Report on Astragalus Side Effects and Usage


Natural health supplements sometimes have unexpected side effects or interactions with medication that can lead to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening. The following is a list of cautions that you should be aware of before using Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus). These are referred to as drug/herb interactions.

Warning 1 – Contraindications: Immunosuppressants: This herb stimulates the immune system so avoid use if you take immunosuppressant drugs as for transplants. Astragalus should not be used when a fever is present (it may intensify and/or prolong it), or during acute infections.

Warning 2 – Antihypertensives: Using Astragalus may increase or decrease the action of antihypertensives. Avoid using together.

Warning 3 – Interleukin-2: Astragalus can increase or decrease the action of drugs such as Interleukin-2.

Used as a natural health remedy: Astragalus is used internally for the following benefits and conditions:

  • Allergies
  • Antibacterial activities
  • Antihypertensive – lower blood pressure
  • Antioxidant
  • Cancer – fatigue or lack of appetite in chemotherapy patients, to reduce the side-effects and improve outcome from radio and chemotherapy
  • Cholesterol – Animal studies shows Astragalus helps prevent the build-up of cholesterol plaque on arterial walls.
  • Chronic hepatitis
  • Diabetic Nephropathy: A new drug developed from the Astragalus root, Astragaloside IV (AGS-IV), exerts protective effects against the progression of peripheral neuropathy through several interrelated mechanisms.
  • Diet aid (See other herbs for weight loss)
  • Diuretic – increased secretion of urine
  • Enhance heart function
  • Enhance immune function – via stimulation of monocytes and macrophages, T-cell activity, and interferon production. It also raises white blood cell counts in cases of chronic leukopaenia.
  • Glandular fever
  • Healing – wound healing, chronic fatigue syndrome, post-viral syndrome, stomach ulcers
  • Heart disease, angina, high blood pressure
  • Herpes – Anecdotal reports assert that consistent use of Astragalus may inhibit the outbreak of genital herpes. In a lab study Astragalus was found to inhibit the oral herpes virus in a test tube.
  • Improved cellular immunity in patients suffering from Coxsackie B viral myocarditis
  • Improvement of left ventricular function in postmyocardial infarction patients
  • Increase cd4 count in HIV patients (used in tea made from the root)
  • Increase endurance and stamina – Mice subjected to testing for stamina and stress resistance (swimming long distances and exposure to extreme temperatures) performed better when fed astragalus root.
  • Increase sperm motility and male fertility
  • Induce seronegative conversion in HIV patients
  • Liver detoxification of some drugs and heavy metals
  • Lung Cancer – Traditional Chinese medicine uses Astragalus reverse predominance of Th2 cytokines and their up-stream transcript factors in lung cancer patients.
  • Night sweats
  • Protect heart muscle from oxidant damage
  • Protect the liver and kidneys
  • Respiratory infections – colds, flu, and other respiratory infections
  • Restore immune activity in cases of compromised immune status associated with cancer chemotherapy or radiation treatment, speeding recovery and extending life expectancy
  • Speed healing
  • Strengthen immune system
  • Stress support
  • Use with Interferon may prevent or shorten upper respiratory infections.
  • Viral infections
  • Counteract the immune suppression associated with cancer therapy
  • wound healing

Patients are cautioned not to self-treat symptoms of cardiac or immune dysfunction before receiving appropriate medical evaluation because this may delay the diagnosis of a potentially serious medical condition.

Life Extension

This may be the most exciting news in herbal medicine. First some background. As you age, your body’s ability to accurately reproduce the chromosomes in your cells degenerates. Finding out why that occurs resulted in a Nobel Prize (Physiology of Medicine 2009). The ends of your chromosomes have a cap or cover called telomeres, which both protects the chromosome ends during cell reproduction and works to form new telemores. As the body ages the production of telomerase enzymes slows to a stop within the genes.

Now the exciting part: Recent research found that molecules contained in the Astragalus root, cycloastragenols and astragalosides have the ability to stimulate the production of telomerase enzyme. In large doses they both prevent the depletion of telomeres and rebuild new ones.
Although a drug has been patented that is an isolated version of these molecules (TA-65) it has also been found that any high doses of an Astragalus extract, which is rich in astragalosides, can have much the same effect. Research into this continues.

Long Term Use

Unlike Echinacea (another immune enhancing herb) which is best used for short durations, Astragalus is most effective when used long term, especially during flu season. In both Chinese and Western herbalism, Astragalus is considered both safe and effective when used long term. ( Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk TJ. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press; 1986:457-459.)

Side Effects of Astragalus

There are no known side effects of using Astragalus.

As with any herb, a serious allergic reaction is possible. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. These may include a rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.

Talk to your doctor if you are considering this herb for the treatment of serious conditions such as AIDS, cancer, hepatitis, HIV infection, and myocarditis.

How to use Astragalus

Astragalus root may be added to soup and simmered for at least 15 minutes or taken as a tea, tincture or decoction.

Astragalus Tincture: 3 to 5 ml of tincture three times daily.

Astragalus Decoction: 3 to 6 grams of dried root simmered for at least 15 minutes in 12 oz of water, taken 3 times daily.

Powdered Astragalus root: 500mg to 1000mg in capsules three times daily.

Standardized Astragalus extract: 250mg to 500mg three times daily.

Return to the Herb List.

For questions and answers about the side effects of herbs see the Herb Forum

If you find this page useful share it with others. Use the form below to add a side effect not listed or comments about Astragalus. Please note that all addresses are held confidential.