Basic facts about astragalus
Astragalus is a type of bean (legume). In fact, the term refers to a large genus of plants, of which there are approximately 3000 species. They range in size from herbs to small shrubs. An old English name for Astragalus is milk vetch?. In other places varieties are referred to as locoweed or goat’s thorn. Some species of astragalus are vine like.
Astragalus originated in the northern hemisphere in Mongolia and parts of China. It is now used in complementary medicine in many other parts of the world. Particular varieties of astragalus are used in Chinese medicine to support the immune system and slow ageing. It can also help with the recovery from illness and improve resistance, stamina and vitality and help support the body when under stress.
Benefits of astragalus
Astragalus appears to work by modulating the immune system and strengthening the body against disease. It can also help protect the body from certain types of stressors including physical, mental and emotional stressors. An example may include recovery from excessive exercise (marathon), acute emotional stress or other disturbance.
The proposedare many, though science is still catching up with evidence to support some claims. It can be used to support immune health and in recovery from respiratory infections. It may also be of assistant in diabetes, fibromyalgia, for support of the urinary tract, arthritis and asthma.
Other properties of astragalus
Astragalus contains antioxidants that can help prevent damage to healthy cells. It also has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.
In some countries, astragalus is being investigated for patients who have weakened immune systems as a result of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. It has not been found to be of benefit to people with HIV/AIDS. People with chronic auto-immune conditions may like to discuss with their health practitioner whether astragalus is appropriate for their use. It may be okay in some cases but is generally not recommended for people with some autoimmune conditions, as it may cause aggravation.
People who may benefit from astragalus
The people most likely to benefit from supplementation with astragalus are those looking to strengthen or restore the immune system, in particular those who have:
– Frequent colds, sore throats or recurring bouts of the flu
– Low resistance to infections
– High levels of daily stress
– Been seriously ill and are now convalescing
– Regular infections of the upper respiratory tract
– Chronic fatigue syndrome
There are examples of people using astragalus for the care of wounds.
New findings about astragalus
A recent study has also shown a possible relationship between astragalus and the stability of our DNA that may help slow or prevent ageing. In particular, the action relates to the telomeres at the end of a DNA strand that shorten each time a cell divides. Astragalus may help turn on an enzyme that helps maintain the length of the telomeres, helping prevent them from fraying? or being damaged, thereby potentially increasing their durability.
The length of these cells are important. Scientists have found correlations between telomere length and susceptibility to certain aging-related diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and stroke.
Katherine West is a health freak and freelance writer who in 2003 studied for a Diploma of Nutrition. She is also into yoga and pilates.