There is an herb famous for its immune boosting properties. It has been used for centuries throughout East Asia from Japan to India. The Greeks named this healing herb Astragalus, by which it is known in the Western world today.
Astragalus is an adaptogen, helping the body to ‘adapt’ to challenges. The challenge before us now is a virus. The tremendous value of astragalus is its ability to greatly improve our immune system’s resistance to illness!
Now, western medicine is finally starting to agree and we see universities like UCLA, Johns Hopkins and Dartmouth using astragalus in clinical trials.
Amazingly, all the studies are making the same remarkable discovery. A mountain of clinical research is showing astragalus supports several immune system functions. The most important may be making T-cells young again! And it does this with no dangerous side effects.
An Immune System Miracle
Science is finding astragalus gets its immunity boosting action from a high content of polysaccharides, flavonoids and saponins. These are naturally occurring complex carbohydrates or sugars found in some plants and fungi.
Polysaccharides – boost the production of white blood cells and activate killer T cells to protect your body against disease and ramp up the activity of T cells. (1)
Flavonoids – are very potent antioxidants, protecting cells from dangerous free radicals causing chronic inflammation. This is when a an immune system can start actually harming the body instead of helping it.
Saponins – have shown wonderful anti-cancer abilities as well as having potent antiviral chemicals. Anyone who is fighting off a serious disease such as cancer can benefit from astragalus. (2)
Western doctors have found out that astragalus also helps increase the production of interferon in the body, as well as boosts red blood cells. Interferon helps destroy microbes and viruses. It is antiviral in its function. Interferon is often recommended for people with compromised immune systems, like HIV or chronic colds or infection of the respiratory system. (3)
T-Cells and Astragalus
T-cells may be the most important all-around aspect of the immune system. They co-ordinate the immune system’s attack of virus, cancer cells and anything else that wants to attack the body. They find these unwanted things and attach themselves to them. Then, they send a chemical signal back to the immune system telling it what to produce to kill them.
To help increase T-cells, astragalus encourages telomerase enzyme activity. This healthy telomerase activity, in turn, supports T-cell growth. (This is also important in battling autoimmune conditions by helping without increasing inflammation.) (4)
UCLA researchers studied an astragalus compound in a double blinded clinical trial that used a specific extract (cycloastragenol) from the root. They used 50 mg and when they compared the extract to other potential telomerase activators, astragalus had hit a home run! In just 72 hours, they saw a 330% boost in telomerase activity compared to anything else tested. (5)
And as a result, of course, they saw a similar boost in new T cells. In fact, out of all the things they tried, only the astragalus made a significant impact on the growth of the new T cells.
Astragalus also contributes to natural growth of new white blood cells that fend off all kinds of foreign invaders. This natural astragalus breakthrough rejuvenates every kind of immune cell. It gives your body’s defenses the activity level of someone years younger. (6)
Researchers gave an astragalus extract to 100 patients, 63 and older, using varying doses from 10 to 50 mg. The results were breathtaking! They reported “positive remodeling of the immune system.” – fancy words for, “Wow!” (7)
In a sense, with age your T cells can fall asleep. (It is referred to as ‘immune senescence’.) Now, researchers are founding a large part of these ‘sleeping’ T cells becaming active again. This is what they meant when referring to the ‘positive remodeling of the immune system’.
Dr. Josh Axe, functional medicine doctor, gives great praises to saying, “…boosting the immune system is astragalus’ claim to fame. It’s been used in this capacity for thousands of years.”
This is why we are so encouraged to see astragalus tested and shown clinically to be an immune agent powerhouse unlike any other. Wow – nothing else has been shown to add so much with no chemicals, harmful ingredients, or no side effects.
Therefore, we have added astragalus to our flu protocol (and will probably be adding it to some of our formulas in the future).
The Whole Root
We recommend using the whole astragalus root for a good reason. Sloan Kettering Memorial (one of the best hospitals in the world) found using the whole astragalus root is greater than the sum of its parts. They split up astragalus into separate parts and then tested these parts against the whole root. What they found was surprising. The entire Root showed better support for antibodies. (8)
The researchers concluded that every component of astragalus has a particular immune role (much like immune cells). As a result, astragalus, as a whole, can impact the entire immune system better. Known as the ‘entourage effect’, in the medical world as synergy, bringing all these different components together works better than any one individually.
Together, this activates telomerase enzymes – which activates the T cells. This process reboots aging T cells and puts them to work again defending you – similar to the immune systems that we see in the young and healthy. (9)
- Some people use a whole root powder, or make tea with it, using 1-3 g. daily.
- Some people take a capsule – just make sure it is a 4:1 extract or you are just buying a root powder. A common amount is 300-500 mg daily.
- We prefer liquid extracts, using a part of a serving amounting to the same 300-500 mg daily.
Time – Astragalus is not instant, like an antibiotic. It takes some time to build up immunity so it is best to start ahead of the need.
(*Note: astragalus is not known or proven to cure any disease. It is only known for strengthening the immune system, which in and of itself separately fights illness independently.)
- Qing-yang Liu, Yong-ming Yao, Shu-wen Zhang, Zhi-yong Sheng. Astragalus polysaccharides regulate T cell-mediated immunity via CD11c CD45RB DCs in vitro. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 136, Issue 3, 14 July 2011, Pages 457-464.
- A.V. Rao, M.-K. Sung. Saponins as Anticarcinogens. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 125, Issue suppl_3, March 1995, Pages 717S–724S,
- Keith I. Block, MD, and Mark N. Mead, MS. Immune System Effects of Echinacea, Ginseng, and Astragalus: A Review. Herbal Immunostimulants, Sage Publications Journal.
- Robinson, L. G., Seth-Smith, M. L., Wang, L., Wang, F., & Keefe, D. L. Enhancement of telomere maintenance using telomerase activation in human cells. Fertility and Sterility, 102(3), e104.
- Molgora, B. Functional Assessment of Pharmacological Telomerase Activators in Human T cells. Cells, 2(1), 57–66.
- Chang, F. Astragalus membranaceus – Derived Anti-Programmed Death-1 Monoclonal Antibodies with Immunomodulatory Therapeutic Effects against Tumors. BioMed Research International, 2020.
- Harley, C. A Natural Product Telomerase Activator As Part of a Health Maintenance Program. Rejuvenation Research, 14(1), 45–56.
- Hong, F. The Known Immunologically Active Components of Astragalus Account for Only a Small Proportion of the Immunological Adjuvant Activity When Combined with Conjugate Vaccines. Planta Medica, 77(8), 817–824.
- https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/astragalus (especially in reference to): Wang S, Li J, Huang H, et al. Anti-hepatitis B virus activities of astragaloside IV isolated from radix Astragali. Biol Pharm Bull. Jan 2009;32(1):132-135.Denzler K, Moore J, Harrington H, et al. Characterization of the Physiological Response following In Vivo Administration of Astragalus membranaceus. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:6861078.