Astragalus mebranaceus (Huang Qi) is a commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM it is used to strengthen Wei Qi. Wei Qi has been described as a force field, protecting the body from external threats and because of this Astragalus is especially used in the cold and flu season. Astragalus has been used for millennia in China it is often added to soups and broths and taken on a long term basis.
As well as its traditional use, it is widely used by western herbalists and functional medicine doctors. To date, many studies in cellular and animal models have demonstrated that Astragaloside, one of the major compounds in the plant, possesses potent protective effects in cardiovascular system, lung, kidney and brain.(1,2)
It also has a effect on normalizing inflammation. In clinical trials it has been shown to suppresses inflammatory mediators NF -K Beta, MAP kinase, IL-6 and IL-8. These immune modulating effects are seen in many studies but I have for expediency just included the studies on the respiratory system. (3,4,5,6,7,8,9).
Astragalus also has a long history of being used for stress support support. In animal studies it helps reverse stress induced memory changes and reduces neuro-inflammation. (10,11)
Lastly Astragalus is traditionally used to support the digestive system. Modern research shows it to have not only a normalizing effect on gut inflammation but a positive impact on diversity the microbiota of the gut. (12,13)
1: Shahzad M, Shabbir A, Wojcikowski K, et al. The Antioxidant Effects of Radix Astragali (Astragalus membranaceus) and Related Species in Protecting Tissues from Injury and Disease. Curr Drug Targets. 2016;17(12):1331-1340.
2: Zhang J, Wu C, Gao L, Du G, Qin X. Astragaloside IV derived from Astragalus membranaceus: A research review on the pharmacological effects. Adv Pharmacol. 2020;87:89-112. doi: 10.1016/bs.apha.2019.08.002. Epub 2019 Dec
3: Hsieh HL(1)(2), Liu SH(3), Chen YL(4), Huang CY(5), Wu SJ(6)(7). Arch Physiol Biochem. Astragaloside IV suppresses inflammatory response via suppression of NF-κB, and MAPK signalling in human bronchial epithelial cells. 2020 Feb 14:1-10. doi: 10.1080/13813455.2020.1727525. [Epub ahead of print]
4: Yang ZC, Qu ZH, Yi MJ, Wang C, Ran N, Xie N, Fu P, Feng XY, Lv ZD, Xu L.Am J Med Sci. Astragalus extract attenuates allergic airway inflammation and inhibits nuclear factor kB expression in asthmatic mice. 2013 Nov;346(5):390-5. doi: 10.1097/MAJ.0b013e3182753175.
5: Qin L, Tan HL, Wang YG, Xu CY, Feng J, Li M, Dou YQ. Astragalus membranaceus and Salvia miltiorrhiza Ameliorate Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Acute Lung Injury in Rats by Regulating the Toll-Like Receptor 4/Nuclear Factor-Kappa B Signaling Pathway. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 Jan 29;2018:3017571. doi:10.1155/2018/3017571. eCollection 2018.
6: Lu Y, Xing QQ, Xu JY, Ding D, Zhao X. Int J Biol Macromol. Astragalus polysaccharide modulates ER stress response in an OVA-LPS induced murine model of severe asthma. 2016 Dec;93(Pt A):995-1006. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2016.09.058. Epub 2016 Sep 16.
7: Wang W,, Liu QB, Jing W. Astragalus membranaceus improves therapeutic efficacy of asthmatic children by regulating the balance of Treg/Th17 cells. Chin J Nat Med. 2019 Apr;17(4):252-263. doi: 10.1016/S1875-5364(19)30029-9.
8: Zhang C, Wei P, Kou W, Kang HY, Yao HB. Effect of Astragalus membranaceus on Peripheral Blood Th17 in Patients with Allergic Rhinitis. hongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2016 Nov;36(11):1364-1368. [Article in Chinese]
9: DandanWuabXuexian O.Yang TH17 responses in cytokine storm of COVID-19: An emerging target of JAK2 inhibitor Fedratinib Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection Received 8 March 2020, Revised 9 March 2020, Accepted 10 March 2020, Available online 11 March 2020.
10: Huang F, Lan Y, Qin L, Dong H, Shi H, Wu H, Zou Q, Hu Z, Wu X. Astragaloside IV Promotes Adult Neurogenesis in Hippocampal Dentate Gyrus of Mouse through CXCL1/CXCR2 Signaling. Molecules. 2018 Aug 29;23(9):2178. doi: 10.3390/molecules23092178. PMID: 30158469; PMCID: PMC6225332.
11: Song MT, Ruan J, Zhang RY, Deng J, Ma ZQ, Ma SP. Astragaloside IV ameliorates neuroinflammation-induced depressive-like behaviors in mice via the PPARγ/NF-κB/NLRP3 inflammasome axis. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2018 Oct;39(10):1559-1570. doi: 10.1038/aps.2017.208. Epub 2018 May 24. PMID: 29795356; PMCID: PMC6289360.
12: Li XY, Shen L, Ji HF. Astragalus alters gut-microbiota composition in type 2 diabetes mice: clues to its pharmacology. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2019 May 17;12:771-778. doi: 10.2147/DMSO.S203239. PMID: 31190935; PMCID: PMC6529725.
13: Zhao HM, Wang Y, Huang XY, Huang MF, Xu R, Yue HY, Zhou BG, Huang HY, Sun QM, Liu DY. Astragalus polysaccharide attenuates rat experimental colitis by inducing regulatory T cells in intestinal Peyer's patches. World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Mar 21;22(11):3175-85. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i11.3175. PMID: 27003994; PMCID: PMC4789992.