Astragalus Benefits For Anti-Aging

Astragalus, a significant herb in botanical supplements and a prominent member of the Fabaceae family has been increasingly recognized for its role in anti-aging. This herb, traditionally used in Chinese medicine, is noted for its capacity to enhance lifespan and mitigate the shortening of telomeres, which are vital components at the chromosome ends and play a key role in aging and age-related disorders. Astragalus is rich in flavonoids, polysaccharides, and saponins, contributing to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential anti-cancer properties. Specifically, it contains cycloastragenols and astragalosides, compounds that support the maintenance of telomeres. These elements are instrumental in synthesizing telomerase, an enzyme crucial for extending the lifespan of telomeres, thus influencing cellular longevity and the aging process. Widely available in various forms like capsules, teas, and extracts, astragalus is generally considered safe but may cause mild side effects such as stomach upset and could interact with certain medications.

There’s ongoing research into its potential for treating various conditions. It has also been identified as a fundamental herb in TCM, recognized for its immune-boosting benefits. Modern science has started acknowledging its healing properties, particularly for diabetics and athletes.

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Astragalus Benefits for Anti-Aging

Reducing Cell Damage and Telomere Shortening: Telomeres, the protective caps at the end of each strand of DNA, naturally shorten as cells divide, contributing to the aging process. Astragalus contains compounds that activate the enzyme telomerase, which helps maintain or lengthen telomeres. By preventing excessive telomere shortening, Astragalus may help keep cells younger and healthier for longer, thus slowing down the aging process​​​​.

Improving Skin Health: Astragalus has been shown to help maintain skin elasticity and collagen, essential for youthful and healthy skin. The herb’s antioxidative properties protect the skin from free radical damage, contributing to aging. Additionally, its impact on collagen can benefit bone health, as collagen is vital to bone structure​​.

Bone Health and Osteoporosis Improvement: Oxidative stress, characterized by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, can damage cells and tissue, impacting various body systems, including the bones. Astragalus contains antioxidants that help neutralize these free radicals, reducing oxidative stress. This reduction in oxidative stress is beneficial for overall cellular health and plays a significant role in bone health. By supporting the body’s defense against oxidative damage, Astragalus may contribute to maintaining and improving bone density and strength, particularly relevant in conditions like osteoporosis.

Preventing Oxidative Stress: Oxidation due to free radical damage is a key factor in the aging process. Astragalus is known to contain elements that counteract free radical damage and oxidative stress, both of which are crucial aspects of aging. By mitigating oxidative damage, Astragalus supports a healthier natural aging process. This protective effect, while beneficial for overall cellular health, also extends to skin health, underscoring the herb’s potential role in maintaining skin vitality and resilience against age-related changes.

Oxidation due to free radical damage is a key factor in the aging process. Astragalus is known to contain elements that counteract free radical damage and oxidative stress, both of which are crucial aspects of aging. By mitigating oxidative damage, Astragalus supports a healthier natural aging process. This protective effect, while beneficial for overall cellular health, also extends to skin health, underscoring the herb’s potential role in maintaining skin vitality and resilience against age-related changes.

Other Health Benefits

Immune Support: Astragalus is recognized for its ability to strengthen the immune system. It’s used in Traditional Oriental Medicine (TOM) to strengthen wei qi (vital energy), protecting against common colds and upper respiratory infections. Its antiviral properties and ability to increase white blood cell count make it effective in preventing illnesses.

Heart Health: Astragalus Contains flavonoids. Astragalus supports heart health by reducing blood pressure, promoting healthy cholesterol levels, and improving heart function. It strengthens blood vessels and enhances blood flow from the heart. This is particularly beneficial for patients with chronic heart failure, as evidenced by clinical studies showing improved heart function in those taking astragalus.

Allergy Relief: Astragalus has shown efficacy in reducing symptoms in people with allergic rhinitis or hay fever. This suggests its usefulness in managing seasonal allergies.

Respiratory and Circulatory Health: Astragalus supports healthy lung function and may improve circulation and blood flow. In TOM, it is believed to protect lung qi (energy). Its high level of bioavailable iron enriches and strengthens the blood.

Support in Chemotherapy: Astragalus may reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also decrease and slow tumor growth, enhancing the effectiveness of chemotherapy in hepatic cancer.

Diabetes Management: It may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin levels and reducing inflammation. It is commonly prescribed in China for diabetes management.

