It contains antioxidants, which protect cells against damage caused by free radicals, byproducts of cellular energy. 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.
Astragalus has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic (helps eliminate fluid from the body) properties. It is sometimes used topically for wounds. In addition, studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it is indeed effective at preventing colds.
In the United States, researchers have investigated astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been compromised by chemotherapy or radiation. In these studies, astragalus supplements have been shown to speed recovery and extend life expectancy. Research on using astragalus for people with AIDS has produced inconclusive results.
Recent research in China indicates that astragalus may offer antioxidant benefits to people with severe forms of heart disease, relieving symptoms and improving heart function. At low to moderate doses, astragalus has few side effects, although it does interact with a number of other herbs and prescription medications.
Side Effects and Safety Concerns
People with autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes or systemic lupus erythematosus shouldn't use astragalus unless recommended by a qualified healthcare practitioner. People who have had transplant surgery should not use astragalus.
The safety of astragalus in pregnant or nursing women or children isn't known.
If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use astragalus without first talking to your health care provider:
Antiviral medications -- Astragalus may increase the effects of some antiviral medications such as acyclovir and interferon.
Drugs that suppress the immune system -- Astragalus may counteract the immune-suppressing effects of cyclophosphamide, a medication used to reduce the chances of rejection in transplant recipients, as well as corticosteroids.
Diabetes medications -- Astragalus may lower blood sugar, making the effects of diabetes drugs stronger.
High blood pressure medication -- Astragalus may lower blood pressure, making the effects of these drugs stronger.
Diuretics (water pills) -- Astragalus is a diuretic and may make the effects of other diuretics stronger.
Anti-coagulants(blood thinners) -- Astragalus may make the effects of these drugs stronger, increasing the risk of bleeding and stroke.