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Herbal Therapies Used by People Living With HIV: Astragalus

Part of A Practical Guide to Herbal Therapies for People Living With HIV

2004

Astragalus
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) is a bone marrow stimulant that can be purchased alone or in many combinations of Chinese herbs. Most of the clinical information about astralagus comes from studies in which it is used with other herbs. In China, astragalus is used in combinations that treat immune cell suppression after cancer chemotherapy. In traditional Chinese practice, astragalus, or huang-qi, is described as a yang tonic, and many of the herbs in this group appear beneficial to the immune system. (Yang is defined as vital function in traditional Chinese medicine.)

Astragalus, used to treat hepatitis B and other viral infections, was one of the first herbs to be identified as a potentially useful treatment for HIV. Chinese medicine practitioners were the first to identify it as such. Although no trials have specifically studied this herb in treating HIV-positive people, studies of astragalus in people with other viral infections have shown increases in immune cells.

Astragalus is sold in capsules and tinctures through Chinese herbalists, health food stores and buyers' clubs. It may cause gas, bloating, low blood pressure and increased frequency of urination, but side effects are rare when it's taken in moderate doses. If you buy an over-the-counter product, follow the dosage information on the side of the bottle carefully, because the amount of active ingredient provided by different manufacturers varies widely. Higher doses may be immune suppressive. Astragalus is ideally used in combination with other herbs, such as codonopsis pilosa, that have been individually prescribed by Chinese medicine practitioners. Astragalus can cause blood vessels to dilate (expand). People who have thin blood or who are using anticoagulents should therefore use this product with caution.

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This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 

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