Residual symptoms and feelings of fatigue occurring for weeks, months or longer after the acute infection period are highly debilitating, but are being experienced by a significant percentage of patients following COVID-19 (caused by SARS-CoV-2).
Just as the so-called “cytokine storm” can cause severe symptoms in acute infections, an ongoing elevation of inflammatory cytokine levels in the central nervous system, and the presence of damaging autoantibodies or ongoing dysregulation of the immune system, may lead to chronic inflammation and damaging effects on the brain, lungs and heart.
Such effects have a close resemblance to classical autoimmune conditions. As such, phytomedicines with immunomodulatory actions can often produce benefits. Imbalance within the gut microbiome is also likely to be involved.
Astragalus is an adaptogenic herb with a strong reputation for alleviating chronic and post-viral fatigue and increasing overall vitality.
Parenteral administration of astragalus polysaccharides reduced fatigue while lowering levels of the inflammatory cytokines IL-1 beta and IL-6 in a trial involving patients with cancer. Reduced fatigue when given to patients following a stroke has also been reported.
Research recently found extracts of astragalus to upregulate a group of microRNAs which can reduce the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and suppress proinflammatory cytokines, including IL-6 or TNF alpha (mediators of the cytokine storm). Several other actions to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 activity, viral entry and replication were also found. Beneficial influences on the dysbiosis seen within the gut microbiome of patients with COVID-19 have also been implicated.
While clinical trials are lacking to date, the body of both scientific and traditional use evidence suggests astragalus can produce many benefits, in both acute and long COVID.