Kidney Function Support: Astragalus is used to support healthy kidney function and is often used to treat kidney disease and diabetic kidney disease in China. However, more research is needed for conclusive findings.

Cancer Immunotherapy: Research has indicated the potential of APS in cancer immunotherapy. It is effective in adaptive “passive” immunotherapy, like lymphokine-activated killer treatment and dendritic cell–cytokine–induced killer treatment. APS can regulate anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1)/PD-L1 on immune cells’ surfaces, affecting the immune-suppressed microenvironment. This makes APS, particularly in combination with other immunotherapies, a promising prospect for cancer treatment. 1

Anti-Fibrotic Properties: Astragalus has shown significant anti-fibrotic activities and is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fibrotic diseases like liver, pulmonary, peritoneal, renal, and cardiac fibrosis. Its primary anti-fibrotic components include Calycosin, Astragaloside IV, Astragalus polysaccharides, and formononetin. These components inhibit epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), reactive oxygen species (ROS), TGF-β1/Smads, apoptosis, and inflammation pathways. Despite extensive studies, these components’ complete pharmacology and optimal dosages are not fully understood, indicating a need for further research. 2

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How Astragalus Works in Anti-Aging

Active Compounds: Astragalus contains flavonoids, polysaccharides, and saponins. These compounds are known for their health-promoting properties:

  • Flavonoids: Provide antioxidative qualities, control and scavenge free radicals, and can help prevent diseases like heart disease and cancer.
  • Polysaccharides: Offer antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory capabilities.
  • Saponins help lower cholesterol, improve the immune system, and have anti-cancer properties.

Immune System Enhancement: The polysaccharides in Astragalus positively impact the immune system, which plays a crucial role in overall health and longevity. A robust immune system is essential for combating age-related health issues.

Brain Function Improvement: Astragalus’s impact on brain function is another avenue through which it may promote anti-aging. Supporting brain health could contribute to a longer lifespan.

In summary, astragalus’s anti-aging effects are multifaceted, stemming from its rich composition of bioactive compounds. These components reduce cell damage, improve skin and bone health, and combat oxidative stress. Additionally, its ability to enhance immune function and support brain health further underscores its potential as an anti-aging remedy.

Dosage

It’s considered safe for oral consumption in appropriate doses (up to 60 grams daily for up to four months), with rare side effects like rash, itching, nasal symptoms, or stomach discomfort. However, astragalus may interact with certain medications.

General Adult Dosage:

  • Standardized Extract: 250 to 500 mg three to four times daily.
  • Fluid Extract: 2 to 4 mL of a 1:1 extract or 3 to 5 mL of a 1:5 tincture, three times daily.
  • Tea: 6 to 12 g of dried root in 12 ounces of water, three times daily.
  • Powdered Root: 500 to 1,000 mg three to four times a day.
  • Topical Ointment: 10 percent astragalus ointment for burns (as directed by a physician).

Pediatric Dosage:

  • Calculated based on the standard adult dosage for a 150-lb individual.
  • For a child weighing 50 lbs, it is 1/3 of the adult dosage.
  • For a child weighing 35 lbs, It is about 1/4 of the adult dose.

Specific Health Conditions:

  • Congestive Heart Failure: 2-7.5 grams of powdered astragalus twice a month.
  • Blood Sugar Control: 40-60 grams as a decoction for four months.
  • Kidney Disease: 7.5-15 grams of powder twice daily for six months.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: 30 grams of astragalus root, often combined with other herbs as a decoction.
  • Seasonal Allergies: Two 80mg capsules of astragalus extract daily for about six weeks.

Tincture and Decoction:

  • Tincture: 4-8 mL per day of a 1:2 liquid extract.
  • Decoction: 10-30 g of dried root per day.

Dang-gui buxue tang Preparation (Traditional Chinese Medicine):

  • A combination of 30g Astragalus membranaceus root with 6g Angelicae Sinensis (5:1 ratio).
  • Astragaloside IV: Standard dose of 5-10mg.

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Side effects

General Side Effects:

  • Astragalus is generally safe when used orally and appropriately, with doses up to 60 grams daily for up to 4 months typically not associated with adverse effects.
  • Some uncommon side effects may include rash, itching, nasal symptoms, or stomach discomfort.

Allergic Reactions:

  • Mild allergic reactions such as a rash, itching, stomach discomfort, or nasal symptoms, though these are not common.

Precautions

Interactions with Medications:

  • Astragalus may interact with drugs that suppress the immune system and could decrease their effectiveness.
  • Specific drugs that might interact include Cyclophosphamide, Lithium, and various immunosuppressants used in transplant patients.

