Astragalus

Summary

Also known by these names

Astragaloside IV
Astragalus membranaceus
Astragalus mongholicus
Astragalus polysaccharides (APS)
Astragali radix (“radix” refers to the plant roots)
Astragalus radix
Formononetin 
Huang chi
Huang qi
Milk vetch
Mongolian milk vetch
Radix astragali
Radix astragalus

Astragalus, one of the most commonly used herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, is used to treat various cancers including breast, colorectal, esophageal, lung and stomach cancers. Astragalus reduces some side effects of treatment and improves quality of life; it is also anti-inflammatory and supports immune function. 

Astragalus is often used in combination with other herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.

Evidence of Effectiveness

Treating Cancer 

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Optimizing Your Body Terrain 

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Managing Side Effects 

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Reducing Cancer Risk 

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Use by Integrative Oncology Experts 

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Safety

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Affordability and Ease of Access 

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Details and Evidence

Authors

Maria Williams, BCCT Research & Communications Consultant

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Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, BCCT Senior Researcher

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Nancy Hepp, MS, BCCT Project Manager

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Last updated April 13, 2021.

Astragalus, a plant belonging to the legume (pea or bean) family, is one of the most commonly used herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. The roots of Astragalus membranaceus or mongholicus are most commonly used. Astragalus is often administered together with other herbs. 

In cancer care, astragalus has mainly been used to reduce the severity of chemotherapy side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue and immune suppression.1

Clinical Practice Guidelines

Shanghai Association of Chinese Integrative Medicine

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Hong Kong Government

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Treating the Cancer

Working against cancer growth or spread, improving survival, or working with other treatments or therapies to improve their anticancer action

Clinical Evidence

Breast Cancer 

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Colorectal Cancer 

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Esophageal Cancer

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Liver Cancer

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Lung Cancer (Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer)

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Stomach (Gastric) Cancer

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Lab and Animal Evidence

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Optimizing Your Terrain

Creating an environment within your body that does not support cancer development, growth or spread; see Body Terrain and the Tumor Microenvironment.

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Managing Side Effects and Promoting Wellness

Managing or relieving side effects or symptoms, reducing treatment toxicity, supporting quality of life or promoting general well-being

  • Reduced toxicity of paclitaxel-based chemotherapy in patients with Aidi injection (Mylabris phalerata, Radix astragalus, Radix ginseng and Acanthopanax senticosus) with stage 3B or 4 non-small cell lung cancer40

Blood-related Side Effects

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Changes in Appetite

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Fatigue

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Gastrointestinal Symptoms, including Nausea and Vomiting 

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Myelosuppression

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Pain

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Peripheral Neuropathy and Neurotoxicity

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Quality of Life and Physical Function

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Sleep Disturbance 

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Other Side Effects and Symptoms

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Reducing Risk

Reducing the risk of developing cancer or the risk of recurrence

Lab and Animal Evidence

  • Colon cancer: prevented gastrointestinal lesions in animals from progressing into cancer86

Access

Astragalus is widely available as an oral supplement or in various formulations.87 Use in cancer care is typically orally, externally applied to skin, as an injection or intravenously.

Supplement prices are generally low to moderate. Intravenous (IV) treatments and injections are more expensive, requiring administration by a healthcare professional.

TRC Natural Medicines provides information on various formulations of astragalus: Astragalus (subscription required).

Cautions

Astragalus is generally well tolerated and considered safe, but preliminary evidence has found interactions with anticoagulants, diuretics, and antihypertensive drugs. See CAM Cancer for more information.

Due to its antioxidant and estrogenic activity, astragalus may interfere with some chemotherapy drugs and/or affect hormone-sensitive cancers, though this is still under investigation.88

One study reported fatigue, malaise, headache and lowered blood pressure in patients after administration, but all symptoms cleared within 24 hours.89

Formononetin (an astragalus extract) and its metabolites can enhance inflammation and induce an allergic immune response.90

Dosing

BCCT does not recommend therapies or doses, but provides information for patients and providers to consider as part of a complete treatment plan. Patients should discuss therapies with their physicians, as contraindications, interactions and side effects must be evaluated. Levels of active ingredients of natural products can vary widely between and even within products. See Quality and Sources of Herbs, Supplements and Other Natural Products.

Dosage recommendations are available from these sources:

Integrative Programs, Protocols and Medical Systems

For more information about programs and protocols, see our Integrative Programs and Protocols page.

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More Information

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