Astragalus, allergies & histamine intolerance
Astragalus membranaceus is a traditional Chinese medicine with some impressive scientifically validated effects on the immune system and histamine in particular. It may help prevent allergies, stop histamine release, and stabilise mast cells, in addition to healing the gut. All references at the bottom of the post, and please remember to consult with a doctor before trying any supplements or foods. My experiences are at the end.
Astragalus, known as Huangqui in China and milk vetch in the US, is one of TCM’s most important herbs. It has been used medicinally as a food when cooked in soups, and as a binding or thickening agent. Animal studies show that astragalus significantly increases beneficial gut bacterias, while decreasing E coli.
USES IN HISTAMINE INTOLERANCE AND INFLAMMATION
Inflammation: Astragalus has been shown to balance interleukins, another inflammatory cytokine that may be released from mast cells at the same time as histamine.
Gut damage: histamine can cause leaky gut, and in one animal study astragalus was shown to lower histamine, tryptase (can be elevated in mast cell disorders), protect the gut following injury.
Asthma: this herb is traditionally used in China to treat asthma, which a number of scientific studies back. It can also reduce allergies overall, which may help relieve symptoms of asthma.
While you would think that boosting the immune system is a bad thing in autoimmune disorders, Astragalus may prevent auto-immune destruction of the pancreas, and has (in animal studies) reduced swelling, concentrations of inflammatory mediators and markers associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and may prevent collagen accumulation (in the case of this study, in scleroderma).
Another study found that it can prevent oxidative injury to the brain and reduce inflammation associated with multiple sclerosis.
OTHER TRADITIONAL USES
- Respiratory infections
- Heart disease
- Side effects of cancer treatment
Astragalus is contraindicated in some cancer patients, those who have had organ transplants, and may cause low blood sugar. Natural supplements can still have significant side effects, so please check with your doctor before trying any. These are not a full list of contraindications…
I spent years shunning supplements in order to heal “naturally. I also refused medications. I regret both, because I see how much faster the healing process could have gone. The trouble is that choosing the wrong supplements, or the right ones that have the wrong fillers, can create a bigger problem than we started with. The more research I do, the more I find that foods in a bottle are less useful to us in healing histamine inflammation than eating them, but that no matter how carefully I track my nutrient intake, there’s still going to be stuff that I miss, and for that, supplements are a decent bet. I’ve found that supplements in oils work best for me, perhaps because the oil is easier on the gut, or because olive oil boosts the histamine degrading diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme. Teas are also an excellent way to ease my way in, I’m partial to loose leaf teas to be able to rule out reactions to the tea bag material itself.
As far as medications go, I wasn’t offered the right ones when I was desperately seeking them. I grew so dependent on antihistamines that I was unable to go a day without them (severe withdrawal symptoms). And now I see that there’s a middle path. In medications and diet as in life, I’ve seen the wisdom in moderation and acceptance. Medication where needed, supplements as dictated by strategic testing (thanks to my functional doctor Stephen Meeneghan at Cedars Sinai), and healing foods daily. There’s no a moment I don’t ask myself: “What healing foods can I add to this simple meal?” The answer is in my cookbooks, which are full of ideas on how to integrate foods with anthistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. You’ll find recipes full of foods with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties my books Anti-Recipes and The Anti-Cookbook
——– REFERENCES ——–
Luo, G J, et al. “[Effect of Astragalus membranacaus injection on activity of intestinal mucosal mast cells and inflammatory response after hemorrahagic shock-Reperfusion in rats].” Zhongguo Zhong yao za zhi = Zhongguo zhongyao zazhi = China journal of Chinese materia medica., U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17966360.
“Astragalus.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 29 Nov. 2016, nccih.nih.gov/health/astragalus.
“Astragalus: Use of the Herb in the Treatment of Allergy & Autoimmunity.” Naturopathic Doctor News and Review, ndnr.com/autoimmuneallergy-medicine/astragalus-use-of-the-herb-in-the-treatment-of-allergy-autoimmunity/.
Jiang, J B, et al. “Therapeutic effects of astragalus polysaccharides on inflammation and synovial apoptosis in rats with adjuvant-Induced arthritis.” International journal of rheumatic diseases., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21199477.