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Astragalus contains numerous components, including flavonoids, polysaccharides, triterpene glycosides (e.g., astragalosides I–VII), amino acids, and trace minerals.11 Several preliminary clinical trials in China have suggested that astragalus can benefit immune function and improve survival in some people with cancer.12 Given the poor quality of these trials, it is difficult to know how useful astragalus really was. One Chinese trial also found that astragalus could decrease overactive immune function in people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease.13 Further trials are needed, however, to know if astragalus is safe for people with SLE, or any other autoimmune disease.
A double-blind trial found that, in people undergoing dialysis for kidney failure, intravenous astragalus improved one facet of immune function compared to the immune function of untreated people.14 Further study is needed to determine if astragalus can help prevent infections in people undergoing dialysis. Early clinical trials in China suggest astragalus root might also benefit people with chronic viral hepatitis, though it may take one to two months to see results.15
In preliminary trials in China, astragalus has been used after people suffer heart attacks.16 More research is needed to determine whether astragalus is truly beneficial in this situation.
Textbooks on Chinese herbs recommend taking 9–15 grams of the crude herb per day in decoction form.17 A decoction is made by boiling the root in water for a few minutes and then brewing the tea. Alternatively, 3–5 ml of tincture three times per day, are sometimes recommended.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.