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Astragalus appears to be relatively nontoxic. High one-time doses, as well as long-term administration, have not caused significant harmful effects. 1 Side effects are rare and generally limited to the usual mild gastrointestinal distress or allergic reactions. However, some Chinese herb manuals suggest that astragalus at 15 g or lower per day can raise blood pressure, while doses above 30 g may lower blood pressure.
Traditional Chinese medicine warns against using astragalus in cases of acute infections. Other traditional contraindications include "deficient yin patterns with heat signs" and "exterior excess heat patterns." Because understanding what these mean would require an extensive education in traditional Chinese herbal medicine , we recommend using astragalus only under the supervision of a qualified Chinese herbalist.
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Astragalus when used with interferon and acyclovir may increase the effects. Using the herb with cyclophosphamide may decrease the effectiveness of the drug.
When being used as a treatment for Lyme Disease, astragalus can be extremely useful in the early-stages of the disease, when the recent tick bite (and subsequent infection) reduces interferon-gamma an dinterleukin-2 levels in the body (which astragalus is known to increase.) However in the late-stages of Lyme disease, increasing Th1 levels (which are already overstimulated in late-stage Lyme Disease) will actually exacerbate Lyme symptoms, thus making this astragalus a good treatment for early, but not late, stage Lyme disease.
- Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk TJ. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press; 1986:457-459.