A natural product commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine herbal mixtures may help to improve quality of life, manage side effects, and treat certain cancers.

How can astragalus help me? What the research says

We summarize the clinical evidence for each medical benefit here. We begin with our assessment of the strength of evidence within each category, followed by a brief summary of individual studies or reviews of several studies. In assessing the strength of evidence, we consider the study design, number of participants, and the size of the treatment effect (how much outcomes changed with treatment).

Learn more about how we research and rate therapies and practices.

Preclinical evidence is summarized in Are you a health professional? ›

Improving treatment outcomes

Is astragalus linked to improved survival? Is it linked to less cancer growth or metastasis? Does it enhance the anticancer action of other treatments or therapies? We present the evidence.

Breast cancer

Modest evidencesignificant effects in at least three small but well-designed RCTs, or one or more well-designed, mid-sized clinical studies of reasonably good quality (RCTs or observational studies), or several small studies aggregated into a meta-analysis (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better tumor response to chemotherapy among people treated with herbal mixtures containing astragalus

Colorectal cancer

Modest evidence of better survival, tumor response rate, and clinical effectiveness of chemotherapy among people with colorectal cancer treated with astragalus either alone or as part of herbal mixtures

Gastrointestinal cancer

Modest evidence of better survival, performance status, and clinical effectiveness of radiotherapy among people with esophageal cancer treated with herbal mixtures containing astragalus

Modest evidence of better survival, performance status, and clinical effectiveness of transcatheter hepatic arterial chemoembolization (TACE) among people with liver cancer treated with herbal mixtures containing astragalus

Modest evidence of better clinical efficacy and overall response to FOLFOX (5-fluorouracil (5-FU) plus Leucovorin (LV) combined with Oxaliplatin) among people with stomach cancer treated with astragalus polysaccharides injection

Lung cancer

Modest evidence of better survival, disease control, performance status, and tumor response to chemotherapy among people with lung cancer treated with herbal mixtures containing astragalus

Optimizing your body terrain

Does astragalus promote an environment within your body that is less supportive of cancer development, growth, or spread? We present the evidence.

Immune function

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better immune function among people with cancer treated with intravenous astragalus or an herbal mixture containing astragalus

Inflammation

Preliminary evidence of less inflammation after mastectomy among people treated with an herbal mixture containing astragalus

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of less inflammation among people with advanced metastatic cancer treated with astragalus polysaccharide

Managing side effects and promoting wellness

Is astragalus linked to fewer or less severe side effects or symptoms? Is it linked to less toxicity from cancer treatment? Does it support your quality of life or promote general well-being? We present the evidence.

Chemotherapy-related toxicity as a whole

Modest evidencesignificant effects in at least three small but well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs), or one or more well-designed, mid-sized clinical studies of reasonably good quality (RCTs or observational studies), or several small studies aggregated into a meta-analysis (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of less toxicity from paclitaxel-based chemotherapy among people with lung cancer treated with Aidi injection containing astragalus

Blood-related side effects

Good evidencesignificant effects in one large or several mid-sized and well-designed clinical studies (randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with an appropriate placebo or other strong comparison control or observational studies that control for confounds) (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of fewer blood-related side effects such as neutropeniaan abnormally low number of neutrophils in the blood, leading to increased susceptibility to infection and anemia among people with lung cancers treated with astragalus, with substantial effect sizes in some studies

Modest evidence of fewer blood-related side effects such as neutropenia and anemia among people with colorectal or stomach cancers treated with astragalus

Changes in appetite

Modest evidence of substantially better appetite during treatment among people treated with an herbal mixture containing astragalus

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better appetite among people with advanced metastatic cancers treated with astragalus polysaccharides

Fatigue

Modest evidence of substantially less fatigue during chemotherapy among people treated with an herbal mixture containing astragalus

Weak evidence of less fatigue among people with advanced metastatic cancers treated with astragalus polysaccharides

Gastrointestinal symptoms

Good evidence of less radiation esophagitisinflammation of the esophagus during radiation therapy among people with lung cancer treated with Aidi injection or Shenqi Fuzheng injection, herbal mixtures based on astragalus

Modest evidence of less chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting or diarrhea among people treated with astragalus-based Chinese medicines

Modest evidence of less liver dysfunction related to chemotherapy among people treated with an herbal mixture containing astragalus

Neurological symptoms

Good evidencesignificant effects in one large or several mid-sized and well-designed clinical studies (randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with an appropriate placebo or other strong comparison control or observational studies that control for confounds) (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of less chemotherapy-induced neurotoxicitytoxicity from a biological, chemical, or physical agent producing an adverse effect on the structure or function of the central and/or peripheral nervous system among people treated with herbal mixtures containing astragalus

Pain

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of less pain among people with advanced cancers treated with astragalus polysaccharides

Quality of life and physical function

Good evidence of better quality of life during chemotherapy or radiotherapy among people treated with herbal medicines containing astragalus

Sleep disruption

Weak evidence of better sleep among people with advanced metastatic cancers treated with intravenous (IV) astragalus polysaccharides

Other side effects and symptoms

Good evidence of less radiation pneumonitisinflammation of lung tissue during radiation therapy among people with lung cancer treated with Aidi injection or Shenqi Fuzheng injection, herbal mixtures based on astragalus

Preliminary evidence of less wound seepage after mastectomy among people treated with an herbal mixture containing astragalus

Preliminary evidence of better outcomes related to capecitabine-associated hand-foot syndrome among people with breast cancer and colorectal cancer with an herbal mixture containing astragalus

Keep reading about astragalus

Authors

Maria Williams

Research and Communications Consultant
View profile

Maria Williams is a research and communications consultant who brings over 15 years’ experience in research, consumer education, and science communication to CancerChoices. She has worked primarily in public health and environmental health.

Maria Williams Research and Communications Consultant

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
View profile

Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
View profile

Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Reviewer

Andrew Jackson, ND

Research Associate
View profile

Andrew Jackson, ND, serves as a CancerChoices research associate. As a naturopathic physician practicing in Kirkland, Washington, he teaches critical evaluation of the medical literture at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. His great appreciation of scientific inquiry and the scientific process has led him to view research with a critical eye.

Andrew Jackson, ND Research Associate

Last update: October 7, 2022

Last full literature review: March 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

References[+]