Immune Booster, Astragalus

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Astragalus
( IMMUNE BOOSTER )
The name of this ancient herb (known in Chinese as huangqi) may be less familiar than echinacea—but I'm pleased to note that it has earned a spot among this country's best-selling herbs for its similar powers as an immune enhancer. If you tend to get every cold or virus that's going around, are vulnerable to stress, or have chronic infections such as sinusitis or bronchitis, you should consider taking this herb as a daily tonic. I also recommend it as an adjunctive treatment for conditions of suppressed immunity such as mononucleosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and AIDS as well as for those undergoing or recovering from radiation or chemotherapy
for cancer.

Astragalus is a large genus in the pea family that's related to the locoweed that grows in the American West. The form of the plant used medicinally grows wild in northern China and Inner Mongolia: Its dried root is sold by Chinese herbalists in bundles of thin sweet-tasting slices that look like tongue depressors. One of the most revered herbs in Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years, astragalus is still prescribed by practition­ers there today as a whole-body tonic—to strengthen or invigorate the healing system on a daily basis—as well as a cold and flu remedy. It's also a chief component of fu zheng therapy, a combination herbal treat­ment designed to restore immune function in cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy.
Like echinacea, astragalus has been shown to stimulate white blood cell activi­ty and increase the production of antibod­ies and interferon (all of which are important to immune function). Chinese clinical studies suggest that it reduces the frequency and duration of the common cold. In addition, cancer research in China—which shows increased survival in patients receiving both herbal and Western therapies—
/indicates that astragalus may help protect the bone marrow and immune system from some of the damaging effects of con­ventional cancer treatments. In the West, pharmacological studies of the herb have revealed antiviral properties as well as gen­eral immune-boosting effects.








In rare cases, people taking astragalus have reported loose stools or abdominal bloating. But, in general, the underground parts of this herb (from which the extract is prepared) have extremely low toxicity: Studies show that mice given the equivalent of 500 times the recommended human dose exhibit no adverse effects.
DR. ANDREW WEIL'S CONSUMER GUIDE TO HERBAL MEDICINES


Available in tinctures or capsules; choose whichever form you prefer.
Look for either a single or combination formula—both are effective.
If you're at a loss, ask for a product called Astra-8, a capsule that mixes astragalus with seven other Chinese herbs.

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