Astragalus Root: Anti-Inflammatory and Immune Support

Astragalus Root: Anti-Inflammatory and Immune Support

The Astragalus herb is a flowering plant from a family of plants known as Leguminosae.1 The roots of the plant have been studied for their potential effects in the treatment and prevention of diseases. It has been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years to enhance the body’s vital energy and treat diabetes, nephritis, leukemia, digestion problems, liver disease, skin conditions, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, lymphatic disease, and reproductive issues in women.2,3,4,5)

The Astragalus root is rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and trace elements (such as iron) that are essential for human development.2,3 In addition to its nutritional benefits, Astragalus’ history and recent studies have shown it to provide pharmacological properties beneficial in the treatment and prevention of certain diseases. 

The root of the Astragalus plant helps boost the immune system, protect the liver and cardiovascular and nervous system, regulate blood sugars, and slow the growth of tumors. Many of the beneficial effects of the Astragalus root are attributed to its flavonoid content.4,5 Flavonoids are plant metabolites that can help regulate the activity within your body’s cells. Studies have demonstrated that the flavonoids within the root provide antioxidant and anti-tumor benefits, as well as helping prevent cholesterol buildup in arteries. Flavonoids also help protect the heart by promoting and upregulating specific proteins that offer cell protection in addition to decreasing damage caused by a type of cellular stress known as oxidative stress. Furthermore, flavonoids help boost the immune system by regulating white blood cells and other immune cells.  

Astragalus root also contains compounds and molecules which have anti-inflammatory effects. Studies show that the use of a soap-like compound called saponin and complex carbohydrates known as polysaccharides in the treatment of atopic dermatitis can enhance healing and anti-scar effects and provide a promising treatment option for wound care.2 These anti-inflammatory effects of Astragalus also show promise in the treatment of diabetic kidney disease by inhibiting gene expression associated with the inflammation and thereby offering a protective effect against diabetes.1,6 

The polysaccharide component of the Astragalus root was also found to help regulate and enhance insulin sensitization in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The compounds in the Astragalus root (including flavonoids, saponins and polysaccharides) also have anti-tumor properties and may be able to decrease tumor size.1 Extracts from the Astragalus root have shown promising effects in the treatment of damage to the retinas caused by diabetes by inhibiting and repairing cell damage.7 Additional studies have shown that Astragalus root may be effective in facilitating the treatment of allergic asthma, convulsive disorders, breast cancer, and fatigue. Other studies also look to evaluate the use of Astragalus root for other properties including antiviral, hepatoprotective, and neuron protective. (1,2)

Astragalus root is generally safe to consume with minimal side effects. However, some individuals may have a rare allergic reaction and should seek medical attention in such cases.8,9 

  1. Li, X., Qu, L., Dong, Y., Han, L., Liu, E., Fang, S., ... & Wang, T. (2014). A review of recent research progress on the astragalus genus. Molecules19(11), 18850-18880.
  2. Lee, D. Y., Noh, H. J., Choi, J., Lee, K. H., Lee, M. H., Lee, J. H., ... & Kim, G. S. (2013). Anti-inflammatory cycloartane-type saponins of Astragalus membranaceus. Molecules18(4), 3725-3732.
  3. Shahrajabian, M. H., Sun, W., & Cheng, Q. (2019). A review of astragalus species as foodstuffs, dietary supplements, a traditional Chinese medicine and a part of modern pharmaceutical science. Applied Ecology and Environmental Research17(6), 13371-13382.
  4. Li, J., Xu, L., Sang, R., Yu, Y., Ge, B., & Zhang, X. (2018). Immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of total flavonoids of Astragalus by regulating NF-ΚB and MAPK signalling pathways in RAW 264.7 macrophages. Die Pharmazie-An International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences73(10), 589-593.
  5. Shahrajabian, M. H., Sun, W., & Cheng, Q. (2019). Astragalus, an ancient medicinal root in traditional Chinese medicine, a gift from silk road. International Journal of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. 2019f3(06), 27-38.
  6. Kim, J., Moon, E., & Kwon, S. (2014). Effect of Astragalus membranaceus extract on diabetic nephropathy. Endocrinology, diabetes & metabolism case reports2014(1).
  7. Liu, X., Wang, B., Sun, Y., Jia, Y., & Xu, Z. (2019). Astragalus root extract inhibits retinal cell apoptosis and repairs damaged retinal neovascularization in retinopathy of prematurity. Cell Cycle18(22), 3147-3159.
  8. Yu, S. Y., OuYang, H. T., Yang, J. Y., Huang, X. L., Yang, T., Duan, J. P., ... & Qiong, P. (2007). Subchronic toxicity studies of Radix Astragali extract in rats and dogs. Journal of ethnopharmacology110(2), 352-355.
  9. Al-Snafi, A. E. (2015). Chemical constituents and pharmacological effects of Astragalus hamosus and Astragalus tribuloides grown in Iraq. Asian J of Pharm Sci & Tech5(4), 321-328.
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