Astragalus, also known as Bei qiln or yellow leader, is one of 50 herbs that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. Astragalus boosts the immune system and is believed to have anti-aging properties, especially when combined with herbs such as ginseng, licorice and angelica. With the numerous ways astragalus benefits a person's overall health, it is popular with herbalists and pharmaceutical companies alike.
In ancient times, the Chinese used astragalus to speed wound healing and prevent and treat colds. It is now used as a dietary supplement to stimulate metabolism and aid digestion. It is also used in the form of nutritional supplements to help extend lifespan. Recent research also suggests that astragalus benefits the immune system by activating immune cells.
With the recent surge in anti-aging products, researchers are investigating astragalus as a means to combat the signs of aging. Researchers believe astragalus benefits human DNA by protecting the telomere at the end of each DNA strand. Corruption or loss of the ends of these cords is thought to cause aging. Although no studies have proven that astragalus alone benefits DNA, several pharmaceutical companies are working to extract certain properties of astragalus that are believed to act as telomerase activators that protect and preserve the telomere in the human body.
In China and other parts of the world, astragalus benefits cancer patients and patients with chronic hepatitis. The herb is used in conjunction with other therapies for cancer patients to protect the immune system during chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It is also used in patients with chronic hepatitis, especially those with hepatitis C, to prevent liver and kidney damage.
Its immune-boosting properties have also led to the use of astragalus in the treatment of HIV patients whose immune systems are severely weakened. It is also used in conjunction with other treatments for patients suffering from chronic diseases that typically cause infections, such as chronic asthma and heart disease. While many patients with these conditions benefit from astragalus, current research has not proven that it works for all patients.
This ancient herb, available in tablet form, is best taken as a tea or soup made from the dry root of the plant. Chinese doctors and herbalists still use it today to help their patients fight infections, improve their digestive systems, and treat several serious diseases. While scientists and traditional medical researchers are still working to study all the available benefits of astragalus, many who practice traditional Chinese medicine have used and continue to use this herb.