-inflammatory effect of astragalus, let’s delve deeper into it. Before we begin, it’s important to note that there are two major types of inflammation: acute and chronic.

Acute inflammation is an important part of the body’s healing process, however, chronic inflammation can lead to serious health problems.

Acute inflammation occurs when your body responds to an injury or infection. Your immune system sends white blood cells to the area to deal with any pathogens, or, begin healing damaged tissue.

Chronic inflammation occurs when your body's immune response doesn’t stop after an injury or infection is healed - remaining sore, stiff and swollen far longer than it should.

Chronic inflammation can affect almost every organ in the body and if left unchecked, can potentially contribute to harmful diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

When taken regularly, astragalus has been found to be particularly effective at reducing chronic inflammation in the body, largely due to its super high polysaccharide content.

5. Astragalus and Arthritis: Easing Joint Pain and Discomfort

astragalus root and arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that can cause significant pain and inflammation in joints. There are two main types of arthritis; osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis affects cartilage and bone while rheumatoid arthritis attacks the synovial membrane.

Both forms of arthritis cause joint stiffness and severe inflammation. However, some people believe that astragalus can help alleviate the symptoms associated with both forms of arthritis.

In an animal study conducted in 2010, researchers found that the polysaccharides found in astragalus root had a notable anti-inflammatory effect on rats that were genetically prone to developing arthritis.

It’s not realistic to draw human health conclusions from limited animal studies, but the results indicate that it’s definitely deserving of further research as a natural arthritis treatment.

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6. Astragalus For The Lungs: Improving Respiratory Health

Many across the globe suffer from respiratory infections and diseases such as asthma and bronchitis.

Asthma is a chronic disease that results in airway obstruction while bronchitis is a type of lung infection that involves inflammation of the bronchi. Both of these respiratory problems are often treated using antibiotics.

Many people however prefer alternative therapies over conventional treatment for many different reasons and astragalus is often used as one of these treatments.

Studies show that astragalus has been used for thousands of years to treat respiratory conditions. It is believed that astragalus contains substances that boost immunity and fight off harmful microbes.

Astragalus has been a staple for treating respiratory issues for many thousands of years due to its powerful active compounds, and modern science is starting to confirm this.

One such study conducted on mice indicates that the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects of astragalus root can be effective in easing symptoms for respiratory illnesses and diseases by opening and clearing the airways.

Again - a great starting point but much more research is needed to draw any firm conclusions.

7. Astragalus on Improving Mood: A Natural Booster

a woman smiling, astragalus to boost mood

Stress affects every one of us in one way or another. At some point in your life, you’ll likely find yourself overwhelmed or just burnt out - it’s part of being human!

Whilst there are many prescription medications for treating depression, many are known to cause severe side effects as well as carry a risk of addiction. Hence, many look to more natural alternatives that are said to produce beneficial effects without the adverse effects.

As an ‘adaptogen’, astragalus has properties that can help you deal with the physiological and psychological effects of stress.

There is much research needed on the exact mechanisms of what even causes stress, but current research indicates that astragalus interacts with neurotransmitters that release hormones associated with mood and emotion, particularly serotonin.

Serotonin is a hormone produced naturally in the brain that regulates our emotions, sleep patterns, appetite, and sexual behaviour. Astragalus is believed to naturally help the brain produce more serotonin which is thought to help alleviate factors of stress, anxiety and depression.

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8. Astragalus for Skin: Promoting a Healthy Glow

Astragalus has been known for its various health benefits, and one of its lesser-known advantages is its potential impact on skin health. The skin, being the largest organ in the body, requires proper care and nourishment. Astragalus might be a natural solution to promote a healthy glow.

A study reveals its potential in wound healing and anti-aging. How, you ask? Well, astragalus promotes the proliferation of fibroblasts, cells responsible for wound healing, and enhances collagen synthesis. Its anti-inflammatory properties may also help reduce wrinkles and fine lines. 

Plus, Astragalus may have the ability to improve skin hydration by increasing the production of hyaluronic acid, a substance that helps retain moisture in the skin. This leads to softer, more supple skin that radiates a healthy glow.

Some preliminary studies suggest potential therapeutic effects on skin disorders like atopic dermatitis. Its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties can help in reducing symptoms and improving the skin condition.

9. Astragalus for Kidneys: Supporting Renal Function and Health

kidney and brain model, astragalus for kidney

Astragalus has shown promising effects in supporting renal function, according to a study. It may protect against kidney damage, particularly in diabetic nephropathy, by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

The study demonstrated that astragalus could enhance renal function by reducing proteinuria and serum creatinine levels. These are common markers used to assess kidney function, and their reduction indicates an improvement in kidney health.

Astragalus has also shown potential therapeutic effects for Chronic kidney disease (CKD), a progressive condition that can lead to end-stage renal disease if not managed properly. It helps by modulating various pathways involved in kidney damage and repair.

Astragalus was also found to have anti-fibrotic properties that can inhibit the progression of fibrosis, thereby preserving kidney function.

While findings are promising, more extensive research is needed to validate these effects and understand the optimal dosage and administration methods.

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10. Astragalus and Hair Growth: Promoting Healthy Locks

Hair growth is a complex process influenced by various factors, including hormones, nutrition, and genetics. Fortunately, Astragalus was found to have the potential in contributing to hair health. 

