Astragalus Immune Booster and More - Dog Cancer Blog

Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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Astragalus Immune Booster and More

I’d like to share some information taken from Traditional Chinese Medicine.  One of the important aspects of full-spectrum care to improve cancer outcomes is investigating.  Many times these investigations have led outside the borders of our country.

China has a long, well developed, complex system of medicine. It is very different from what we are used to here in the West.  Many of the ideas used can seem very foreign.

However, it has served them well for literally thousands of years, totally independent of Hippocrates and our ideas in here in the US.

Let’s look at a common treatment which is used in many of the Chinese preparations.  It is beneficial in cancer management and we can take advantage of it in our country.

It is Astragalus membranaceous, Huang qi in Chinese.  There are many subspecies of this legume, and some of the other types can be toxic in large doses.

This herb has several applications in canine cancer care.  First, it is an immune booster.  Cancer patients often have suppressed immunity, which leads to secondary infections as well as cancer progression.

Immune stimulation is critical in dealing with cancer.  Along with medicinal mushrooms (K-9 Immunity), Bio-Bran, Active Hexose Correlated Compound, Avemar,  Beres drops,and zinc, huang qu is an immune stimulator.  Many of these items have been the subject of past blog posts.

This herb seems able to stimulate B-cells preferentially. B-cells are the white blood cells that make antibodies. Although antibodies are not the primary way the body attacks cancer cells, they are useful in overall immunity.   Many times infections in the body or within the tumors themselves create further sickness.

Huang qi also was shown to increase survival times and lessen chemotherapy’s side effects. In a study where lung cancers were treated with platinum drugs, the group treated with this herb lived longer and had fewer side effects.  Platinum drugs are commonly used in veterinary oncology and include cisplatin and carboplatin.

Astralagus species of plants accumulate selenium from the soil.  Selenium is considered generally to be an anti-oxidant.

However, in larger amounts, selenium is a pro-oxidant.  Administering pro-oxidants to fight cancer is very common.  Many chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy work by killing cancer cells through oxidation. They have pro-oxidant effects.

The selenium in the Huang qi is one way that this herb may help.  The breakdown products of selenium in the body actually induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) of cancer cells. Read more here.

Astragalus is commonly found in teas.  However, the amounts of tea needed are likely too high to be useful.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, people use this root on the order of 1/2 to 1 ounce.

It could be useful to give  1/4 to 1/2 an ounce of the root one to two times daily for a 60 lb dog with cancer.  It comes as a sliced, woody material, and it can be soaked with low-sodium chicken or beef  broth to make it palatable.

As usual, work with your veterinarian or oncologist to come up with a plan that makes sense.  Don’t forget that you are your dog’s primary health advocate!

Best to all,

Dr D

About the Author: Demian Dressler, DVM

Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM is known as the "dog cancer vet" and is author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog's Life Quality and Longevity.

  • This is such a contradiction to me–can you help explain more fully? If I give my dog an antioxidant before he gets cancer it is supposed to help stave off cancer. (so I am told) If too much selenium is a pro-oxidant and kills cancer cells then why would I ever give my dog an antioxidant? I always want my dog to be killing cancer cells (we are all exposed to cancer cells on a daily basis) I have heard this before but I cannot wrap logic around it. Lets say my dog has a hidden cancer and I give antioxidant–then I am speeding up the process? Can you break this explanation down so I can understand it? Thanks.

  • Judith Conigliaro

    My vet decided to treat my dog’s bladder cancer with Wei Qi Booster and Red Front Door. Abby could not tolerate Wei Qi as she kept vomiting after each dose. Therefore, because of her sensative stomach, she is planning on using acupuncture. She told me she herself has never used acupuncture for this type of cancer, i.e., bladder, but she assured me that it has been used by other vets. Have you had success with acupuncture on bladder tumors?

    Thank you.

