Astragalus is a root often used in traditional Chinese medicine to boost energy and prevent a number of diseases including cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. It may or may not improve the ability of your immune system to fight off disease. The benefits of astragalus against cancer or other diseases are not supported by existing research. Astragalus may cause side effects and other problems. Talk to your doctor before taking astragalus.
Astragalus is generally considered safe, but it may cause digestive problems, according to the American Cancer Society. The most common side effects are bloating, diarrhea, gas, nausea, indigestion and dehydration. Astragalus may also cause low blood pressure.
Allergic reactions are uncommon. Astragalus is a legume, so if you are allergic to any legumes -- such as peas, beans or peanuts -- you are more likely to have an allergic reaction to astragalus. An allergic reaction may cause rash, hives, itching, breathing problems, chest discomfort, difficulty swallowing, bloody or black stools, severe constipation, severe stomach pain and swelling of the face or mouth. Seek emergency care if you have these signs or symptoms, as they indicate a potentially dangerous reaction.
Immune System Disorders
In test-tube and animal studies, astragalus does seem to boost the performance of immune system cells and enhance the performance of immune-boosting drugs, according to the American Cancer Society. Few studies have been done in humans, and those have been of poor quality. Therefore, there’s no way to tell the real impact of astragalus on people. If you have an autoimmune disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, astragalus could worsen the problem by strengthening an immune system that is turning against you. If you are taking immune suppressant drugs, such as steroids or cyclosporin, astragalus might weaken the medication. For this reason, if you have an immune disorder, you should talk to your doctor before taking astragalus.
Astragalus may impair blood clotting, which could lead to bleeding problems, according to the American Cancer Society. Do not take astragalus if you are taking blood thinners or aspirin without talking to your doctor first. Also, if you’re having surgery, stop taking astragalus and let your doctor know you were taking it, so the doctor is prepared to deal with any bleeding problems that might arise. Because astragalus may lower blood pressure, it could worsen low blood pressure or cause your blood pressure to drop too low if you are already taking medication to lower your blood pressure. Astragalus has been reported to lower blood sugar, which could cause problems for people with diabetes or hypoglycemia. If you have any of these conditions, consult your doctor before taking astragalus, and make sure you monitor your condition closely if you do take it.