Use in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:

  • Astragalus is not recommended for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to concerns about potential risks.

Autoimmune Disease:

  • People with autoimmune conditions (like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus) should consult with a healthcare provider before using astragalus, as it can stimulate the immune system.
  • In very high doses, astragalus may suppress the immune system, which requires caution in those with autoimmune disease.

Blood Pressure Considerations:

  • Astragalus may lower blood pressure and could interact with blood pressure medications. Individuals with high blood pressure or those taking related medications should consult with their doctor before using Astragalus.

Toxicity Concerns:

  • Some species of astragalus, not typically found in dietary supplements, can be toxic. This includes species containing the neurotoxin swainsonine, causing “locoweed” poisoning in animals, and species with potentially harmful levels of selenium.

Brief History

The history of Astragalus, a genus of over 3,000 species of herbs and shrubs, is deeply intertwined with both Eastern and Western botanical and medical traditions.

Ancient and Traditional Uses: Astragalus has been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine since as early as 200 B.C., known for its immune-boosting properties and as a treatment for various ailments like colds, allergies, asthma, and kidney diseases. It is also known as huáng qí in Chinese. The earliest recorded references to Astragalus in Chinese medical literature date from 400 to 200 B.C. Furthermore, it was used in Ancient Greece for treating digestive and urinary issues.

Classification by Linnaeus: The genus Astragalus was formally described in 1753 by the renowned Swedish botanist, physician, and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus in his seminal work “Species Plantarum.” This book was one of the first comprehensive botanical indexes and remains a vital historical source today.

Ancient Chinese Records: The earliest historical record directly referring to Astragalus (specifically Astragalus membranaceus) dates back to approximately 2800 BCE, correlating with the lifetime of Emperor Shen Nong, considered to be the original author of “Shen Nung Pen Ts’ao King,” a manuscript detailing ancient Chinese medicinal traditions.

The name “Astragalus” is derived from Greek, an old name for this group of plants, which were believed to affect goat milk production positively.

This brief history illustrates the long-standing significance of astragalus in various cultures, particularly in medicinal contexts, and highlights its enduring role in herbal medicine and botany.

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Conclusion

Astragalus, a prominent herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is increasingly recognized for its potential anti-aging and health-promoting properties. It is believed to extend lifespan and improve cellular health by reducing telomere shortening and combating oxidative stress. Rich in flavonoids, polysaccharides, and saponins, it offers antioxidant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits. Astragalus enhances skin health by boosting collagen production, thus reducing wrinkles, and contributes to bone health, immune system strength, heart health, and allergy relief. It’s beneficial in managing diabetes, supporting kidney function, and even showing potential in cancer immunotherapy and treating fibrotic diseases.

While generally safe, astragalus can interact with some medications and should be used cautiously, especially in people with autoimmune diseases or those on immunosuppressants. It’s available in various forms like capsules, teas, and extracts, with varying dosages based on the form and health condition being addressed. Its use is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and dosage should be adjusted for children based on body weight. The potential of astragalus in various health domains, particularly in anti-aging, makes it a subject of ongoing research and interest in both traditional and modern medicine.

FAQs

What is Astragalus and how does it relate to anti-aging?

Astragalus is a herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, known for its potential anti-aging properties. It contains compounds that may help extend lifespan and improve cellular health by reducing telomere shortening and combating oxidative stress.

Can Astragalus improve skin health?

Yes, Astragalus supports skin health through its antioxidative properties. It helps maintain collagen levels, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and maintaining youthful skin.

What are the benefits of Astragalus for heart disease?

Astragalus may act as an antioxidant and help treat heart disease. Some studies suggest it helps lower cholesterol levels and improve heart function, especially in severe heart disease.

Can Astragalus control blood sugar levels?

Yes, Astragalus appears to lower blood sugar levels. While more studies are needed, animal experiments have indicated that it might be beneficial in treating type 2 diabetes.

Is Astragalus safe for people with autoimmune diseases?

People with autoimmune diseases should consult their doctor before taking Astragalus, as it may stimulate the immune system. This stimulation could affect the condition or interact with medications used for these diseases.

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Citations

  1. The Current Application and Future Prospects of Astragalus Polysaccharide Combined With Cancer Immunotherapy: A Review ↩︎
  2. Astragalus Mongholicus: A review of its anti-fibrosis properties ↩︎