6 Proven Ways Astragalus Relieves Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

astragalus benefits for chronic fatigue syndrome

Name: Astragalus, Astragalus membranaceus , Huang qi, Astragali radix
Active Compounds: Astragalosides, flavonoids, saponins, polysaccharides
Goes well with: Angelicae sinensis
Number of scientific references: 21
Level of Evidence: Level II What is this?

Note: In Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus has a reputation of an anti-fatigue herb and has many medicinal properties that can help revitalize the body. Two human studies have found the herb to strengthen immunity and antioxidant defense as well as reduce fatigue in ME/CFS; more research is required to confirm its effectiveness. Please consult a health practitioner before taking astragalus.

Astragalus is popularly referred to as ‘Qi tonifying’ herb. It means that it replenishes Qi or the vital energy force. Research has identified the role of this Chinese herb in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Astragalus radix or Huang Qi is obtained from the roots of Astragalus membranaceus. This herb is prescribed for weakness, chronic illness and to improve overall health. It helps improve immunity.

Traditionally it is used to restore the spleen Qi and ameliorate symptoms such as loss of appetite, diarrhea, and fatigue. It is also used to treat disorders of the lung, spleen, and stomach.

Research has identified various therapeutic properties of this Chinese herb: anti-inflammatory, diuretic, anti-cancer, antiviral and immunostimulatory properties.

The main components of the herb include polysaccharides, saponins, flavonoids, amino acids, and trace elements. These possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune stimulating and anti-microbial properties.

The major benefits of astragalus root for chronic fatigue syndrome include its ability to improve immune function and endurance capacity. Let’s understand this in detail.

6 Proven Ways Astragalus Relieves Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Various pharmacological properties of this novel Chinese herb can help relieve symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

1. Astragalus is a natural anti-fatigue agent

Kuo and his colleagues assessed the effect of astragalus root extract in an animal model of fatigue. They hypothesized that immune function is disturbed in chronic fatigue syndrome and the herb can help restore immune function.

A reduction in the size of spleen and spleen cells was observed in the animal model. The herb restored the number of spleen cells. It regulated and restored immune function.

The treatment also reduced production of inflammation causing agents and increased endurance. Researchers identified the active components that were responsible for this therapeutic effect: ononin, formononetin, and demethylhomopterocarpin.

In conclusion, researchers stated that the Chinese herb helps balance level of cellular products that affect immunity and inflammation. This helps alleviate symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Further, a clinical trial was conducted where patients were treated with a proprietary blend, Myelophil. This blend contained extracts of astragalus and red sage.

Patients were given 3 or 6g daily for four weeks. 3g dose reduced fatigue severity score significantly. However, no change in cytokine (cellular products) that affect inflammation and immunity was seen.

In 2011, a group of Chinese researchers proved that the combination of astragalus with female ginseng (Angelicae sinensis) benefits in ME/CFS.

Their study tested a Chinese herbal decoction containing these herbs. Treatment with this decoction elevated immune cells and reduced inflammation causing agents in chronic fatigue syndrome.

A recent study published in International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine confirmed the herb’s anti-fatigue effect. It reduced lactic acid build up and increased the level of antioxidant enzymes.

Thus researchers stated:’ It has an obvious anti-fatigue effect and it’s worthy of further study.’

Quick Gist: Astragalus reduces fatigue by boosting immunity, reducing the level of inflammatory agents and elevating antioxidant defences. It’s combination with red sage or female ginseng is beneficial for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome.

2. Astragalus root powder contain anti-inflammatory agents

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to infection and injury. So what was initially an immune defence, if left uncontrolled, transforms into severe inflammation. In chronic fatigue syndrome, this delicate balance between inflammation and immunity is disturbed.

Polysaccharides found in Huang qi roots have anti-inflammatory property. They inhibit the activity of nuclear factor kappa B- a major protein complex that is involved in many biochemical processes including inflammation.

Lai et.al have identified as many as 13 active components of the herb that help relieve inflammation.

A fairly recent study has confirmed that extracts from species related to this Chinese herb help relieve inflammation and pain. In fact, its analgesic effect was found to be comparable to sodium salicylate and morphine.

Quick Gist: Astragalus root extracts have a natural anti-inflammatory effect. This is beneficial in curbing inflammation in chronic fatigue syndrome.

3. Antioxidants present in astragalus extracts benefit in chronic fatigue syndrome

Shahzad et.al in their recent study published in Current Drug Targets, 2016 revealed that astragalus extract is rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants help protect almost all organs of the body from oxidative stress related disease.

Astragalosides, polysaccharides, and flavonoids are the antioxidants that exert this protective effect.

Huang et.al conducted this interesting study on the effect of these antioxidants. The premise of the study is that excessive exercise induces fatigue and contributes to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is also observed in chronic fatigue syndrome.

