9 Amazing Benefits of Astragalus

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most interesting health benefits of astragalus include its ability to protect heart health, alleviate allergies, boost energy levels, lower stress, strengthen the immune system, slow the aging process, and prevent chronic illnesses. This herbal medicine is also able to prevent cancer as well as aid in chemotherapy.

What is Astragalus?

After reading that summary of health benefits, it sounds like astragalus is a miracle herb, and for thousands of years, the powerful extract from astragalus plant has been used in traditional medicine. The extract of astragalus comes from one of more than 3,000 species of small shrubs and plants belonging to the Astragalus genus. It is widely considered an herb, however, and is actually a member of the legume family. [1]

You may know the plant by its more common names, such as locoweed or goat’s-thorn, particularly if you live in the northern hemisphere, which is where the genus originated. Although it was commonly used in Chinese traditional medicine, the most common form of astragalus is primarily in the extract of its root, which is where the most important nutrients and unique components are concentrated. As in the image below, it in its natural, un-powdered form, looks a bit like tree bark.

Astragalus pouring out from a wooden bowl on a wooden table

Astragalus is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

This herbal supplement has recently become highly sought after due to certain claims that it is both an adaptogenic and anti-aging substance. Adaptogens are able to actually change the chemical nature of the body and help it adapt to different stimuli, making a body healthier. Added to the claims that it can reverse aging, these controversial effects created a huge demand for this powerful herbal extract. You can still find it in many countries in the world. [2]

Health Benefits of Astragalus

Let’s take a detailed look at these impressive health benefits of astragalus.

Protects Heart Health

Although most people are looking for ways to prevent serious heart conditions from arising in the first place, the reality is, cardiovascular problems are some of the most common critical illnesses in the modern world. For that reason, an herb like astragalus, which has been shown to protect the heart after a serious episode, like a stroke, is also very valuable.

Research has shown that consuming its extract following a stroke can help to strengthen the artery walls and preserve nerve functionality once blood returns to certain parts of the brain. This can also help to regulate the functionality of the heart. This is largely attributed to the antioxidant effects of this essential herb. This herb is also important for people who suffer from chronic heart failure, as it can prevent the frequency of episodes in hearts that are already damaged. [3]

Allergy Relief

Millions of people spend much of their fall and spring suffering through seasonal allergies. Hay fever is something that no one ever seems able to fully solve, but astragalus root extract has shown great promise in reducing the severity of allergic reactions. Although the chemical pathway isn’t completely understood, it is believed that the chemical components in astragalus can prevent the release of histamines, which cause the allergic reactions, such as runny noses, itchy eyes, and other irritating symptoms. [4]

Anticancer Potential

Many people have begun turning to herbal remedies, due to their undeniable effects, including astragalus extract.

Research has shown that the saponins found in astragalus are able to prevent the proliferation of gastric cancer cells by preventing them from attaining the necessary oxygen they need to survive. This is in the early stages of development, but it is extremely promising for other types of cancer like colon cancer, mammary tumor, and urological tumor as well. [5]

Can Help Reduce the Effects of Chemotherapy

Astragalus is known for its healing effects as it has the ability to improve the quality of life of patients who have undergone chemotherapy and also help in reducing cancer-related fatigue. [6] [7]

2006 research study by the Berkeley School of Public Health, University of California, USA also suggests that astragalus-based Chinese medicine may help in reducing the side effects of chemotherapy. [8]

A collaborative study by Australian and Chinese researchers shows that astragalus aids in reducing vomiting and nausea in people suffering from colorectal cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. [9]

Reduces Stress

High anxiety and chronic stress can be very dangerous, as stress hormones can wreak havoc on a healthy system when not kept in check. Therefore, finding ways to relax is important, and astragalus has been attributed to reduced stress levels and general promotion of peace and calm. For those suffering from mood swings and constant nervous tension, astragalus can rebalance your hormonal levels. [10]

Reduces Sleep Issues

If you suffer from insomnia, sleeplessness, or interrupted sleep patterns, regular consumption of astragalus root extract can quickly get you back into a healthy Circadian rhythm. By promoting overall health, metabolic efficiency, and hormonal balance, astragalus can help to deliver uninterrupted, restful sleep. [11]

Anti-aging Properties

This is perhaps the most important and popular use of astragalus, namely because everyone wants to “live forever”. There has been a great deal of research done on the effects of astragalus and its antioxidant potential. It can significantly help to reduce signs of aging on the face, promote regrowth of tissue, eliminate free radicals, and prevent or reverse chronic illness symptoms. The proof is becoming too difficult to ignore, and more and more people are turning to astragalus for its obvious anti-aging effects. This is particularly true for the skin, and for blemishes, wrinkles, and age spots, astragalus extract can be a powerful remedy. [12]

Boosts Immune System

Aside from its antioxidant effects that help to protect the immune system from major attacks, the adaptogenic qualities of astragalus can actually help your immune system become smarter and more effective in its handling of any foreign pathogen and substance, therefore boosting the general strength of your immune system for simple colds and infections. [13]

Word of Caution: While many of these benefits seem almost too good to be true, there is one that can work against the body. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, HIV, MS, or rheumatoid arthritis, astragalus can actually exacerbate your symptoms by boosting the activity and strength of your immune system, so you should avoid the use of this herb. As with any major change to your herbal or health regimen, it is wise to talk to a trained medical professional first. [14]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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