Welcome to another installment in my multi-part series, where I am discussing adaptogens and how I am using them to help me on my healing journey. You can read about my journey to health here. If you’re just tuning in to this series, you can read the following articles on the subject of adaptogens:
DISCLAIMER: Due to the FDA and FTC laws on health claims, I need to make this very clear. None of the information in this post is to be construed as medical advice. I am not a doctor or certified medical practitioner of any sort. I am simply sharing my own personal experiences, as I travel the long road to optimal health. Statements/products discussed have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. Every person is different and you should always consult your own certified health care practitioner before making changes to your current diet or before beginning any herbal or vitamin supplement regimen or exercise program.
Keep in mind that not all herbs are safe for everyone. We’re all different and our bodies may have different reactions to herbs. I have enjoyed the practice of “simpling” as I have been researching and using more herbs. “Simpling” means that you use a single herb for a period of time, so you can really get to know the herb, how it works, and how you react to it. I find this helpful in identifying things that just may not work for my body. One issue I have always had with complex herbal supplements is that it is often difficult to pinpoint what may be really helping you, and on the other hand, what may be hurting you. Many herbs will work best when paired with other complementary herbs, but I find that simpling is a great way to get started.
Astragalus Root (Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus is one of the more commonly known adaptogens. It is in a lot of adaptogenic formulas that you can find at your health food stores and online. Astragalus has a long history in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Asian cultures. The root is the part of the plant that is used and it is native to Mongolia, North Korea, and China. The plants grow in grassy regions and mountainsides where they can get a lot of sun exposure. The plants take 4-5 years before they are ready to harvest. There has not been much clinical research on this adaptogen, but it’s long and wide use in TCM has shown much value to human health.(1)
The taste/energy of astragalus is sweet, slightly warm, and moist. The root is a bright yellow color and the herbs Chinese name is “huang qi”, which means “yellow leader”. It is considered a “leader” in the tonic herbs.(2) It can be used alone, or with other herbs. Like other adaptogens, it is typically not used to treat any specific illness, but rather to help bring the body back into balance and support all of our systems. Health benefits may include:
- Increased energy and stamina
- Improved immune function
- Improved resistance to stress
- Balances hormones
- Enhances function of the adrenal cortex
- Inhibits tumor growth
- Helps balance blood sugar levels in the body
- Helps stimulate white blood cells for those undergoing cancer treatments
- Prevents kidney and liver damage caused by medications and viruses (when combined with other herbs)
According to an article on Astragalus on Dr. Oz’s site:
Recent research has shown that this special chemical derived from astragalus can “turn on” an enzyme called telomerase (hTERT). Telomerase acts to maintain or lengthen telomeres, which extend the lifespan of your DNA. If you imagine DNA as a shoelace, telomeres are the plastic aglets at each end. It serves as a protector for your DNA because it keeps it from fraying or damaging. As you age, your telomeres shorten due to wear and tear, which gives your cells an expiration date. However, telomerase helps to preserve telomeres by making them longer. Telemerase is usually “off” in adult cells, except in immune cells, in egg and sperm cells, and in malignant cells, like those found in cancer. The length of your telomeres is important: Researchers have discovered correlations between telomere length and susceptibility to certain aging-related diseases, like cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and strokes), diabetes, and cancer.(4)
How is Astragalus Root Used?
The most common ways to use astragalus are:
The reason that I initially chose to experiment with astragalas was for the reported ability to help balance blood sugar and balance hormones. I was using astragalus occasionally in teas until I read some information that says not to use astragalus if you suffer from an autoimmune disease.(3) There is mixed information on that, so until I can learn more, I am keeping going to stop using it. While it is generally regarded as a safe herb, in TCM, it should not be taken by those who are suffering from acute infections like colds, flu, etc., as it can stagnate and “feed” the illness. In human and animal studies, it has been shown to boost the immune system, which can create problems if you’re on an immunosuppresive medication.(2)
Ready to Learn More?
Stay tuned for more herbal profiles! I will continue writing about the specific adaptogens that I am using in my healing journey. There are a lot of adaptogens out there, but the key is finding ones that work well for your needs. If you like what you’ve read here, please keep in touch! You can subscribe to my semi-monthly newsletter or subscribe to email updates so you never miss a new post. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. Have a question? Contact me here.
If you’re interested in learning more about herbs and would like to know who I recommend, check out my Resources page.
1. ”Astragalas Root and Powder Profile“. Mountain Rose Herbs.
2. “Adaptogens Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief”. David Winston and Steven Maimes. Healing Arts Press, 2007.
3. “Astragalus“. About.com Alternative Medicine
4. “Astragalus Root: Is This Right for You?” Dr. Oz.
5. “Five ways astragalus helps your body heal itself“. NaturalNews.com
*Advertisement from one of my trusted affiliate partners*