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 benefits the immune system and is thought to have anti-aging properties, especially when combined with herbs such as ginseng, licorice and angelica. With the numerous ways astragalus is said to benefit a person’s overall health, it’s popular with both herbalists and pharmaceutical companies alike.
In ancient times, Chinese used astragalus to speed up the healing of wounds and to prevent and treat colds. It is used today as a supplement meant to enhance the metabolism and aid in digestion. It is also used in supplement form to extend one’s lifespan. Recent research also suggests that astragalus benefits the immune system by activating immune cells.
With the recent surge of anti-aging products, researchers are studying 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 strand of DNA. The corruption or loss of the ends of these strands is what is thought to cause aging. While no studies have proved that astragalus benefits DNA on its own, several pharmaceutical companies are working on extracting certain properties of astragalus that are thought to act as telomerase activators, which protect and preserve the telomere in the human body.
In China and other areas of the world, astragalus benefits cancer and chronic hepatitis patients. The herb is used in conjunction with other therapies for cancer patients to protect the immune system during chemotherapy and radiation. It is also used in chronic hepatitis patients, especially those with hepatitis C, to prevent damage to the liver and kidneys.
Its immune-boosting properties have also led to the use of astragalus in the treatment of HIV patients, whose immune systems are severely compromised. It is also used in conjunction with other treatments for those suffering from chronic diseases that typically cause infections, such as chronic asthma and heart disease. While astragalus benefits many patients with these diseases, current research has not proved it to work in all patients.
This ancient herb, while available in pill form, is best taken as a tea or soup made from the dry root of the plant. Chinese doctors and herbalists still use this method today to help their patients fight infections, improve their digestive system and treat several serious diseases. While scientists and traditional medical researchers are still working on studying all of the astragalus benefits available, many who practice traditional Chinese medicine have used and continue to use this herb.