Astragalus for the Immune System
by Vic Shayne, PhD
Astragalus is an herb that has grown in popularity as of recently, though it has been in use traditionally for thousands of years. It’s an ingredient within the whole food supplement CellPower and ImmuneSupport, both of which are used to support the immune system and energize the body.
Animal studies and preliminary human clinical studies suggest that astragalus may improve functioning of the immune system and might possibly enhance the effect of conventional immune therapy for some cancers. The scientific evidence for the ability of astragalus to enhance the immune system and fight diseases, including cancer and heart disease, comes mostly from laboratory and animal studies. Researchers at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that astragalus extract enhanced the cell-destroying ability, or cytotoxicity, of the conventional immunotherapy treatment interleukin-2 by improving the immune system’s response. It also partly restored the immune function of cells in test tubes. Astragalus has also been found to reduce the length of colds and stimulate the production of interferons, a group of substances produced by the body as part of the normal defense mechanism against viral infections. — American Cancer Society
University of Michigan researchers state:
Astragalus contains numerous components, including flavonoids, polysaccharides, triterpene glycosides (e.g., astragalosides I-VII), amino acids, and trace minerals.3 Several preliminary clinical trials in China have suggested that astragalus can benefit immune function and improve survival in some people with cancer.4 Given the poor quality of these trials, it is difficult to know how useful astragalus really was. One Chinese trial also found that astragalus could decrease overactive immune function in people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease.5 Further trials are needed, however, to know if astragalus is safe for people with SLE, or any other autoimmune disease.
A double-blind trial found that, in people undergoing dialysis for kidney failure, intravenous astragalus improved one facet of immune function compared to the immune function of untreated people.6 Further study is needed to determine if astragalus can help prevent infections in people undergoing dialysis. Early clinical trials in China suggest astragalus root might also benefit people with chronic viral hepatitis, though it may take one to two months to see results.7
In preliminary trials in China, astragalus has been used after people suffer heart attacks.8 More research is needed to determine whether astragalus is truly beneficial in this situation.
Astragalus has no known side effects when used as recommended.