They proved that root extract reduced such oxidative stress and restored antioxidant defense. It helped to normalize mitochondrial function (mitochondria are cellular respiration units).

Quick Gist: Astragalus is abundant in antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress and improve endurance in chronic fatigue syndrome.

4.Active components in astragalus extract can help strengthen immunity in ME/CFS

Various studies have produced conflicting evidence on the role of immunity in chronic fatigue syndrome. (Read Understanding chronic fatigue syndrome) But an improvement in immune function helps relieve symptoms of many health conditions.

Polysaccharides in astragalus root are found to stimulate the production of immune cells and boost immune function.

It has been proven that saponins from this Chinese herb boost immune function without affecting inflammation causing agents. This is very beneficial for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Denzler and his research group confirmed these findings via a study in humans (healthy individuals). Treatment with astragalus extract led to a rise in the number of immune cells within 8-12 hours of administration.

A reduction in blood pressure and an increase in body temperature was observed. Participants also reported flu like symptoms such as a headache, malaise, fatigue, lack of focus.

This was attributed to immune system activation and subsequently an increase in inflammatory agents. These findings highlight the need for identifying an appropriate dose of this herb for regulating immune function in healthy as well as diseased individuals.

Viral infections can serve as a causative factor of ME/CFS. Astragalus has proven anti-viral property against Epstein-Barr virus, Coxsackie virus, Herpes simplex virus and Hepatitis virus.

Quick Gist: Astragalus can help regulate immune function in a dose dependent manner. At an appropriate dose, it can help improve immunity without triggering inflammation and thus benefit in chronic fatigue syndrome treatment. It can also help mitigate viral infection related causes of CFS.

5. Astragalus root benefits by improving physical stamina

Performing physical activity or even getting through the daily tasks is difficult in the case of severe symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

A group of researchers from Taiwan has proven that astragalus supplementation increases exercise performance and have an anti-fatigue effect. Their animal study revealed that the herb increased endurance capacity and reduced lactic acid build up.

Further a study in athletes treated with Chinese herbal preparation containing astragalus increased exercise capacity and recovery from fatigue. It also reduced lactic acid build up and increased anaerobic threshold.

Quick Gist: Astragalus serves as a natural ergogenic aid. It can help improve exercise capacity and reduce lactic acid build up in chronic fatigue syndrome.

6. Astragalus extract reduces stress

Chronic fatigue syndrome presents with cognitive symptoms that affect thinking, memory and even leads to stress.

Astragaloside found in the herb helps reduce stress induced anxiety and inflammation. A study published in PLoS One, 2014 reveals that combination of astragalus and red sage protects against psycho-emotional stress. They reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.

The root extracts are also proven to remedy stress induced anxiety and memory and learning deficits.

Cycloastragenol is a derivative of astragaloside. It is proven to protect brain cells and thus may benefit in depression.

Quick Gist: Astragalus has adaptogenic property- it can help combat stress and anxiety occurring in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Dosage of Astragalus for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Astragalus is available as root or powdered form or decoction.

There is no specific dose of the herb identified for chronic fatigue syndrome. Studies have utilised a dose of 3 and 6g of a proprietary blend of astragalus and red sage.

The dosage of astragalus depends on body weight and a number of factors (100-200mg per kg body weight  which would be 3-4g of standardized extracts); so it is necessary to identify a personalised dose that works for you.

It is best to consult a health practitioner or a health professional who specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine before taking astragalus for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Precautions with Astragalus use

When taken within prescribed limits, astragalus is found to be safe. Minor side effects include diarrhea and gastric side effects.

There has been one case report regarding occurence of erythema and swelling with Huang qi intake.

Astragalus in combination with other herbs has a ‘heart rate increasing effect’. Since it affects blood pressure and heart function, individuals with heart disorder must take it only when advised by a health practitioner.

In combination with other Chinse herbs, astragalus is found to have an anti-platelet effect so please take with caution in case of a bleeding disorder or if you are taking blood thinners (warfarin).

The herb has an immune stimulating function; individuals taking immunosuppressants must consult a health practitioner before taking it.

It may have drug interactions with lithium. Please confirm with a health practitioner before taking astragalus during pregnancy and lactation.

Certain astragalus species may contain neurotoxins. These are not found in the dietary supplement, but it is best to research about the product before taking them.

Conclusion

Astragalus is traditionally used in Chinese Medicine to boost immunity and improve stamina. This makes it a therapeutic agent for chronic fatigue syndrome.

It has many medicinal properties that can benefit in ME/CFS treatment. However, most of the research in this area is limited to animal studies.

More rigorous studies are required to confirm these findings in humans. If you do plan to take astragalus for chronic fatigue syndrome, please seek advice from a suitable health practitioner.

And if you have used it, please share your experience below.

Explore the benefits of Chinese herb astragalus for chronic fatigue syndrome.

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