Practitioners of Chinese medicine consider astragalus to be a true tonic. This herb helps build body system vitality. Astragalus is a preferred herb to strengthen and rebuild depleted endocrine and immune system functions. It is used for chronic lung infections, for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and as part of a cancer protocol.
Astragalus itself is a large species in the pea family. Some types within this genus are toxic to livestock (the locoweed of the American West is an astragalus). Toxicity in this plant is confined to the aboveground parts; the medicinal species is a nontoxic Chinese one (Astragalus membranaceous), which grows wild in northern China and Inner Mongolia, and it is this root that is commonly used. You can find both wild and commercially grown astragalus root sold in bundles of thin slices, which look like tongue depressors and have a sweet taste. Chinese herbalists add these slices to soups during preparation, but remove them prior to serving because they are too tough to chew. Dried astragalus is readily available in Chinese herb stores, or you can buy tinctures and capsules of the root in health food stores.
Astragalus is used both to revitalize debilitated patients and to increase resistance to disease and stress in general. It is also popularly used for the prevention and treatment of colds and flus. I recommend astragalus to many patients, since I find it to be safe and effective. In particular, I suggest it for people who have chronic or recurrent infections, especially respiratory infections. It is an effective diuretic, lowers blood sugar levels, inhibits ulcers, and promotes the discharge of pus. Taking astragalus regularly is beneficial for those who are debilitated, lacking vitality and suffering from the effects of stress. Astragalus can also protects the heart from Coxsackie B virus.
In the last few decades it has even been used as an accessory treatment for cancer. I recommend it for many cancer patients, both those undergoing conventional treatment and those who have completed treatment. It won't interfere with chemotherapy or radiation and can be used concurrently. In contemporary Chinese medicine astragalus is a chief component of fu zheng therapy, a combination herbal treatment designed to restore immune function in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Research in China has demonstrated increased survival in patients receiving both herbal and conventional therapies. Astragalus may well help protect the bone marrow and immune system from some of the damaging effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
In addition to its traditional use as a tonic and cold and flu remedy, astragalus is also a primary ingredient in many Chinese herbal formulas. These preparations are used for a wide variety of health benefits such as increasing energy, aiding digestion and stimulating blood circulation. Furthermore, Western pharmacological studies reveal antiviral properties of the herb in addition to general immune-boosting effects.
Undesirable side effects include hypotension and diuretic action. Overdosing may cause immunosuppression. Since this is an immune-stimulating herb, it is contraindicated in persons with autoimmune diseases.
Overall this herb is safe and effective in boosting the immune system and energy levels. It's effects are fast acting, and this herb does not require long term use to be effective.
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