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Originally published October 22 2009

Dr. Weil was right: Astragalus herb really helps fight the flu (influenza)

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) The FTC and FDA are terrorizing Dr. Andrew Weil over his true statements about the immune-boosting properties of astragalus. According to the FDA, astragalus has no antiviral or antibacterial properties whatsoever and is of absolutely no use in the human body. Sound bizarre?

I thought so too. That's why I asked NaturalNews researchers to assemble a collection of statements in support of Dr. Weil's astragalus statements. This medicinal herb does, indeed, boost healthy immune function and offer protection against influenza. And because it's a multifaceted, complex plant-based medicine, it's not outsmarted by one particular viral configuration... it's useful against any flu (including H1N1 swine flu).

Here's what the experts have to say about astragalus and influenza...

Astragalus beats the flu

Clinical Applications: Astragalus is antiviral, carminative, antispasmodic, and hepatic. It improves glucose tolerance and acts as a vasodilator. In China, astragalus has been used as an energy tonic for deficient spleen qi and yang conditions. It has been used to treat wasting and thirsting conditions, as well as diarrhea, fatigue, and prolapse of the uterus. Astragalus is used to control fluids in cases of excess sweating and to reduce fluid retention.
- Fundamentals of Naturopathic Endocrinology by Michael Friedman, ND

Other Chinese doctors have found that astragalus offers more effective relief than the drug nifedipine (Procardia) for angina pain. More than 80 percent of angina patients improved on astragalus treatment without the dizziness, giddiness, heartburn, or headache that nifedipine can cause. Animal studies suggest that astragalus can help prevent the development of cholesterol plaques after an arterial wall has been damaged, which can keep the coronary arteries from becoming too narrow. Astragalus also is useful in the treatment of viral myocarditis, a flulike infection that affects the heart.
- Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC

Also, since flu vaccines are formulated based on viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past, they may or may not be effective in preventing flu caused by this year's virus. Astragalus helps to build the immune system, and thus make you less vulnerable to the flu. Take 250 to 500 milligrams in the morning three times a week during the flu season. Note: Do not take this herb if you have a fever. American ginseng helps to boost the immune system and strengthen the body. Take 200 milligrams one-half hour before breakfast once or twice a week during the winter months.
- Smart Medicine for Healthier Living : Practical A-Z Reference to Natural and Conventional Treatments for Adults by Janet Zand, LAc, OMD, Allan N. Spreed, MD, CNC, James B. LaValle, RPh, ND

Consider taking ginseng or astragalus to promote health, stamina, and viral immunity. Take colostrum, beta-glucan, and other immune-boosting supplements. Take extra vitamin C and zinc. Follow the recommendations in this book on how to take natural medicines for beating the flu. For frail, older people, reduce the dosage by half.
- Beating the Flu: The Natural Prescription for Surviving Pandemic Influenza and Bird Flu by J. E. Williams

Astragalus alone, however, is effective in preventing depletion of white blood cells during chemotherapy. A clinical study involving 115 patients receiving various forms of chemotherapy found that 83 percent had higher white blood cell counts when given astragalus. Common cold - Chinese studies have shown that using astragalus during cold season reduces the number of colds caught and shortens the duration of those that are caught. If you tend to get colds and flu often, astragalus can help you build up a natural resistance.
- Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC

In a study of 28 people, astragalus given orally over a 2-month period significantly increased the production and secretion of interferon compared with controls. Remarkably, the levels of interferon remained high for 2 months after astragalus treatment ended. These results have been duplicated in laboratory studies. Astragalus also increases levels of natural killer (NK) cells, which roam the body via blood and lymph fluid, destroying a wide variety of invaders, including cancer cells and virus-infected body cells.
- The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs by Robert S. McCaleb, Evelyn Leigh, and Krista Morien

In the exotic language of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), astragalus boosts the immune system by "stabilizing the exterior" and strengthening the "chi." The Chinese knew thousands of years ago that astragalus could strengthen our shield ("exterior") against disease and increase overall vitality (chi), long before anyone knew about bacteria, white blood cells, or the immune system. You may already be accustomed to taking echinacea at the first sign of a cold or flu, or when people around you are getting sick. How is astragalus different?
- The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs by Robert S. McCaleb, Evelyn Leigh, and Krista Morien

