What is Astragalus?
Astragalus is a flowering plant used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in the practise, generally for increasing the metabolism and sweating, improving function of the lungs, and reducing fatigue and inducing healing.
Where Does Astragalus Come From?
Astragalus is native to China and is found throughout the country. It is not listed as being threatened despite collection for herbal remedies.
Astragalus Health Benefits
Astragalus has notable benefits for kidney protection, and has been used in clinical medicine for this purpose. However, the studies completed used an injectable form and as such their relevance to supplementation with astragalus could be questioned.
Astragalus also has interactions with skin and skin quality. It can be used as a moisturising agent, reducing dermatitis, and protects skin from UV induced aging. It can also increase healing rates, and reduce scar tissue formation. It also improves general immune function.
Astragalus Benefits for Bodybuilding
Astragalus has many effects on the cardiovascular system. It has the ability to reduce blood pressure, with one study finding a reduction in 17%. It also reduces hardening of the arteries, cholestrerol absorption and plaque build up - all of these factors increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. It is also possible that it improves cardiac contractions, generally strengthening your heart and its ability to pump.
It also has nitric oxide boosting properties, widening arteries and giving you that pump, as well as other benefits for skeletal muscle. It increases glucose uptake into the muscles, allowing longer and more efficient workouts, as well as reducing insulin insensitivity in peripheral muscles. In terms of fat mass, astragalus appears to work through the same mechanisms to upregulate adipocytes, allowing a faster metabolism and more utilisation of glucose and hence energy.
Astragalus may have testosterone boosting properties, although studies are as yet inconclusive.
Astragalus Side Effects, Safety and Negatives
There are no known side effects from taking astragalus orally.
Astragalus Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing
30g of the pure root appears to be effective, concentrated extracts would need to be adjusted in accordance with this. For example, a 5:1 concentrated extract would need to be dosed at 6g a day.
Astragalus can be bought in capsule form, and is also found in many health supplements such as Swisse Ultivite Super Food and Ultimate Nutrition Vegetable Greens. It is also used in testosterone boosting supplements such as Ronnie Coleman's Testogen, and some preworkout formulas including PharmaFreak Ripped Freak and MusclePharm Assault.
Astragalus appears to be an excellent all-round bodybuilding supplement, and would stack well with most supplements, whether pre-workouts for its nitric oxide properties or testosterone boosters, or supplements for general heart health or immune function.