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Astragalus, Immune Boosting Herb?

Can Astragalus Help your Health?

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Updated October 03, 2008

Astragalus

Astragalus

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The astragalus plant is frequently used in Chinese medicine. There are a large number of varieties of the astragalus plant, but two are important in Chinese medicine: Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus. Other names for astragalus include bei qi, huang qi, ogi, hwanggi and milk vetch.

Personally, until recently, I have never heard of astragalus and didn’t know the first thing about it. It showed up on a list of herbs that have been evaluated by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (part of the NIH), so I decided to look into it.

Astragalus Use and Health Benefits

The purported health benefits of astragalus are a bit vague, at least from a scientific standpoint. Astragalus is used to boost the immune system, treat hepatitis, and even treat cancer. It is almost always combined with other herbs, complicating the evaluation of the health benefits of astragalus. You’ll find astragalus as an ingredient in traditional Chinese Medicine preparations such as teas, soups and even capsules (in powered form).

Astragalus Research

There haven’t been too many studies into astragalus. Limited evidence suggests that there may be an immune-boosting benefit and some benefit to the heart (but remember, taking your vitamins can obtain similar or even better benefits, so don’t get too excited).

Astragalus Side Effects

For the most part, astragalus has a good safety record but specifics are hard to find because there is always a combination of herbs taken at the same time. Quality control and safety measures in the manufacturing process of astragalus-containing supplements can vary.

Source: National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Herbs at a Glance.

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