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Astragalus

General Information

Astragalus is a family of herbs that contains over 2,000 species. The most common species – Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus – are used in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as in the United States for health-related purposes.

Common Name(s)

astragalus, bei qi, huang qi, ogi, hwanggi, milk vetch

Scientific Name(s)

Astragalus membranaceus, Astragalus mongholicus

Scientific Name(s)

The roots of this plant are usually made into soups, extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredients, tablets, and capsules for use. Typically, astragalus is used together with other herbs, such as ginseng, angelica, and licorice.

What is this product used for?

Traditionally astragalus is used to strengthen the immune system, together with other herbs. It is also used in China for treatment of liver diseases such as chronic hepatitis, as an add-on therapy for cancer, for prevention and treatment of common colds and upper respiratory infections, and for prevention and treatment of heart diseases.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

Scientific support for use of astragalus is limited. There is a lack of high-quality research on the actual benefit of astragalus for any of its traditional uses. Some weak evidence exists to suggest that astragalus, either alone or in combination with other herbs, may have potential benefits for the immune system, heart, liver, and as an add-on therapy for cancer.

Use of astragalus is generally considered safe for most adults. However, possible side effects are not well known as the herb is usually used together with other ingredients.

This herb may interact with drugs that affect the immune system, such as chemotherapy for cancer and drugs taken by organ transplant recipients. Astragalus may also affect blood sugar levels and impact blood pressure.

Some astragalus species, not typically used in dietary supplements, can be toxic. For example, some species contain the neurotoxin swainsonine and have caused "locoweed" poisoning in animals. In addition, other species may contain potentially toxic levels of selenium (a dietary mineral).

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

Source(s)

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Herbs at a Glance. Astragalus. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/astragalus/

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