The Safe and Effective Immune Enhancer
- Increase antibodies
- Enhance immune function
- Increase the production of interferon
- Stimulate natural killer cells
Immune health depends on eating right, getting enough sleep and exercise, and avoiding environmental toxins and stress. It's almost impossible to avoid environmental toxins because of plastics, automobile emissions, and the overuse of insecticides and pesticides, just to name a few. Sugar and alcohol consumption inhibit proper immune function. And obesity has been linked to decreased immune function as well. Unless you live in a glass bubble and eat an excellent diet, your immune system could probably use a boost.
Maintaining a strong immune system
About 60 years ago, researcher Weston Price, D.D.S., observed a high degree of immunity among native cultures as he traveled to places like Africa, New Zealand, and the Andes Mountains. The indigenous cultures were virtually free of tuberculosis, cancer, dental disease, and arthritis. Price also noticed that the two strengths these peoples had in common were a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, and an active lifestyle.1 Scientific research has since confirmed Price's observations: Proper immune function relies on good nutrition,2 physical activity,3 and emotional health.4
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Daily nutritional supplementation is your best bet to insure that your nutritional needs are met, as well as supporting your immune health. For cold and flu season, it's especially important to take more aggressive measures.
Astragalus is a superb immune enhancer
Western medicine promotes vaccines which contain dead or weakened bacteria, viruses or other materials such as inactive toxins, to stimulate the production of antibodies against a specific pathogen. But as we well know, these vaccines can upset the immune system's balance and produce side effects which can sometimes be uncomfortable and dangerous.
Fortunately, there are a number of safe herbs and nutrients that enhance overall immunity by stimulating or strengthening the body's own defense mechanisms without adding stress to the system. According to Chinese medicine, this is called Fu Zheng Therapy, which means "to support the body's natural balance."5
Astragalus root has a long track record of doing just that and is considered by some to be "the most powerful immunity-boosting herb."6 Native to Mongolia and China, the herb has been used for thousands of years in China to ward off illness, strengthen the immune system, and Chi—the building block of all spiritual and physical energy.
While over 2,000 types of Astragalus exist worldwide, the Chinese version has been extensively tested, both chemically and pharmacologically.7
How does Astragalus work?
- Enhances immune function by increasing the activity of certain white blood cells which increases the production of antibodies (IgA and IgG)
- Increases the production of interferon (an anti-viral and anti-tumor agent naturally produced by the body)
- Stimulates natural killer cells
In addition to boosting immunity, Astragalus has antibacterial, adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral effects. It contains numerous components, including polysaccharides, flavonoids, triterpene glycosides, amino acids, and trace minerals.8 It owes most of its immune enhancing effects to polysaccharides; a group of complex sugars responsible for initiating the immune response. Polysaccharides work with other key components to strengthen and build the immune system.
According to James Duke, Ph.D., the world's leading authority on healing herbs, Astragalus increases white blood cell production of the body's own anti-viral compounds alpha-and gamma-interferon, which generally protect against viral invasion.9
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.
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Beisel W. Nutrition and immune function: overview J Nutr 1996:126:2611S-5S.
Shephard RJ et al. Exercise, aging and immune function. Int J Sports Med 1995;16(1):1-6.
Leserman J, et al. Severe stress, depressive symptoms, and changes in lymphocyte subsets in human immunodeficiency virus-infected men: a 2-year follow-up study. Arch Gen Psych 1997;54:279-85.
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Zand, Janet, OMD, LAc. "Immunity: Colds & Flu." Energy Times, Sept, 1999.
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Lau B, et al. Chinese medicinal herbs inhibit growth of murine renal cell carcinoma. Cancer Biotherapy 1994;9(2):153.
Klepser T, Nisly N. Astragalus as an adjunctive therapy in immunocompromised patients. Alt Med Alert 1999;Nov:125-8 [review].
Liang H, et al. The effect of astragalus polysaccharides on cell mediated immunity (CMI) in burned mice. Chin J Plast Surg Burns 1994 Mar;10(2):138.
Ma J, Peng A, Lin S. Mechanisms of the therapeutic effect of astragalus membranaceus on sodium and water retention in experimental heart failure. Chin Med J (Engl) 1998 Jan;111(1):17-23.
Luo HM, Dai RH, Li Y. Nuclear cardiology study on effective ingredients of Astragalus membranaceus in treating heart failure Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1995 Dec;15(12):707-9.
Miller AL. Botanical influences on cardiovascular disease. Altern Med Rev 1998 Dec;3(6):422-31.
Castillo C, Valencia I, Reyes G, Hong E. An analysis of the antihypertensive properties of 3-nitropropionic acid, a compound from plants in the genus Astragalus Arch Inst Cardiol Mex 1993 Jan-Feb;63(1):11-6.
Li SQ, Yuan RX, Gao H. Clinical observation on the treatment of ischemic heart disease with Astragalus membranaceus Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1995 Feb;15(2):77-80.
Wang Q. Inotropic action of Astragalus membranaceus Bge. saponins and its possible mechanism Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 1992 Sep;17(9):557-9.
The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Mark Blumenthal ed. American Botanical Council. Austin, Texas.1998.