This Little Known Plant Has Been Shown to Improve Immunity and Help Defeat Cancer
Written by: Joanne Beccareli
There is a little known plant that could improve immunity and even assist in the treatment of cancer.
Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus), also called huang qi or milk vetch, has been used in traditional chinese medicine (TCM) for two thousand years. It is the most commonly used herb in TCM and is usually combined with other herbs.
For many years now, astragalus has been gaining attention in the west and it’s many benefits are being studied and embraced by western medicine. Classified as an adaptogen, astragalus is in a category of herbs that are defined for how they help the body adapt to stresses, which imparts a normalizing effect on the body’s processes. Stressors on the body are what throw it off balance and then lead it to compromised immunity and ailments. Therefore, helping to maintain balance and homeostasis improves immunity, healing and overall health.
A Known Immune Booster
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies have shown that astragalus stimulates and heals the immune system, helping to ward off colds, influenza and respiratory infections. Having both antibacterial and antiviral properties, astragalus is multi purposed.
Besides general immune strengthening uses, some naturopathic doctors even recommend it for speeding recovering, not just aiding prevention. One example where it is often recommended to help recovery is from mononucleosis, an ailment stemming from the Epstein Barr Virus, which – when treated traditionally – can take months for a full recovery.
Building a strong immune system is the foundation of long term health, so it is not surprising that astragalus is commonly used in TCM and why this herbal supplement is beginning to gain attention and is being recommended by western practitioners as well.
Uses in Cancer Treatment
Most exciting, though, are the studies and uses of astragalus in combination with chemotherapies for cancer treatments. This practice, common in China with some lung cancers, is believed to have promising results.
According to Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s research, astragalus can assist the cancer patient in a multitude of ways. On top of the list is lessening chemotherapy side effects and immune degradation that often accompanies traditional treatment. But inhibiting tumor growth and spreading is also a discussed benefit. Astragalus has even been credited with reducing the toxic effects of treatments.
In addition, when platinum-based chemotherapy drugs are used along with astragalus, some studies suggest that their effectiveness may be heightened. All this leads to the customary “push-pull” between traditional and naturalistic medicines, however, it has never been suggested that astragalus replaces traditional cancer treatments. Astragalus is generally viewed as an aid to the customary care, not a replacement. Even so, the overriding opinion from the western medical community is that further human based study is necessary before definitive claims can be made.
Other Possible Benefits
Beyond immune boosting qualities and the support of some cancer treatments (which have received the most attention and validation), astragalus is also beginning to be studied for its beneficial relation to a number of other ailments. With such a wide scope of claims, this leaves me to believe that the full potential of this herb is not yet realized.
Some of the potential benefits include:
- Reducing hayfever and allergy symptoms.
- The ability to lower blood sugar (especially beneficial for diabetic patients).
- Heart health as it relates to possibly lowering cholesterol and the benefits of it’s antioxidant properties on the heart.
- Aging, as it relates to chromosomal health.
Wherever the final list of verifiable benefits ends, immunity boosting alone is enough to make me interested. In fact, I have already noticed that astragalus powder is an add-in ingredient at some fresh juice bars and in many dried green juice powders, such as Organifi. Beyond that, I’ll consider having this readily available dietary supplement on hand.
Note: If you do the same, make sure that you first check with your doctor before personal use and to discuss pharmaceutical contraindications, especially if you have any autoimmune diseases, since astragalus clearly affects the immune system.
- Astragalus, University of Maryland Medical Center, http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/astragalus#ixzz3TSYHgFS1
- Using Traditional Chinese Medicine to Treat Lung Cancer, Asbestos.com, http://www.asbestos.com/blog/2013/12/16/traditional-chinese-medicine-herbs/
- Astragalus, Andrew Weil, M.D., http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/REM00002/Astragalus-Dr-Weils-Herbal-Remedies.html
- Astragalus Is The Safe and Effective Immune System Enhancer! http://www.smart-publications.com/articles/astragalus-is-the-safe-and-effective-immune-system-enhancer
- Astragalus: The Super Herb that Prevents Cancer, http://thetruthaboutcancer.com/astragalus-super-herb-prevents-cancer/
- Astragalus, http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/astragalus
Joanne Beccarelli is a holistic health coach, juicing junkie, writer, soon to be cookbook author and recovered emotional eater. Inspired by many great voices in the health-thru-food revolution, Joanne found her way out of hiding in shame (losing almost 100 lbs in the process) and stepped away from the corporate world. She now dedicates every day to helping others who are overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed, find awareness, fulfilment and better health.
Joanne has a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell/T. Colin Campbell Foundation, and became a Certified Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is also a member of American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP), and the International Association of Health Coaches (IAHC).
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