Featured image: Astragalus membranaceous Photo: Sudhir Ahluwalia
Astragalus membranaceous common name milk vetch is one of the 50 fundamental Chinese medicinal herbs. 133 species of the genus are found in Europe alone. The plant is said to have the highest concentration of active molecules. In trade, in addition to A. membranaceus, other species are also sold as Huang qi, the Chinese name of the herb. Astragalus membranaceus is cultivated for medicine in China.
Astragalus was a stabilizer in pharmaceutical products and was included in the US Pharmacopeia as far back as 1820. Most gum tragacanth produced across the world is used in pharmaceutical product manufacture. Iran and Turkey are major manufacturers of this gum.
The herb is used in traditional medicine in China and several countries in Europe and Asia. In China, it is a tonic herb that stimulates the immune system and helps reduce blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels. Some use it as a substitute for ginseng, which comes from multiple species, particularly Panax ginseng.
The ability of the plant to help modulate and build the immune system has been used by Chinese herbalists as an adjuvant medicine for cancer patients. The effectiveness of this use has been validated in multiple experiments conducted by Chinese scientists (Chu et al., 1988).
Today, cancer specialists administer a two-drug regimen of vinorelbine and cisplatin to patients with advanced small-cell lung cancer. An Astragalus injective is claimed to improve such patients’ quality of life and survival (Guo et al., 2012). The herb was also observed to induce cancer cell death in chronic myeloid leukemia cell lines (Huang et al., 2012).
Three herbs, Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus membranaceus, and Glycyrrhiza, were seen to have an additive effect in experiments aimed at activating human immune cells (Brush et al., 2006). The herb was also seen to be effective against gastrointestinal cancers (Auyeung et al., 2016).
Some of the potential health benefits of Astragalus membranaceus include:
- Immune system support: Astragalus is thought to help boost the immune system and may have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Astragalus has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Cardiovascular health: Astragalus may help improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Fatigue reduction: Astragalus has been used to reduce fatigue and improve energy levels, although more research is needed in this area.
- Anti-cancer properties: Astragalus has been shown to have potential anti-cancer effects, although more research is needed to understand its role in cancer treatment and prevention fully.
It’s important to note that while Astragalus has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, more research is needed to fully understand its health benefits and determine the most effective doses and forms of Astragalus.
To get a science-supported view of herbs used in traditional medicine systems to heal cancer, – check here.