What Is Astragalus:
Astragalus is an adaptogenic herb that helps to fight against various stresses and has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and also as a medicinal tea. There are many variations of astragalus plants, but the most commonly used plant is astragalus membranaceus. The roots of the astragalus plants are what is primarily used for medicine. Within this plant there are a variety of compounds which contribute to its medicinal properties including: astragalus polysaccharide (APS), flavonoids compounds, saponins compounds, alkaloids, etc.
In the past astragalus has been used as a means of treating a number of conditions including:
- Anemia †
- Colds And Influenza †
- Blood Sugar Control †
- Diabetes †
- Heart Disease †
- Hepatitis †
- Kidney Disease †
- Seasonal Allergies †
- Cancer †
Despite astragalus use in treating these disorders there is not a significant amount of research backing supporting its use on many of these conditions.
Benefits Of Astragalus:
Astragalus has been proposed to have a ton of health benefits including:
- Anti-inflammatory/Antioxidant effect -
- Improved Regulation Of Blood Glucose Levels -
- Decreased Blood Lipid Levels
- May help treat Type I and Type II Diabetes
- Has both antiviral and antibacterial effects
- May be protective against fibrosis
- May have anti-tumor effects
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How Does Astragalus Work?:
- Anti-Inflammatory Effects - Astragalus polysaccharide (APS) has been shown to have a number of potent effects on reducing inflammation. APS is believed to exert its antioxidant effects by acting as a free radical scavenger helping to reduce the amount of oxidative stress that occurs in the cell. As a result APS in vitro cells has been found to increase superoxide dismutase (an antioxidant) and glutathione and decrease malondialdehyde. Related to this effect APS has been found to have a protective effect on telomeres which are the ‘end caps’ of DNA and are necessary to protect the DNA from damage.
- Anti-Tumor Effects - Astragalus may also be able to help fight tumors. Multiple studies have found that APS has an anti-proliferative effect on cells in vitro, helping to prevent the cells from the rapid reproductive rate associated with cancer cells. In rabbits fed induced to have cholesterol APS was found to decrease total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. Additionally, APS has been shown to increase apoptosis or “programmed cell death” in tumor cells helping to “kill” the cancer cells. Lastly, APS may help to inhibit metastasis or the “release” of cancer cells throughout the rest of the body.
- Anti-Fibrosis Effects - One study found that astragalus inhibits the formation of collagen in the skin of mice preventing the formation of fibrosis in the cells.
- Anti-Diabetic Effects- Astragalus has been found to exert an effect on the beta cells of the pancreas which results in increased insulin sensitivity and decreased blood glucose levels, and improved lipid metabolism. These effects may be as a result of decreasing stress on the endoplasmic reticulum in the liver allowing the liver to function more efficiently and produce the protein precursors to insulin.
- Lipid Lowering Effects - In mice and rats APS has a potent lipid lowering effect. In diabetic and obese rats astragalus has been found to decrease serum triglycerides and leptin in serum.
- Antimicrobial Effects - Last, but not least APS may exert an antimicrobial effect helping to defend against certain pathogens in vitro including: Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella.
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Best Sources Of Astragalus:
Depending on the extraction process used to derive the compounds from astragalus determines the potency of the product. Different extraction methods will result in both different purities, but also different compounds making it into the end-product. For this reason it may be beneficial to experiment with various types of astragalus supplements to see if one is more beneficial to you.
Additionally, astragalus supplmeents can come in a variety of forms including:
- Injectible (only available in certain counties in a hospital setting)
If you are using an astragalus supplement it’s important to make sure that the supplement utilizes the astragalus membranaceus type of the astragalus plant as other types of plants within the family have been found to be contain toxic compounds.
Another easy way to consume astragalus is by using it in a tea! A tea can be a very easy and organic means of consuming astragalus in your daily routine. When buying an astragalus tea just make sure to buy one that is organic.
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