Common Cold and Sore ThroatAdaptogens such as astragalus are thought to help keep various body systems—including the immune system—functioning optimally.
Herbal supplements can help strengthen the immune system and fight infections. 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.7
Immune FunctionComplex polysaccharides in astragalus affect the immune system. One study showed that astragalus elevate antibody levels in healthy people.Complex polysaccharides present in astragalus and in maitake and coriolus mushrooms appear to act as “immunomodulators” and, as such, are being researched for their potential role in AIDS and cancer. Presently, the only human studies on astragalus indicate that it can prevent white blood cell numbers from falling in people given chemotherapy and radiotherapy and can elevate antibody levels in healthy people.8 Maitake has only been studied in animals as a way to increase immune function.9 The primary immuno-activating polysaccharide found in these mushrooms, beta-D-glucan, is well absorbed when taken orally10 and is currently under investigation as a supportive tool for HIV infection. Results from future research will improve the understanding of the possible benefits of these mushrooms and their constituents.
InfectionAstragalus supports the immune system and protects against microbes.
LupusThough a safe amount has not been established, one preliminary trial found that this herb could decrease overactive immune function in people with this disease.
One Chinese preliminary trial also found that astragalus could decrease overactive immune function in people with systemic lupus erythematosus.12 However, much more research is needed to know whether astragalus is safe in lupus or any other autoimmune disease.
Heart AttackPreliminary clinical trials in China suggest that astragalus may be beneficial for people after they have suffered a heart attack.Preliminary clinical trials in China suggest that astragalus may be of benefit in people after they have suffered a heart attack.13,14 These studies did not attempt to show any survival or symptom reduction benefit. Therefore, further research is needed to determine whether astragaslus would be of benefit to people with heart attacks or angina.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Shen Nung, the founder of Chinese herbal medicine, classified astragalus as a superior herb in his classical treatise Shen Nung Pen Tsao Ching (circa A.D. 100). The Chinese name huang qi translates as “yellow leader,” referring to the yellow color of the root and its status as one of the most important tonic herbs. Traditional Chinese Medicine used this herb for night sweats, deficiency of chi (e.g., fatigue, weakness, and loss of appetite), and diarrhea.15