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Benefits of Sweet-Tasting Astragalus for Chemotherapy Patients

by Dr. Donna Schwontkowski, Master Herbalist, D.C. (ret)

The bitterness of a diagnosis of cancer can be relieved with the sweetness of the herb Astragalus, a Chinese herb that has been used medicinally in China for thousands of years. According to research, Astragalus enhances the body's natural defense mechanisms.

Scientists have discovered that the antioxidant, antiviral, and immune modulator activity of Astragalus are primary ways that this all natural herb helps alleviate side effects of chemotherapy drugs. Immune modulators are substances that affect the immune system in some way to make it more active. By using immune modulators, a cancer patient on chemotherapy may feel less toxic side effects and experience a greater quality of life.

The big problem with chemotherapy is that it depresses the immune system, leaving cancer patients prone to infections. But by using immune system modulators, such as the herb Astragalus, a cancer patient is less prone to infections.

Herbalists consider Astragalus an herb great for the immune system, but also an adaptogen. An adaptogen helps the body adapt well to external circumstances, encouraging the system to function correctly.

The Research Studies Show Positive Benefits

One clinical study of 115 patients receiving various forms of chemotherapy found 83% higher white blood counts from the use of Astragalus, exactly what may be needed to fight the battle of cancer for many types of cancer.

In another study, Astragalus was added to a petri dish containing white blood cells and tumor cells. The white blood cells began attacking the tumor cells. This is an important finding because tumor cells usually produce chemicals that turn off the white blood cells' ability to attack tumors. Astragalus clearly helps the white blood cells become faster and more efficient.

Lung Cancer Patients Survived as Long as 17 Years

One study showed that lung cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy who were given Astragalus improved their overall response rate to all four treatments. In another study, patients with small cell lung cancer who took standard chemotherapy drugs like vincristine, carmustine and cyclophosphamide along with Astragalus and ginseng survived as long as 17 years from the combined therapy.

Herbs Can Affect Genes

Astragalus was also found to stop the spread of cancers known to respond to the p53 gene, a tumor-suppressing gene that keeps defective cells from multiplying.

The fact that Astragalus is helpful, either with or without chemotherapy, makes this sweet-tasting herb an herb that should be considered in many cancer cases. If the toxic side effects of chemotherapy can be lessened by the addition of a simple herb, why not consider it?

Herbalists are finding though that the addition of several herbs together, one of them Astragalus, can make even more impact and bring more benefits than what occurs with Astragalus by itself! It's exciting research that will only benefit chemotherapy patients who wish to add an all natural approach to cancer treatment.

For more information on herbal combinations that are scientifically documented to lessen toxic side effects in chemotherapy patients, see All Natural Herbal Solutions
or to read additional articles on how to reduce chemotherapy side effects

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