Astragalus root is a great herb for increasing vitality and combating illness. It has been well known to boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, improve cardiac function, increase energy levels and more. While known side effects are usually of the positive kind, there is the possibility of some negative side effects in some users.
There are over 3,000 species of astragalus herb. As such, ingesting the wrong species has been known to cause poisoning in animals and livestock. Infected animals often exhibit behaviors such as drooling, running in circles, and staggering. The poisonous species of the herb, known commonly as locoweed, is grown in the western United States and should be avoided. High doses or overdose of the root can also result in toxicity – the recommended dosage is:
1) 3 to 6 grams (g) /day of dried root to half a liter of water (commonly taken boiled)
2) 3 to 5 milliliters (ml) of a 1:2 fluid extract
The recommended daily dosage for children is 1/3 this amount. If the herb has been prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist, stick to their recommended dosages.
Interaction with Medicines
One of the major astragalus side effects of this herb stems from its ability to enhance the effects of other medicines. Common symptoms of interaction include heart palpitations and frequent urination. The herb can interact with both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and the interaction can result in poisoning. High doses of the extract (usually over 25g a day) can also suppress the immune system. Patients should consult a doctor prior to ingesting the herb at the same time as other medications.
Rare symptoms of a gastrointestinal reaction include nausea, upset stomach, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Keep in mind that these effects can occur with any herbal supplement and are generally determined by a person’s history with tolerance to various foods and food additives. Serious gastrointestinal reactions include painful swallowing, difficulty with swallowing, bloody and black stool, or constipation. Oddly enough, astraglus is often prescribed to treat many of these symptoms which further proves how rare these side effects actually are.
Although allergic reactions to this herb are rare, those with allergies to legumes, commonly known as beans or peas, are at risk of developing an astragalus allergy. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include rashes, itchy hives, swelling of the tongue, face, and throat, and difficulty breathing. Wheezing and shortness of breath can also occur with an allergic reaction.
Astragalus has been documented to cause dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, dark yellow urine, and sunken eyes. Weakness and lethargy are also signs of extreme dehydration. Vomiting and diarrhea commonly accompany dehydration and aggravate the condition. It is generally recommended to consume 2 to 3 liters of water a day which will also help to counteract any dehydration side effects of the herb.
Hypotension and Hypoglycemia
Astragalus has shown the ability to lower blood pressure which is why it is often used for blood pressure regulation, and to lower blood sugar. These conditions are known separately as hypotension and hypoglycemia. Patients should consult a doctor if they feel confusion, dizziness, nausea, or weakness. Blurred vision and lightheadedness is also a possible symptom of hypotension or hypoglycemia. Cold sweats and irritability may also occur. Patients with diabetes should avoid ingestion of the herb.
Negative Reactions with AutoImmune Diseases
Astragalus root is primarily used to boost the autoimmune system. As such, those with autoimmune disease may be at serious risk of illness when taking this herb. Patients with these conditions will find that the herb aggravates their symptoms. Examples of incompatible conditions include but aren’t limited to rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Transplant patients should also avoid the usage of the herb as it increases the risk of rejection.
Another of the astragalus side effects is the herbs ability to augment risk of bleeding in patients. Persons using blood thinners, otherwise known as anticoagulants, should avoid use of this plant. Those using medications such as aspirin that increase the risk of bleeding also need to avoid astragalus. Additionally, those with blood disorders such as sickle cell or hemophilia should also avoid using the herb.
Studies have yet to be conducted to determine the effects that astragalus has on pregnant or nursing women. However, it is better to remain on the safe side and avoid usage of the herb while pregnant or breast feeding. Questions about the herb and its possible side effects should be directed at a gynecologist or prenatal care specialist.