Why astragalus is good for your nervous system

The nervous system plays a big role in how the different parts of our body communicate among themselves. Research shows that astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), a fundamental herb in traditional Chinese medicine, can help keep this body system healthy.

Earlier research has shown that astragalus extract can potentially be used as a nerve growth-promoting factor, which can be beneficial for the growth of peripheral nerve axons. For the current study, researchers from Taiwan investigated the effects of astragalus extract on regeneration in a rat sciatic nerve transection model, which is a model of neuropathic pain or nerve pain. Nerve pain is an intense type of chronic pain, often described as sharp, stinging, or burning. It occurs due to damaged nerves or a problem with the nervous system.

In conducting the study, the researchers examined three groups of rats: a control group and two astragalus treatment groups. Rats in the control group received normal saline, while those in the treatment groups received 1.5 grams per kilogram (g/kg) or 3 g/kg of astragalus extract, respectively. The researchers gave the treatments every other day for four weeks. The researchers also measured the rats’ neuronal electrophysiology, neuronal connectivity, macrophage infiltration, expression levels and location of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), and expression levels of both nerve growth factors and immunoregulatory factors.

The results revealed that treating rats with 3 g/kg of astragalus extract led to significant improvements in neuronal electrophysiological function, as well as expression levels of CGRP and macrophage density. Both doses of astragalus extracts also significantly reduced expression levels of fibroblast growth factor, nerve growth factors, platelet-derived growth factor, transforming growth factor-beta, interleukin-1, and interferon-gamma. These results, which were published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, indicate that astragalus is beneficial for the nerves and inflammation.

From these findings, the researchers conclude that astragalus can help regulate local inflammatory conditions, enhance nerve regeneration, and potentially increase recovery from a severe peripheral nerve injury.

Astragalus and its other potential health benefits

Also known as huang qi or milkvetch, astragalus has many potential health benefits. Its root contains many active compounds that are believed to be responsible for its health benefits, such as:

  • Boosts kidney function: Astragalus may enhance blood flow and kidney function in those with kidney problems, according to some studies. In addition, it may help protect against infections in those with reduced kidney function.
  • Enhancing the immune system: Some studies have shown that astragalus may help increase the body’s production of white blood cells. These are cells of the immune system that help ward off diseases. Other studies have also reported that it helps fight bacterial and viral infections, such as the common cold.
  • Regulates blood sugar levels: People with Type 2 diabetes may also benefit from this herb. Human studies have shown that the active compounds in astragalus root may help reduce blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. In lab and animal studies, the herb has been reported to improve sugar metabolism and lower blood sugar levels.
  • Strengthens the heart: Astragalus also helps enhance heart function, especially in people with heart problems. It is believed to widen blood vessels and increase blood flow in the heart. Some studies have also shown that it may reduce symptoms of myocarditis, a heart disease characterized by the inflammation of the heart muscle.
  • Wards off cancer: A study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine revealed that it can help prevent the spread of breast cancer cells in the body and promote the death of these cancer cells.

Astragalus root is made into different forms of supplements, such as liquid extracts, capsules, powders, and teas. There is no dosage recommendation, but taking up to 60 g per day for up to four months appears to be safe for most people.

Read more news stories and studies on the health benefits of astragalus by going to ChineseMedicine.news.

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