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Astragalus, our naturopath's favorite adaptogenic, immune support herb.*
Q: Is there a favorite botanical that you use with your patients to nurture the immune system performance?
A: If I had to narrow down my choice of botanicals to one herbal that I believe covers the broadest area when it comes to nurturing the immune system, it would be Astragalus —hands down.
There are many powerful botanicals with very specific and well-documented traditional uses, relative to the immune system, so why am I a big fan of Astragalus? The answer is simple: it is considered an adaptogenic herb and enjoys a revered 2,000-year history of being used by humanity, particularly in the specialty of Chinese medicine.
The official term used to describe its immune balancing ability capacity is amphoteric, meaning that it can help modulate the immune system. In today’s stressful and ever-changing world, we are bombarded with pollution, inflammation, allergies and immune imbalances. Astragalus’ special immune-modulating properties can acutely nurture the body’s natural defenses, long-term, when combined with positive dietary and lifestyle choices.*
Fortifying your body for the Fa-la-la and frosty days ahead!
Q: For the holiday season and winter in general, I find it stressful as I live in a northern state and find myself stuck a lot indoors due to the snow, rain and cold. How do you advise your patients to bolster themselves?
A: When it comes to the holidays, most of us have diverse circles of loved ones and they don’t always get along. That makes for extra stress when it comes to get-togethers, beyond all the germs you’re exposed to as everyone congregates in stuffy indoor venues.
I encourage my patients to take the immune adaptogen, Astragalus, along with a good adrenal targeted adaptogen such as Maca or Ashwagandha. When I graduated from Reed College in 1988, I wrote my senior undergraduate thesis on “Stress and Immunosuppression.” The research is clear that stress can be very destructive to immune competence; and ongoing stress also depletes our ability to handle stressful events with optimal levels of finesse. Whether you choose to add Maca, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola or a combination of adaptogenic botanicals is totally a personal preference of yours and your healthcare provider. I will say, when it comes to stress and immunocompetence, an ounce of prevention is worth a lot of peace of mind and body as modern microbes appear to progressively more powerful.*
Take Home Message: When looking to support your immune system, combining the traditional applications of the adaptogenic immune properties of Astragalus with adrenal adaptogenic herbals such as Maca, Ashwagandha and/or Rhodiola is a strategic consideration.
Scientific Snapshot: Astragalus
Astragalus tops many functional medicine providers list as their favorite immune-modulating botanical for it also possesses additional benefits of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The breadth of active constituents that have been identified number at least 100 naturally occurring compounds including flavonoids, amino acids, polysaccharides, terpenes and saponins.
The primary immune supportive constituents are generally attributed to the polysaccharide, triterpene and flavonoids. Specific immune active components, beta-glucan, astragalin, and astragalosides have garnered particular attention.
Clinically, it is particularly intriguing to consider not only the potential direct effects on the immune system, but also the indirect effects such as the fact that the polysaccharides in astragalus may generate beneficial effects via their interaction with the mucous membranes that line the gastrointestinal tract and also interact with the gut microbiota. Indeed, there is growing evidence that astragalus can help augment both Lactobacillus and other commensal probiotics.
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- Anticancer Res. 2014;34(5):2275-2282.
Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., has 24-years of experience practicing as a Naturopathic Doctor in Portland, Oregon. He is dedicated to using his vast knowledge about alternative medicine to help his patients and generously give to those in need. He has written over a dozen books and 100's of national articles, and was named Naturopathic Physician of the Year in 2003 by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Read more about Dr. Meletis here. Or, visit our "Ask Dr. Meletis, N.D." page for additional articles.
*Statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. The information on this website, and provided by Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs, to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications. There is additional information linked within this site to HealthNotes®, a third party educational source, containing the latest research on health and supplements. Oregon's Wild Harvest will not be held accountable for this information and consider it an education reference only.