If there's one thing we've learned through combating season after season of run-down immune systems, it's that we are willing to try almost anything to make our bodies feel better. This year, we turning over to astragalus.
Astragalus is a Chinese herb that's been used for centuries to strengthen the body's internal systems, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, and it specifically can help with colds and upper respiratory infections.
In traditional Chinese medicine, herbs are often taken as a group in order to get their best effects, but western medicine has found that it can be just as effective on its own. According to Dr. Weil, the herb is non-toxic and can be used over the long term to increase resistance.
Maciej Toporowicz, NYC via Getty ImagesAstragalus is available in a variety of forms at drugstores and natural food stores, coming in drops and tablets — be sure to follow the dosage recommended on the bottle. The root (which can be boiled in tea and soup) may also be available in Chinese grocery stores, and might be combined with other plants like ligusticum and ginseng. Drugs.com suggests taking it with a full glass of water, and drinking increased liquids while using the herb.
Paul Bradbury via Getty ImagesThough many people believe they should take astragalus when they feel a cold coming on, much like echinacea, in Chinese medicine, it's actually seen as more important to take it when you're healthy in order to prevent illness, according to NYU Medical Center. Astragalus can be taken daily.
Sebastian Kaulitzki via Getty ImagesBesides colds and upper respiratory infections, astragalus has been associated with helping reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, and helping with diabetes. Others have associated the herb with having helped things like hyperthyroidism, insomnia and hepatitis, but more research is needed.
BJI/Blue Jean Images via Getty ImagesAlthough there is no exact research on how astragalus works, it seems to stimulate the immune system, as well as bring in antioxidants that inhibit free radical production that is associated with cellular breakdown, according to Web MD.
Tom Merton via Getty ImagesAstragalus is safe for most adults, although as with most medications, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it unless otherwise counselled by their doctor. People who have immune disorders, such as Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis and lupus should check with their doctors, as astragalus can make the immune system more active. The same goes for those taking lithium — be sure to speak with a healthcare practitioner before trying anything new.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: