The Chinese herb, known as Radix Astragali (‘root of Astragalus’) in western herbal medicine, manufactures many kinds of natural products. Among these the main active substances are its antioxidant flavonoids and a group of sterol derivatives called astragalosides. At the moment one of the most fruitful areas of research on Radix Astragali entails the potential that astragalosides show for slowing down aging.
One of the astragalosides, astragaloside IV, yields a substance called cycloastragenol. This molecule provides a protective effect for chromosomes during cellular reproduction. Such an effect is currently at the heart of one of the hottest topics in anti-aging research. Indeed, drug companies are hurrying to discover synthetic analogues to cycloastragenol that can be patented as anti-aging drugs.
Three recent studies on cycloastragenol already point to its potential health benefits. One study, at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, showed how cycloastragenol can suppress the formation of new fat cells. This activity may be of benefit for treating obesity. This role supports the use of Radix Astragali as an oral supplement.
The other two studies focus on metabolism in skin cells. Research from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, found that cycloastragenol can stimulate a key anti-aging enzyme known from human keratinocytes. Keratinocytes are the most abundant cells in our skin, making up about 90% of its outermost layer. Stimulating keratinocyte metabolism provides a foundation for healthy, radiant skin.
Finally, scientists at the College of Oriental Medicine at Kyung Hee University in South Korea have shown the potential for extracts of Radix Astragali for protecting the skin against damage by UV light. The concern with such damaging radiation is that it accelerates aging and may even lead to DNA damage and subsequent skin cancer.
In the South Korean study, extracts of Radix Astragali stopped the loss of pre-collagen in fibroblasts that were exposed to damaging UV light. Extracts were found to inhibit an enzyme called collagenase, which breaks down or stops the formation of collagen.
Collagen is essential for healthy skin since it is the main structural protein that holds skin cells together. UV light causes its destruction, and Astragalus root extracts prevent that destruction.
Astragalus in Herbal Skin Care Products
These recent studies are beginning to show how modern research confirms ancient knowledge about astragalus root. This herb is clearly one of the most valuable ingredients to look for in natural skin care products. Astragalus root is particularly helpful when combined with other herbal ingredients that are also known to be of benefit to good skin health.
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