Locoweeds (generic name)
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CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Astragalus gummifera, Astragalus lentiginosus, Astragalus mollissimus, Astragalus mongholicus, Astragalus trigonus, astragel, baak kei, beg kei, bei qi, buck qi, Fabacea (family), goat's horn, goat's thorn, green dragon, gum dragon, gum tragacanthae, gummi tragacanthae, hoang ky, hog gum, huang-chi, Huang Qi, huangoi, huangqi, hwanggi, ji cao, Leguminosae (family), locoweed, membranous milk vetch, milk vetch, Mongolian milk, Mongolian milk vetch, neimeng hhuangqi, ogi, ougi, radix astragali, spino santo, Syrian tragacanth, tai shen, tragacanth, wong kei, yellow vetch, Zhongfengnaomitong.
Astragalus products are derived from the roots of Astragalus membranaceus or related species, which are native to China. In traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus is commonly found in mixtures with other herbs, and is used in the treatment of numerous ailments, including heart, liver, and kidney diseases, as well as cancer, viral infections, and immune system disorders. Western herbalists began using astragalus in the 1800s as an ingredient in various tonics. The use of astragalus became popular in the 1980s based on theories about anti-cancer properties, although these proposed effects have not been clearly demonstrated in reliable human studies.
Some medicinal uses of astragalus are based on its proposed immune stimulatory properties, reported in preliminary laboratory and animal experiments, but not conclusively demonstrated in humans. Most astragalus research has been conducted in China, and has not been well designed or reported.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Few clinical trials have investigated the effects of astragalus alone in athletes. Further research is needed before a clinical recommendation can be made.
Few clinical trials have investigated astragalus in burn patients. Further research is required before a clinical recommendation can be made.
A small amount of research suggests that astragalus may enhance the effectiveness of conventional treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiation. Astragalus may also lessen the degree of side effects experienced with cancer treatments and improve quality of life. Better studies are needed in this area before a firm conclusion can be reached.
Several small studies suggest astragalus may help improve heart function in individuals with chest pain, a history of heart attack, or a history of congestive heart failure. However, larger studies are needed to determine the exact benefit and safety of astragalus for these conditions.
Chemotherapy side effects:
In Chinese medicine, astragalus-containing herbal mixtures are sometimes used with the intention to reduce side effects of cancer treatments. Due to a lack of well-designed research, a firm conclusion cannot be drawn.
Coronary artery disease:
In Chinese medicine, herbal mixtures containing astragalus have been used to treat heart diseases. High quality human research is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn.
There is some evidence that astragalus can improve the effectiveness of conventional diabetes therapies. More research is required in this field before recommendations can be made.
There is some evidence that astragalus may offer symptomatic improvement for chronic heart failure. Recommendations cannot be made until well-designed clinical trials have been conducted.
Research suggests that astragalus may have anti-hepatitis effects. Additional study is needed in this area.
Antiviral effects have been reported in early studies. Additional studies are warranted.
Several small studies report that astragalus may stimulate and improve immune system function in conditions such as the common cold, blood disorders, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Further research is needed in this area.
One clinical trial suggests that astragalus may aid in mental performance of children with low IQ. Further, well-designed clinical trials are required before recommendations can be made.
Myocarditis/endocarditis (heart infections):
Several studies suggest that astragalus may improve symptoms of viral myocarditis. However, these studies are small and poorly designed. Larger, higher quality studies are needed in this area.
Astragalus has been used traditionally to aid in smoking cessation. Well-designed clinical trials are required before recommendations can be made.
One clinical trial suggests the potential for benefit of astragalus in patients with tuberculosis. Further well-designed clinical trials are required before recommendations can be made.
Upper respiratory tract infection:
Astragalus is often used in Chinese medicine as a part of herbal mixtures to prevent or treat upper respiratory tract infections. Due to a lack of well-designed research, no firm conclusions can be drawn.