Adaptogens, which include eleuthero, Asian ginseng, astragalus, and schisandra, are thought to help keep various body systems - including the immune system - functioning optimally. They have not been systematically evaluated as cold remedies. However, one double-blind trial found that people who were given 100 mg of Asian ginseng extract in combination with a flu vaccine experienced a lower frequency of colds and flu compared with people who received only the flu vaccine.
- The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions by Alan R. Gaby, M.D., Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., Forrest Batz, Pharm.D. Rick Chester, RPh., N.D., DipLAc. George Constantine, R.Ph., Ph.D. Linnea D. Thompson, Pharm.D., N.D.

The Chinese have been using astragalus for thousands of years for immune-system strengthening. Studies have proven that this herb can reduce the frequency and duration of colds and the flu by boosting the immune system rather than by killing viruses directly. Astragalus can be taken as an extract, or the root can be added to soups.
- The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Healing: A Comprehensive A-Z Listing of Common and Chronic Illnesses and Their Proven Natural Treatments by Gary Null, Ph.D.

Modern research suggests that astragalus stimulates the immune system (though in my opinion, it's not quite as effective as echinacea), counteracts fatigue, treats many infections (including flu), and supports the kidneys. I grow astragalus, but I don't harvest it. Herbalists recommend taking 3 to 5 milliliters of tincture three times a day, or two 400-milligram capsules three times a day. If I wanted to use astragalus, I'd buy a commercial preparation and follow the package directions for proper dosage. The herb appears to be safe.
- The Green Pharmacy Anti-Aging Prescriptions: Herbs, Foods, and Natural Formulas to Keep You Young by James A. Duke, Ph.D.

Immune System (to Tonify It) General Herbal Treatments: For immunodeficiency and to accompany chemo and/or radiotherapy, combine 9 grams each of ligustrum berries and dendrobium with 15 grams of astragalus root; if there is digestive upset and nausea, add 9 grams each of pinellia and citrus peel. For immunodeficiency with symptoms of frequent colds and influenza and to prevent colds and influenza, combine 9 grams each of astragalus root, atractylodes bai zhu, and ledebouriella root.
- The Way of Chinese Herbs by Michael Tierra, L.Ac, O.M.D.

I haven't heard of any safety problems with ashwagandha, though the literature says that abdominal cramps are possible. Also known as huang qi, astragalus is one of the premier immune-system boosters in traditional Chinese medicine. Practitioners prescribe the herb to treat colds, flu, bronchitis, sinus infections, and other infectious ailments. They also recommend it for people whose immune systems have been suppressed by chronic illnesses such as AIDS. These uses are supported by modem research.
- The Green Pharmacy Anti-Aging Prescriptions: Herbs, Foods, and Natural Formulas to Keep You Young by James A. Duke, Ph.D.

Investigators at the University of Texas have reported strong immune-restorative effects in test-tube studies of cancer cells treated with astragalus extracts. And certain cells treated with astragalus extracts in culture survive 50 percent longer, according to some U.S. researchers. Chinese studies suggest that astragalus, in addition to boosting immunity and detoxifying a number of drugs and some metals, is also an anti-viral, a diuretic and a coronary artery dilator. They believe it is particularly effective in warding off flu and some other respiratory infections.
- The Doctor's Vitamin and Mineral Encyclopedia by Sheldon Saul Hendler

The antiviral activity of Astragalus is most likely to be due to increased immunity and possibly enhanced interferon production. In support of this, Astragalus demonstrated slight inhibitory activity against adenovirus type 7 in vitro. Natural and recombinant interferon enhanced the inhibitory activity of Astragalus. It also promoted the production of interferon by mouse lung against parainfluenza virus type I and Newcastle disease virus in vitro.
- Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine by Simon Mills and Kerry Bone

Unlike echinacea, astragalus may be taken long-term during cold and flu season. Chinese studies have found it to be an effective preventive against the common cold.
- The Herbal Drugstore by Linda B. White, M.D.

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