Mode of action and effect of Astragalus membranaceus


As with all traditional Chinese remedies, it is the perfect interplay of Mother Nature's miraculously balanced ingredients that produces the amazing effects we have discussed in the section on the ingredients of Astralagus. In particular, the numerous polysaccharides, flavonoids and saponins occurring in roots, medicinal mushrooms and wild berries are increasingly becoming coveted objects of study and, in recent years, have proven to be extremely effective against numerous diseases and conditions in many ways.


The astragalosides present in astragalus complete this wonderful composition of Mother Nature’s health-giving tools.


Which organs does astragalus have an effect on?


Chinese medicine views the body holistically and does not subdivide disease symptoms into symptoms or causes within individual organs. According to TCM, astragalus generally works on the body’s core, including the


Effect of astragalus on the heart


Astragalus has an exceptionally powerful effect on the heart, ensuring greater circulation and efficient functioning of the heart muscle and protecting it from destructive oxidation processes.


Effect of astragalus on the lungs


Astragalus can strengthen lung function and counteract shortness of breath and asthma conditions.


Effect of astragalus on the spleen


In studies, astragalus has been shown to have a significant effect on spleen deficiency symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and increased perspiration.


In summary, Astragalus membranaceus has the following effects:


-                   antioxidant


-                   stimulates the immune system


-                   antitumoural


-                   antiviral


-                   antibacterial


-                   anti-inflammatory


-                   toning/revitalising


-                   protects the heart


-                   protects the nerves


-                   de-stressing


-                   rejuvenating


-                   detoxifying


-                   diuretic






Antioxidant effect of Astragalus membranaceus


In studies, astragalus has been shown to inhibit 40 % of lipid peroxidation (in vitro), which counteracts premature ageing among other things.


The immunostimulating effect of astragalus


Astragalus has proven to be a real immune booster; this is due to a multitude of factors and has been the subject of intensive research in the fields of cancer control and AIDS therapy.


Astragalus activates:


-       macrophages,


-       immunoglobulins,


-       stem cell proliferation,


-       interferon production,


-       the T cells,


-       the natural killer cells;


-       furthermore, astragalus stimulates the function of the adrenal cortex and also supports the immune system.


Here, it is important to emphasise that astragalus does not just act as an immunity booster and stimulate the immune system regardless of the body’s overall situation – it primarily acts as an immune regulator and secondarily as an immune booster, if the latter evencomes into play at all! This is of particular interest for people who suffer from allergies, arthritis, lupus and similar diseases in which the immune system attacks its own body. In these cases, it should be expected that astragalus regulates the immune system rather than exacerbates the overall situation. 




Effect of Astragalus membranaceus against cancer


In studies, Astragalus membranaceus has been shown to have significant effects on small-cell lung tumours, melanoma, and kidney cancer and has been shown to increase the positive effects of chemotherapy, while reducing its side effects. Furthermore, excessively short telomeres are considered to be unstable and susceptible to cancer. Astragalus protects telomeres from premature shortening and may also protect against cancer.




Effect of astragalus against cancer, confirmed by studies


Studies of astragalus and its effect on lung cancer


Ten out of twelve patients with small-cell lung cancer who were treated with astragalus achieved survival rates of 3 to 17 years.[1]


Astragalus effective in studies on kidney cancer and melanoma


In vitro testing of astragalus has demonstrated its antitumoural effects on melanoma and kidney cancer.[2]


New anti-cancer effect due to transcriptional activation of NSAID-activated genes


Astragalus saponins showed a novel anti-cancer effect through the activation of NSAID-activated genes.[3]


Antimutagenic effect of astragalus


The antimutagenic effect of astragalus has a preventive and therapeutic effect against cancer.


Astragalus enhances the effects of chemotherapy and prolongs life


In studies, astragalus has been shown to enhance the effects of chemotherapy and prevent relapses. In addition, lifespan was significantly increased and the toxic side effects of the chemotherapeutic agents were reduced.[4]


Antiviral effect of astragalus


Astragalus boosts the production of interferon, which is known to kill viral infections. Astragalus also inhibits the proliferation of certain viruses, such as Coxsackie, which can also cause inflammation in the heart muscle (myocarditis).


