Dr Jillian Stansbury – Botanical Medicine Clinician, Researcher, and Ethnobotanist, Associate Professor Botanical Medicine – Scientific Advisor for Restorative Formulations
Astragalus membranaceus is one of the most widely used Chinese herbal medicines, used for “Kidney Yang Deficiency” whose symptoms are similar to the western concept of adrenal insufficiency or the clinical signs of cortisone cessation.[1]  Due to its popularity, lack of toxicity and side effects, and wide use, Astragalus has been extensively investigated and many longevity-supportive mechanisms of action are now becoming elucidated.
Body-wide aging is associated with loss of cellular function in all the organs and tissues and a gradual replacement of healthy cells with fibrous tissues. Astragalus is shown to protect against excessive collagen deposition in liver, reducing elevated hyaluronic acid, collagen, and pro-collagen levels in patients with fibrotic livers due to chronic hepatitis B. [2] Astragalus may also help protect pancreatic beta cells from apoptosis and destruction via Th1/Th2 ratio shifts[3], and the heart from tissue damage in animal models of acute myocarditis.[4] Muscle wasting may result from low testosterone, cancer cachexia, or adrenal insufficiency and involves atrophy of myofibers. Astragalus restores phosphorylation in muscle myotubes and myoblasts and protects muscle cell mitochondria.[5]  Animal studies suggest Astragalus to improve stress tolerance[6], protect and improve mitochondrial function of individual muscle cells[7], and support stamina by increasing hepatic and muscle glycogen content.[8]
Astragalus may also have effects on telomeres contributing to longevity-enhancing effects. Telomeres are components of chromosomes that shorten each time a cell divides, until so little of the telomere is left that cell division is no longer possible, growth is arrested, and the cells are considered senescent, and incapable of further regeneration. Depletion of telomeres is directly related to longevity and helps determine the typical life span in various species. Telomerase enzymes are involved in protecting the average lifespan of the telomeres and research is emerging on agents that deplete telomeres and shorten an organism’s lifespan, as well as agents that activate telomerase and improve longevity.
T cells are involved with telomerase activation, and Astragalus may improve longevity via effects on T cell-driven telomerase. Astragalus compounds may increase T Cell telomerase as much as 1.3 to 3.3 times.[9]  Telomerase enzymes increase cancer susceptibility and cell proliferation when excessive, and results in disease and rapid aging when deficient. Astragalus increases telomerase, and in turn lifespan, without increasing cancer incidence[10],[11]  and in fact Astragalus has shown many anti-cancer effects. Several Astragalus immune polysaccharides activate telomerase supporting signaling pathways in numerous cell types including lung, brain, mammary, endothelial, fibroblast, and hematopoietic cells.[12]
These studies support the ancient use of Astragalus as a “chi” tonic, improving vitality, resistance to disease, and supporting strength and stamina into old age.
As a clinician and herbal researcher I know it is always important to use the cleanest herbs and herbal extracts available. When possible, always choose CERTIFIED ORGANIC.


References
[1] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:540957. Metabolic Signatures of Kidney Yang Deficiency Syndrome and Protective Effects of Two Herbal Extracts in Rats Using GC/TOF MS.
Zhao L1, Wu H, Qiu M, Sun W, Wei R, Zheng X, Yang Y, Xin X, Zou H, Chen T, Liu J, Lu L, Su J, Ma C, Zhao A, Jia W.
[2] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2000 Apr;20(4):255-7. Comparison on efficacy in treating liver fibrosis of chronic hepatitis B between Astragalus Polygonum anti-fibrosis decoction and jinshuibao capsule.  Chen H1, Weng L.
[3] Biol Pharm Bull. 2007 Mar;30(3):470-6. The immunotherapeutic effects of Astragalus polysaccharide in type 1 diabetic mice. Li RJ1, Qiu SD, Chen HX, Tian H, Wang HX.
[4] J Diabetes Complications. 2015 Mar;29(2):164-75. Astragalus polysaccharides repress myocardial lipotoxicity in a PPARalpha-dependent manner in vitro and in vivo in mice. Chen W1, Lai Y2, Wang L3, Xia Y4, Chen W4, Zhao X4, Yu M4, Li Y2, Zhang Y5, Ye H2.
[5] Int J Biol Macromol. 2013 Oct;61:7-16.  Astragalus polysaccharide improves muscle atrophy from dexamethasone- and peroxide-induced injury in vitro. Lu L1, Wang DT, Shi Y, Yin Y, Wei LB, Zou YC, Huang B, Zhao Y, Wang M, Wan H, Li CJ, Diao JX.
[6] Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2003 Sep;67(9):1930-6. Reduction of noise-stress-induced physiological  damage by radices of Astragali and Rhodiolae: glycogen, lactic acid and cholesterol contents in liver of the rat. Zhu BW1, Sun YM, Yun X, Han S, Piao ML, Murata Y, Tada M.
[7] Int J Biol Macromol. 2013 Oct;61:7-16.  Astragalus polysaccharide improves muscle atrophy from dexamethasone- and peroxide-induced injury in vitro. Lu L1, Wang DT, Shi Y, Yin Y, Wei LB, Zou YC, Huang B, Zhao Y, Wang M, Wan H, Li CJ, Diao JX.
[8] Molecules. 2014 Mar 3;19(3):2793-807.  Astragalus membranaceus improves exercise performance and ameliorates exercise-induced fatigue in trained mice. Yeh TS1, Chuang HL2, Huang WC3, Chen YM4, Huang CC5, Hsu MC6.
[9] Cells. 2013 Jan 14;2(1):57-66.  Functional assessment of pharmacological telomerase activators in human T cells.  Molgora B1, Bateman R2, Sweeney G3, Finger D4, Dimler T5, Effros RB6, Valenzuela HF7.
[10] Rejuvenation Res. 2012 Aug;15(4):435-8.  Ectopic expression of telomerase safely increases health span and life span. Mendelsohn AR1, Larrick JW.
[11] Aging Cell. 2011 Aug;10(4):604-21.  The telomerase activator TA-65 elongates short telomeres and increases health span of adult/old mice without increasing cancer incidence.  Bernardes de Jesus B1, Schneeberger K, Vera E, Tejera A, Harley CB, Blasco MA.
[12] Planta Med. 2012 Jan;78(2):115-21.  Astragaloside IV and cycloastragenol stimulate the phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase in multiple cell types. Yung LY1, Lam WS, Ho MK, Hu Y, Ip FC, Pang H, Chin AC, Harley CB, Ip NY, Wong YH.


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.