According to a study, Astragalus contains active compounds that can stimulate hair follicles, promoting growth and regeneration. The study found that astragalus extract could increase the proliferation of hair follicle cells, leading to enhanced hair growth.

Proper blood circulation to the scalp is essential for nourishing hair follicles and supporting healthy hair growth. Astragalus has been found to improve blood flow, ensuring that hair follicles receive the necessary nutrients and oxygen.

Oxidative stress can also damage hair follicles and slow down hair growth. Astragalus's antioxidant compounds can neutralize free radicals, protecting hair follicles from damage and supporting healthy growth.

The study also explored astragalus's potential in treating alopecia, a condition characterized by hair loss. The findings suggest that astragalus may be a promising natural remedy for various types of alopecia, including androgenetic alopecia.

11. Astragalus for COVID: A Potential Ally During the Pandemic

a man inside a COVID isolation facility, astragalus benefits for covid

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an urgent search for effective treatments and preventive measures. Traditional medicinal herbs, including astragalus, have been explored for their potential benefits in combating the virus and supporting overall health during these challenging times.

As previously mentioned, astragalus is known for its immune-boosting properties. During a viral infection like COVID-19, a robust immune response is vital for fighting off the virus. Astragalus may enhance the body's natural defense mechanisms, potentially reducing the severity and duration of symptoms.

COVID-19 can lead to a severe inflammatory response known as a cytokine storm, which can be life-threatening. Astragalus's anti-inflammatory properties may help modulate this response, reducing inflammation and potentially preventing complications.

Some studies even suggest that astragalus may have direct antiviral effects against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The active compounds in astragalus may inhibit viral replication and entry into host cells, offering a potential therapeutic avenue.

While not a substitute for vaccines or public health measures, astragalus may be considered as part of a holistic approach to prevention. Its immune-boosting effects could contribute to overall resilience against infections, including COVID-19.

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How Long Does It Take Astragalus to Work?

It’s hard to know when astragalus will ‘work’ for you as everybody has a different constitution and reacts differently to supplements.

You will most commonly find astragalus as a dried powder extract, capsule or liquid extract - making it very easy to take or mix in with drinks or food.

When taken orally like this - it is said to take generally take effect after approximately 24 hours for the body to absorb water-soluble astragalus. However, fat-soluble compounds may take a couple of days or a week to be processed.

Keep in mind you may never ‘feel’ the effects but that doesn’t mean it isn’t working for you.

How Long Does Astragalus Stay in the Body?

Astragalus contains both water-soluble and fat-soluble components that stay in the body for differing periods of time.

Once ingested, the water-soluble components will remain in the body for several days, however, the fat-soluble components will stay in the body significantly longer - typically up to 4 weeks.

Ideally, it’s best to consume astragalus supplements regularly so you have both active components in your system.

When Should Astragalus Be Used?

Ideally, astragalus should be consumed on a daily basis - and it can be taken both morning and night. I personally keep it in the pantry to put in smoothies, juices or sprinkle over bircher muesli..

Astragalus is best as a preventative measure against illnesses. It’s great to take when you notice signs of colds or flu to reduce the impact, or, in times of stress or illness to help support your overall well-being.

Other Frequently Asked Questions about Astragalus

What does astragalus do for the brain?

Astragalus has been found to have potential benefits for the brain. Studies suggest that astragalus may help enhance cognitive function and protect against age-related cognitive decline. The herb is believed to promote the growth and development of neurons, improve cerebral blood flow, and support overall brain health. 

Is astragalus hard on the liver?

No, astragalus is generally considered safe for the liver when used in appropriate dosages and for short periods of time. In fact, it has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine to support liver health.

Is astragalus the same as Ashwagandha?

No, astragalus, also known as Astragalus membranaceus, is a plant native to China and is primarily used for its immune-boosting properties.

Ashwagandha, on the other hand, is the root of the Withania somnifera plant and is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for its adaptogenic and stress-reducing qualities.

While both herbs have their own unique benefits, they should not be considered interchangeable.

Is astragalus safe long term?

Astragalus is generally considered safe for long-term use when taken within the recommended dosages. It is a well-tolerated herb with minimal side effects.

When should you not take astragalus?

While astragalus is generally safe and well-tolerated, there are certain situations in which it is not recommended. It is advised to avoid astragalus if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as there is limited research on its effects in these populations.

Individuals with autoimmune conditions or those taking immunosuppressive medications should also exercise caution or consult with a healthcare professional before using astragalus due to its potential immune-enhancing effects.

Final Considerations

Astragalus has been a cornerstone of Traditional Chinese Medicine for many thousands of years, and now modern science is starting to take note and confirm some of the impressive health benefits that’s it’s said to provide.

From research into the effective activity of the active compounds found in astragalus to the clinical studies conducted presenting positive results from the analysis, there is mounting evidence to support the benefits in using astragalus regularly.

The research into the benefits of taking astragalus is still relatively new and you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplements in order to avoid experiencing adverse effects.

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Darcy Ogdon-Nolan

Holding a Bachelor Of Science (Hons.) combined with close to a decade now in the health food and wellness industry, I believe I'm uniquely positioned to provide a depth of knowledge and first-hand experience on emerging health products, trends and ideas! From greens powders and medicinal mushrooms through to protein powders and workout nutrition - I'm particularly interested in what modern science can uncover about what human cultures have been using to treat ailments for millennia!

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