Antibacterial effect of astragalus


In vitro testing has shown that Astragalus membranaceus has a bactericidal effect on bacterial strains such as Streptococcus haemolyticus, Shigella dysenteriae, Diplococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus.


Anti-inflammatory effect of astragalus


Studies have found astragalus to counter airway inflammation in chronic asthma.




Tonifying/revitalising effect of astragalus


The toning effect of Astragalus membranaceus is, among other things, due to the increased circulation of the cardiovascular system. The whole body is supplied with more oxygen and energy, which has a toning and revitalising effect.


Heart-protecting effect of astragalus


The cardio-protective effect is due to the increased blood flow and the efficient functioning caused by astragalus. In addition, the saponins in astragalus protect the heart muscle against dangerous lipid peroxidation as well as premature blood clotting.


Nerve protective effect of astragalus


Astragalus protects the dopaminergic neurons and thus combats Parkinson’s.


Astragalus also acts against:


-          loss of appetite


-          listlessness


-          chronic fatigue


-          shortness of breath


-          tendency to catch colds


-          sweats


-          puffiness (especially in the face  


 and the extremities)


-          diarrhoea (liquid stools)


-          bloody stools


-          bleeding in the genital area


-          anal prolapse


-          stomach prolapse


-          uterine prolapse


Rejuvenating effect of astragalus


Its effect on the physical and mental rejuvenation alone brought Astragalus membranaceus almost explosive popularity in Western countries. This is thanks to the 2009 Nobel Laureates for Medicine, who have made outstanding contributions to research into telomeres, their associated ‘immortality enzyme’ telomerase, and the resulting insights into its links with astragalus, which will be made available in the near future. 


This aspect is so crucial for our lives that we want to dedicate a specific section to it. Read the amazing details on the activation of the ‘immortality enzyme’ telomerase by Astragalus membranaceus in ‘Rejuvenation with astragalus’.


Specific effects of Astragalus membranaceus on diseases and maladies


While Astragalus membranaceus has been one of the most important remedies of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China for 4000 years and has been used by healers in that country to treat many diseases, its great popularity and its proven, rejuvenating effect did not become apparent in our latitudes until after 2009 (see ‘Rejuvenation with astragalus’).


Astragalus has always been used for the following diseases and conditions:


-       all illnesses associated with a weak immune system


-       illnesses associated with a virus


-       heart disease and heart failure


-       high blood pressure


-       liver disease


-       kidney diseases


-       nerve conditions


-       Parkinson’s


-       all forms of allergies


-       all inflammatory diseases (arthritis etc.)


-       asthma


-       infertility (male infertility)


-       cancer


-       HIV/AIDS


-       autoimmune diseases (e.g. lupus)


-       ulcers


-       oedema


-       wounds


-       indigestion


-       disorders of hormone balance


-       deafness/paralysis of the limbs


-       diabetes mellitus and its long-term effects


-       chronic nephritis


-       chronic fatigue syndrome


-          albuminuria


-         ascites


Specific effect on heart disease


As studies have shown (see point ‘Astragalus Studies’), astragalus has a particularly positive effect on the following heart conditions:


-       heart failure


-       angina pectoris


-       coronary heart disease


-       myocarditis


-       myocardial ischemia


Furthermore, astragalus is recommended for all heart diseases and general heart failure, if only due to its ability to promote blood circulation.


[1] Cha R. J. et al.: Non-surgical treatment of small cell lung cancer with chemoradio-immunotherapy and traditional Chinese medicine. Chung Hua Nei Ko Tsa Chih 1994; 33, p. 462–466.

[2] Wang Y. et al.: Phytochemicals potentiate interleukin-2 generated lymphokine-activated killer cell cytotoxicity against murine renal cell carcinoma. Mol Biother 1992; 4, p. 143–146.

[3] Int J Cancer. 2009 Sep 1; 125 (5), p. 1082–1091. PMID: 19384947

[4] Zee-Cheng R. K.: Shi-quan-da-bu-tang (ten significant tonic decoction), SQT. A potent Chinese biological response modifier in cancer immunotherapy, potentiation and detoxification of anticancer drugs. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol.