The astragalus plant is native to the plains of northern China and Mongolia. It is relatively unheard of in the Western world, although it has long been established as a powerful herb in Chinese medicine. Astragalus is now becoming increasingly known for a range of health benefits that can be gained from eating products that derive from it.
Astragalus can be beneficial to the heart. It contains minerals and vitamins that work to combat high cholesterol levels. It also reduces fatty deposits in the arteries, and is sometimes used in cases where a patient complains of irregular heart beats. Astragalus can also help to prevent and treat high blood pressure. If you are on any blood pressure medications or suffer from any of these problems, you should however seek medical advice before taking a course of astragalus supplements.
In Chinese medicine, astragalus is believed to provide a boost to defensive chi – in other words, it acts to support the immune system and boost the functioning of white blood vessels. This claim has, to some extent, been supported by Western medical trials. Although full research has yet to be carried out, one of the most exciting possible uses for astragalus is in maintaining and repairing the immune systems of people who are HIV positive or who have AIDs.
Astragalus can also be effective in many more run-of-the-mill, less serious infections. If you suffer from regular cold sores, then taking an astragalus supplement could help your body to fight off the herpes cells that cause unsightly outbreaks. Astragalus can help to guard against many common forms of infection, including colds and influenzas. Give your immune system a boost and try astragalus during next autumn or winter, or the next time a cold goes around your workplace or school.
Chinese medics believe that astragalus is very important in maintaining the health of those who have diabetes. It regulates the blood sugar level, but also maintains the healthy function of organs that diabetes can damage, including the liver and eyes.
Astragalus is also believed to be very important in maintaining healthy kidneys, and is used in China to treat a range of retinal issues, including blood in the urine. However, if you have a serious problem with your kidneys, you should get it checked out by a doctor before taking any astragalus.
Some people believe that astragalus can be particularly valuable to cancer patients, and say that it enhances the effect of chemotherapy and other forms of therapy, and can increase the likelihood of a positive outcome at the end of the treatment. It also appears to help the body recover from chemotherapy faster, as it in itself can be very gruelling. If you are undergoing cancer treatment, ask your doctor’s advice on astragalus and for any recent scientific evidence concerning the plant’s use in chemo.
Astragalus can assist with digestive problems. It helps to metabolise food faster than usual, and reduces the level of acid in the stomach. While increasing the pH of a stomach is not always a good thing, it is useful if you suffer from acid indigestion or heartburn.
You can find astragalus – usually in the form of extracts, pills and teas – in health food shops. You can also find astragalus products, and advice on how to use them, from Chinese pharmacists and medical practitioners.