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02-09-2016

A Russian scientist’s astonishing plant discovery

In 1947, the Russian scientist Nicolai Lazarev noticed that human consumption of a certain group of plants increased resistance to stress as well as to microbial attacks, the cold, the heat, injuries, malnutrition, etc.
He named these plants “adaptogens”, because they increase our capacity to adapt to environmental changes, particularly more adverse changes. To use a modern analogy, you could say these plant adaptogens act as ‘personal trainers’ for our health.
The ‘adaptogen’ concept has been around for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, where such plants are known as ‘superior herbs’ because of their ability to regulate various body functions and increase energy.
However, Lazarev’s research proved scientifically that a number of plants had this fortifying effect, one of the most beneficial being astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus).

A plant prescribed for centuries to treat fatigue

Astragalus is undoubtedly the most important of these adaptogen plants.
It features in the Chinese Herbal Medicine materia medica, the famous reference manual containing 350 monographs on the main plants used in Chinese medicine.
Astragalus has been prescribed for hundreds of years to treat general weakness and chronic diseases as well as to boost vitality. It also features in the Japanese pharmacopoeia. Astragalus has become very popular in the United States too - a development that cannot be dismissed as a passing fad since it has been the subject of media interest since the 1980s.

Confirmed by scientific research

A number of pharmacological studies on astragalus have identified several active ingredients that account for the plant’s effects, including an exceptionally high concentration of immune-stimulant polysaccharides.
These natural compounds help to treat diseases associated with immune deficiency, particularly via the immune-modulating effect of their F3 fraction.
Astragalus also contains many other active ingredients which contribute to its fortifying properties: saponins, flavonoids, amino acids and trace elements. Two ingredients in particular - the saponins astragaloside IV and cycloastragenol - are advanced anti-aging substances, able to stimulate telomerase production and thus allow cells to go on replicating for longer! The harsh reality, however, is that the process of extracting them is extremely costly and can discourage more widespread use. The more reasonably-priced hydroglycerine extract of the whole plant contains a lower dose of these precious substances and at the same time offers the benefits of synergistic effects from the other ingredients.

Important anti-aging effects

The immune system declines with age, the first signs appearing when the thymus, a gland found behind the breastbone, begins to atrophy. This process actually starts just after puberty but it becomes more noticeable with the passing years.
The thymus gradually loses its ability to fight viruses, bacteria and cancerous cells. This is where astragalus can play a part by stimulating the immune system in different ways. It increases the number of stem cells in bone marrow and lymphatic tissue and encourages them to develop into active immune cells. It seems to help immune cells move from a ‘resting’ state to one of huge activity. It also helps the body produce immunoglobulin and stimulates macrophages, the protector cells that ‘gobble up’ foreign bodies.
Astragalus also helps activate natural killer cells and T1 lymphocytes, other important weapons of the immune system.

Enhanced protection against viruses

Research has shown that the polysaccharides in Astragalus induce endogenous production of interferon in both animals and humans.
This means that the body’s reaction to viral infections is more effective.
Mice treated with Astragalus before being exposed to Coxsachie B3 and the Japanese encephalitis virus demonstrated significantly greater levels of interferon and macrophage production than untreated mice.

Positive effects on the immune system in AIDS and cancer patients

Astragalus polysaccharides also improve lymphocyte response in both healthy subjects and cancer patients. They boost natural killer (immune) cell activity in healthy individuals as well as in patients suffering from systemic lupus erythematosis.
Polysaccharides’ F3 fraction maximises immune cell activity in AIDS and cancer patients.
Finally, Astragalus has been shown to increase resistance to the immune-suppressant effects of chemotherapy while stimulating macrophage production of interleukin-6 and tumour necrosis factor.
In mice, oral administration of Astragalus stimulated several aspects of immunity. Its polysaccharides were shown to maximise the anti-tumour activity of interleukins-2 and monocyte activity.

Click here for the astragalus hydroglycerine extract, and click here for more expensive anti-aging fractions Astragaloside IV and Cycloastragénol.
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References :

(1). Jiao Y. et al., « Influence of flavonoid of Astragalus membranaceus' system and leaves on the function of cell mediated immunity in mice », Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi, 1999, 19:356-358.
(2). Wang D.C., « Influence of Astragalus membranaceus polysaccharide FB on immunologic function of human periphery blood lymphocyte », Zhonghua Zhong Liu Za Zhi, 1989, 11:180-183.
(3). Zhao X.Z., « Effects of Astragalus membranaceus and Tripterygium hypoglancum on natural killer cell activity of peripheral blood mononuclear in systemic lupus erythematosus », Zhonggo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi, 1992, 12:679-671.
(4). Yoshida Y. et al., « Immunomodulating activity of Chinese medicinal herbs and Oldenlandia diffusa in particular », Int. J. Immunopharmacol., 1997, 19:35
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