astragalus improves efficacy of chemotherapy while reducing its side effects

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer related death in the world. Astragalus is an ancient Chinese herb valuable for deeply toning the immune system. It has long been known to fight cancer by boosting the immune system and possessing antitumour activity. Importantly, it has also been shown to protect against the side effects of chemotherapy. So, what happens when you give people on chemotherapy for colorectal cancer astragalus?

A recently published meta-analysis looked at 22 studies, which included 1409 people with colorectal cancer. It compared chemotherapy alone to chemotherapy with the addition of astragalus based Chinese medicines.

Adding astragalus based herbal treatments significantly increased the tumor response rate. It also significantly improved quality of life and significantly reduced the side effects of chemotherapy, including depleted neutrophil white blood cells, anemia, low platelet count, nausea and vomiting.

In a review of herbal immunomodulators in cancer therapy, Yarnell and Zimmerman report that meta-analyses have looked at 138 controlled studies of astragalus and chemotherapy and found significantly improved survival. They say astragalus is very safe with chemotherapy (Altern Complement Ther February 2019;25(1):46-52).

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 studies has also found that adding astragalus based Chinese herbal medicines to platinum based chemotherapy drugs is more effective than the chemo alone for small-cell lung cancer, improving response rates and survival while reducing the chemo’s side effects (Curr Oncol 2016;23:e188–95). Positive results for small-cell lung cancer and platinum based chemotherapy have also been shown for astragalus injections in a meta-analysis of 19 studies. Astragalus improved response and survival rates and decreased side effects (Medicine 2019 Mar;98(11):e14798).


Front Oncol 13 August 2019;doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2019.00749


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For more on astragalus, see our book Healthy Herbs: Your Everyday Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Their Use.

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