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.

Safety and precautions

Astragalus is generally well tolerated and considered safe.

Evidence to date is scant but has not shown a link to a higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.1Chen J, Zhang X, Wang Y, Ye Y, Huang Z. Differential ability of formononetin to stimulate proliferation of endothelial cells and breast cancer cells via a feedback loop involving MicroRNA-375, RASD1, and ERα. Molecular Carcinogenesis. 2018 Jul;57(7):817-830. 

Interactions with other therapies

Preliminary evidence has found interactions with anticoagulants, diuretics, and antihypertensive drugs. 

Due to its antioxidant and estrogenic activity, astragalus may interfere with some chemotherapy drugs and/or affect hormone-sensitive cancers, though this is still under investigation.2Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. About Herbs: Astragalus. March 13, 2020. Viewed January 31, 2021.

Side effects or adverse events

One study reported fatigue, malaise, headache and lowered blood pressure in people after administration, but all symptoms cleared within 24 hours.3Denzler K, Moore et al. Characterization of the physiological response following in vivo administration of astragalus membranaceus. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016;2016:6861078.

Formononetin (an astragalus extract) and its metabolites can enhance inflammation and induce an allergic immune response.4Ong SKL, Shanmugam MK et al. Focus on formononetin: anticancer potential and molecular targets. Cancers (Basel). 2019;11(5):611.

Do not use (contraindications)

  • Pregnant or nursing women should not use astragalus root. 
  • If you have an immune system disease such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or another autoimmune disease, you should not use astragalus root.
  • Very high doses may suppress the immune system, so avoid use if you are taking immune-suppressing drugs.

Helpful links

Keep reading about astragalus


Maria Williams

Research and Communications Consultant
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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, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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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, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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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 and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. 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


Andrew Jackson, ND

Research Associate
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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: May 10, 2024

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.

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