Powerful Immune System Support
Astragalus membranaceus (astragalus), also known as Huang Qi, is a perennial plant that has been traditionally used to boost the immune system.49 Considered an adaptogenic herb, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) advocates the use of astragalus to strengthen and restore balance to Qi.20 Its root, often referred to as Radix Astragali, is essential to many Chinese medicinal formulas prescribed on this basis—some dating back over a 1000 years to the Song Dynasty (906-1276).49
One such formula, Jusentaihoto, was designed with astragalus as its primary ingredient by Imperial Physician’s College herbalists to treat anemia, unintended weight loss, and fatigue. Today research into the immune-supporting properties of astragalus have helped explain how astragalus works, and its traditional medicine uses have been validated by clinical trials and applied to modern medical practices. For example, because astragalus boosts immune function and alleviates symptoms associated with chemotherapy and other cancer therapies, Jusentaihoto and astragalus (by itself) are currently included in integrative cancer treatment.49
How Does It Work?
A number of studies have been conducted to determine the mechanisms by which astragalus supports the immune system. Its polysaccharide components are believed to be linked to its immune-boosting qualities.50 In particular, astragalans I and II appear to stimulate the immune system.49
Chinese traditional medicine asserts that astragalus improves immunological activity and the ability to resist illness by removing toxins from the blood and modulating the liver and spleen functions.51 The spleen is a small organ that lays to the left of the top of the stomach. It plays a role in the immune system by filtering blood, recycling red blood cells, storing platelets and white blood cells, and fighting bacteria (especially those that cause the flu and pneumonia).52 Studies have shown that astragalus also stimulates growth of spleen cells.49
Lab research indicates that astragalus stimulates production of macrophages and enhances the production of lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells. These immunological effects explain at least some of the antiviral, antibacterial, and antitumor benefits that astragalus seems to confer.20-49
Additional immunostimulatory effects for astragalus have been identified in pilot human studies, including activating CD4 and CD8 T cells within 24 hours of ingestion.53 CD4 immune cells are a type of white blood cell that eradicates certain bacteria and viruses encountered in the body, while CD8-type white blood cells can recognize and destroy virally infected and malignant cells.54
Possessing the ability to help the body maintain or restore health
in response to stressors.
Circulating life energy; balance is necessary to good health.
Also known as Shi Chuan Da Bu Tang or JTT-48.
White blood cells that attack foreign or tumor substances in the body
and also stimulate other immune system responses.
Also known as T-helper cells.
Also known as T-suppressor or cytotoxic T cells.