Astragalus - The immune booster that may help fight cancer two ways
(Chris Woollams. CANCERactive) Astragalus boosts the immune system; but at the same time it seems to possess the ability to ´light up´ the rogue cells so that the immune osystem can ´see´ them better and attack more of them. Possibly for this reason, MD Anderson concluded in research with patients on radiotherapy treatment, that it could double survival rates. It may also benefit liver function, seems to reduce side-effects of chemotherapy, reduces metastic spread and increases survival times.
Astragalus membranaceous has been around in Chinese medicine for two thousand years. It is known as ´haung qi´, or chi, because it boosts natural body energy levels. Astragalus is taken from the root of a perennial plant (Astragalus membranaceous) needing four to seven years to mature before the root is harvested in early spring. The root is not unlike a garlic bulb. Traditionally, this herb is known to boost the immune system and has benefits in cases of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory infections. It is also used as a general tonic and to treat burns, abscesses and for hepatitis.
Do we think it is a cancer ´cure´? No. At CANCERactive we think no single compound (Drug or natural) is likely to be a cure for cancer. However it may be useful as art of your overall programme. Here´s why.
An excellent Immune system booster
Its wide usage in China as an immune system booster brought interest from Europe, Japan and America. Original Chinese studies dated back to 1981, when a study by Hou et al showed that Astragalus taken orally induced greater quantities of interferon and leukocytes in the blood stream.
A common misconception is that merely stimulating the immune system will be enough to kick out a cancer. Maybe, in a few cases it will. But, by and large, the problem with cancer is two-fold true, the immune system is weak, BUT .......the cancer evades the immune system because of the low immune system response capacity. (In English the bad guys can´t be ´seen´, no matter how many good guys you produce. The issue is to make lots of good guys AND stimulate the bad guys in such a way that they appear on the radar screens).
So, Medical Herbalists rightly point out that two therapeutic requirements are essential when treating cancer Immuno-modulating action, and Adaptogenic action, and BOTH are required to work synergistically.
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Astragalus seems to be able to do both jobs. Firstly, it has phenomenal immune system modulating effects. In tests at the Hiroshima School of Medicine in Japan, it was shown to directly increase B-lymphocyte and T-lymphocyte levels, interleukin and antibody production.
But, not only does it increase the number of various white cells and in particular the ´hunter´ T-cells it also helps identify the viruses, bacteria and other rogue cells. The University of Texas has shown that Astragalus seems to be an adaptogenic herb ´offering up´ viruses, bacteria and even cancer cells to be seen by the immune system.
Astragalus contains bioflavonoids, choline and a polysaccharide, astragalan B, amongst other active ingredients. Astragalan B controls bacterial infection, viruses and other such ´rogue´ bodies by binding to their outer membranes. This has two effects it weakens their internal systems, and by sitting on the membrane it thus helps the T-cells identify rogue cells.
All this also makes its use as an adjunct to fight AIDS increasingly important.
FDA to approve role in cancer?
A considerable amount of detailed German and American research has confirmed the herb´s powers, and identified an important potential role in cancer treatment. For example:
Researchers from the University of Texas, Houston, have reported that cancer patients receiving Astragalus have twice the survival rate of those only receiving placebos.
It is often used in conjunction with other herbs. In a 1994 Italian study (Morazzoni, Bombardelli) breast cancer patients were given a combination of Iigustrum and Astragalus. Patients given this mix showed a decline in mortality from 50% to 10%.
In another study of patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer all undergoing chemotherapy, the group taking the dual herb mix showed an average life span increase of 130%.
Astragalus doesnt merely enhance interferon levels; there is strong scientific evidence that it benefits liver function (often impaired in the cancer sufferer). In China, Astragalus is widely used in the treatment of hepatitis. It seems to reduce toxin levels significantly, boost interferon levels and inhibit viral protein expression whilst having little or no effect on normal DNA. (Zhang 1995, Fan 1996)
The FDA is currently considering it for approval as an anti-cancer agent, although you shouldn´t hold your breath as they have never given approval to a herb in their history!
Improves the effectiveness of Radio- and Chemotherapy
One extremely important conclusion from several US studies is that Astragalus seems to help the immune system differentiate between healthy cells and rogue cells, thereby boosting the body´s total ´cancer fighting system´. One effect of this is the added benefit of improving the effectiveness of radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments.
In Chinese hospitals Astragalus is now routinely used to help people recover from the negative effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
MD Anderson Cancer Center (Texas) researchers reported that cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy had twice the survival rates if they took astragalus during the treatment.
In the West some herbalists routinely provide chemotherapy and radiotherapy patients with Astragalus, and apart from boosting the immune system (which of course both orthodox treatments damage) it also seems to stop the spread of malignant cancer cells to secondary healthy tissues.
There are no known conflicting effects with drugs. Astragalus should be taken with meals at a total intake of 2,000 to 3,000 mgs per day.
A Strong Combination
If you are thinking of buying Astragalus, you might like to look at the Natural Selection Product of Choice. You can do this by clicking here.
On a personal note, I should tell you that I am a great fan of astragalus. I have short periods when I take it along with my other natural supplements simply to boost my immune response system.
There is a very good reason for my appreciation of astragalus. I saw its strength first hand. I found that Cat´s claw, astragalus, turmeric (curcumin) and echinacea can be an excellent immune system re-booting combination for cancer patients, and especially after treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy. We gave this combination to Catherine when the chemotherapy drugs had reduced her white cells to desperately low levels, and the standard immune-stimulating drugs and injections on offer simply would not work even though she tried them daily for weeks. On taking the four herbs her white cell levels recovered in less than two weeks! She was also taking aloe vera which most probably helped further.
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Please be clear: At CANCERactive we do not consider the above compound to be a cure for cancer, despite what the research says or experts doing the research may claim. The above, is an article on the compound from published research and expert opinion in the public domain. At CANCERactive we do not believe that any single compound (drug, vitamin, whatever) is a cure for cancer. We believe that people can significantly increase their personal odds of survival by building an Integrated Programme of treatments. Equally, cancer prevention is best practiced through a width of measures.