    Judith Conigliaro

  • SUsanPAul

    Check out Neoplasene for apoptosis of neoplasm. Bladder cancer treated w/ it as well. Website is Good Luck

  • Susie

    Lilly F. poses a excellent question. Excellent. I believe we are trying to gain a understanding on how to keep our pets radical free. Selenium was high on my list as a preventative, for my 3 year old Lab. My vet told me to cut it, and just give her fish oil and a multi vitamin. I realize the doseage should not be as extreme as when you are treating CA. How much is to much and how much is not enough ?
    Recently there was a study that 1 teaspoon of broccoli sprouts, have the antioxident power of a pound of broccoli. What would you reccommend as a preventative amount?

    Thank you

  • susan

    Can I please get advice where to start? My 10 yr old chihuahua mix Rosie was diagnosed Sat (6/13) with lymphoma. We started prednisone and chemo yesterday – she is acting as healthy & normal as always. I am so sure she can be helped properly with diet and alternatives in addition to the chemo etc – can I please get some help? I’m devastated by this as I just had to put down my 15 yr old “other best friend” t the end of Feb. so I am still reeling from that. I’m desperte for advice. Thank you so much. Susan S.

    • Dr. Dressler

      this question has an answer that could fill a book (actually it has).
      I will address it at this weeks’ webinar:
      It will be recorded so you can tune in later…
      Thanks for the question!
      Dr D

  • Becky

    Dr Dressler I want to give my cat astragalus. I was told you have to be careful not to raise the chi too much or you put them at risk of stroke. Do you know the amount of astragalus for a 5 lb. cat that you have to be concerned about raising the chi. Would one drop of astragalus in water in a 5 lb. cat would I have to be concerned about raising the chi too much?

    • Susan Kazara Harper

      Hi Becky, We really appreciate you doing all you can to care for your cat’s health using natural resources. Dr. Dressler just isn’t able to consult on individual cases, but even if he could, it wouldn’t be appropriate to suggest dosage over the internet. Astragalus is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and can be a powerful addition to your protocol. But as such it’s really best that you consult a vet who uses TCM and have your cat assessed. Dosing at home with ingredient which are potentially quite powerful in their effects can be dicey. A good TCM vet can check your cat’s energy and advise the proper way to move forward. I hope this helps. All the best.

    • Sooky Das

      I have seen 200mg-1,600mg for humans re astragalus in combined supplements & individually. Possibly try 50mg/day or google & find for cat. I accidentally took a brand having excess 6,000 mg & I certainly experienced that side effect feeling of veins constricting (eg. stroke) so I quickly scrambled for vasodilators (expands blood vessels) eg. Hawthorn Berry & Rutin Vit P & Bioflavanoids, buckweat, oats or 1/4 tspn wheatgerm & it made a difference. Cats are allowed these. Although grains can cause mites in cats ears. So limit those.

  • Lisa Marie Cross

    It is not so much about the killing of cancer cells if viewed from a Chinese medicine perspective as it is about correcting what the imbalance is, to restore balance, harmony to the system that alleviates the issues; cancer, ill health, etc.
    Western medicine does not have the gift of understanding this the way Asian medicine does. Find a good doctor of Chinese medicine and inquire with them; that is how you get the help you are seeking. Do not leave it up to others; it takes too long to get a response, and meanwhile the window (laws of nature) are closing in.

  • Lisa Marie Cross

    By the way, those herbs, roots are generally made into teas or a broth, not fed directly, in Chinese medicinal practices. Their nutrients are then found in the broth or tea. You should not give low sodium, or otherwise, chicken broth, make it yourself (cook an organic chicken with bones, REMOVE skin first, use plenty of ionic filtered water) garlic, 3 one inch chunks of fresh ginger unpeeled, sprig or two of fresh rosemary, astragalus root, American Ginseng, Shiitake mushrooms, various green veg and carrots, fresh parsley) and leave the salt out of it. Serve up the broth, chicken and veg. Leave the ginger, ginseng, astragalus root in the pot. Chinese red dates are also good to simmer in the broth and eat. You could just about save the world with such a soup; it’s very healthy. It is not your grandmother’s chicken soup, but much better for your health, animals too.
    Also, cancer thrives in acidity, get alkaline. Check tongue with litmus test strips to see where you or or pet is at.