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Astragalus has been a commonly used herb in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, but it’s one of few such herbs that also enjoys a crossover into common use in Western botanical medicine. Like so many herbs, astragalus has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties, but it stands out as an adaptogen.

Adaptogens are incredibly versatile, acting primarily as modulating agents on various systems, rather than stimulants or suppressants. In this way, they work with the body, rather than against it, to achieve balance.

Astragalus as an Immune Modulating Adaptogen

Allergies and autoimmunity are two sides of the same coin, both representing different types of immune dysfunction. Since astragalus is immune modulating, it helps both sides — mitigating allergy symptoms such as rhinorrhea and also modulating specifically manifestations of scleroderma. This is due to the fact that fibrosis in scleroderma is secondary to elevated TGFb1, and astragalus modulates this.

Incidentally, TGFb1 is also implicated in keloid scar formation, so astragalus can be helpful in preventing keloid formation for those prone to them.

This study also shows that astragalus can also modulate a hyperactive immune system secondary to a legitimate foreign invader, such as in sepsis, by reducing out-of-control inflammation, and edema.

Astragalus for Wound Healing

Interestingly, while the mechanism of scleroderma (mentioned above) involves inappropriate collagen deposition in fibroblasts, and astragalus is beneficial in preventing this, it nevertheless encourages appropriate collagen deposition in wound healing.

This study shows that astragalus improved wound healing two- and threefold over 48-96 hours.

Astragalus as an Antiviral Agent

Astragalus has been shown to have antiviral properties specifically, helping to inhibit viral hepatitis, coxsackie, and viral myocarditis.

Astragalus for Protection Against Cardiovascular Disease

Due to its antioxidant properties, astragalus has also been shown to be beneficial in atherosclerosis, as the underlying cause always involves damage to the vasculature.

Astragalus also has been shown to be beneficial in patients with congestive heart failure by improving function of the heart, and its ejection fraction.

Astragalus for Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes

Possibly related, since metabolic syndrome is so often closely linked to cardiovascular disease, astragalus also improves insulin sensitivity in general, and in insulin-resistant skeletal muscle, and adipocytes (fat cells).

This will have the effect of decreasing circulating glucose levels, thus protecting against vascular damage due to elevated blood sugar.

The Upshot

In addition to many of the common benefits of medicinal herbs, astragalus is also an excellent immune modulating herb, protective against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease to boot.