Astragalus is an herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and it has been in use for ages to boost the immune system, the inherent healing system of the body. This herb has achieved a huge upsurge in popularity in the western world.
This is mainly due to recent research that details the large number of health benefits that astragalus has to offer.
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What is Astragalus
Astragalus is a perennial plant native to temperate regions of northern and eastern China, Mongolia and Korea. About 16 to 36 inches tall, this plant has hairy stems with leaves that have 12-18 pairs of leaflets. Four year old plant roots are dried after harvesting and used in many medicines.
Astragalus is a powerful adaptogenic herb, a pharmacological term that refers to substances that aid in stabilization of physiological processes and promotion of homeostasis. Adaptogens are plants, herbs and substances that decrease cellular sensitivity to stress.
Specific Health Benefits of Astragalus
There are specific health benefits of astragalus that are being researched these days. Some of these are benefits that this herb was known for in TCM. Some of them are being researched further to provide specific evidence of effectiveness.
The role of astragalus in strengthening the immune system has been the basis of its position in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Further research using modern resources suggests that there is a fair amount of weight in that belief.
The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs quotes a study conducted at the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston stating that â€˜researchers found that a water extraction of astragalus restored or enhanced the function of T-cells (white blood cells that play specific roles in the immune system) taken from people with cancer.â€
Reduces Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Taking astragalus intravenously or using it as part of a TCM supplement reduces nausea, diarrhea, and bone marrow reduction, common side effects of chemotherapy.
Delays the Aging Process – DNA Protection
Research suggests that astragalus inhibits degradation of telomeres that act as caps to keep the sticky ends of chromosomes from randomly clumping together. This clumping takes place during DNA replication and the DNA keeps getting shorter up to a critical point leading to cell death.
Astragalus works to stimulate production of more telomeres by activating telomerase, an enzyme that adds telomeres to the ends of chromosomes after they divide.
Antibacterial and Anti-inflammatory
The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of astragalus help in healing wounds and improving sickness. Studies reveal that astragalus also works as an antiviral and boosts the immune system to push the bodyâ€™s inherent power of self healing giving credence to its use by Traditional Chinese Medicine for prevention and treatment of common colds.
A study conducted in the University of Maryland Medical Center found that astragalus may help reduce symptoms in people who have allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
There are reasons to believe that astragalus can lower blood sugar levels. However, this benefit of astragalus has not been understood or researched to unequivocally prove the manner in which the herb works.
Some of the other areas where astragalus may be helpful include angina, beta thalassemia, chronic fatigue, aplastic anemia, asthma, hepatitis B and even hearing loss.
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