For many years, traditional healers have relied on herbal medicines to address illnesses, including the threat of cancer. One of these herbs is astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), an adaptogen used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Researchers from the Hong Kong Baptist Universityrecently reviewed the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties of A. membranaceus. Their findings were published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine.
A. membranaceus is used in TCM to make herbal formulations for the treatment of various diseases and disorders. It has been actively investigated in recent years for its chemical constituents and potential against inflammatory diseases and cancers.
Chemotherapy has many negative side effects. Astragalus-based treatments, on the other hand, can significantly ameliorate the toxicity induced by orthodox drugs, such as immunosuppressants and cancer chemotherapeutics. Contemporary use of A. membranaceus mainly focuses on its immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects.
The researchers determined the properties of A. membranaceus and its major constituents based on experimental and clinical studies. The major components of A. membranaceus are polysaccharides, flavonoids, and saponins.
They also highlighted the antitumor mechanisms of a novel astragalus saponins extract (AST) that can be used to treat various gastrointestinal cancers.
Moreover, the researchers discussed how astragalus and AST influence the immune system, modulate various cancer signaling pathways, and interact with specific transcription molecules to protect against gastrointestinal inflammation and cancers.
The researchers believe that their findings could help experts develop novel target-specific and effective therapeutic agents that do not cause major systemic side effects for a better treatment regimen against inflammatory diseases and cancers of the gut.
Astragalus – a potent herbal medicine
Astragalus, also known as huang qi, offers more health benefits than just anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. Here are some of them. (h/t to Healthline.com)
Anti-aging benefits – Nobody likes the effects of aging on the skin. Astragalus is known to reduce visible signs of aging on the face, such as wrinkles and age spots. This ancient root also promotes the growth of tissues.
Boosting the immune system – Astragalus has immune-stimulating properties that increase a person's resistance to infections and strengthen the immune system against major attacks from foreign substances. Research also shows that astragalus can boost the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for preventing illness.
Controlling blood sugar levels – The active compounds in astragalus have anti-diabetic effects. A 2016 study reported that this herb may be an effective adjuvant treatment for people with Type 2 diabetes. In it, participants who took 40-60 g of astragalus per day after fasting and after meals exhibited improved blood sugar levels.
Supporting kidney health – Proteinuria is a condition marked by abnormally high amounts of protein in the urine – a sign of dysfunctional kidneys. Astragalus supports kidney function by improving blood flow and regulating protein levels in the urine. A 2014 study highlights the ability of astragalus to reduce proteinuria in individuals with kidney disease.
Note that this herb is not a silver bullet for all these conditions. Always consult with your healthcare provider before supplementing with astragalus or other herbal medicines.
Though astragalus is generally safe, the following people should avoid it:
Pregnant and breastfeeding women: There’s currently not enough evidence to support the safety of astragalus for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.
People with autoimmune diseases: Astragalus boosts the activity of the immune system, which may spell disaster for people with autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.), as their immune system is already in overdrive.
Individuals taking immunosuppressant drugs: Since astragalus increases the activity of the immune system, it may weaken the effects of immunosuppressant drugs.
Did you know that astragalus has beneficial effects on the nervous system as well? Visit ChineseMedicine.news to find out more.