You may well be unfamiliar with this herb but there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that it has a number of therapeutic properties. Popular in Chinese medicine, this herb has excellent antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that give it a range of potential uses. If you are interested in finding out more about andrographis and how to use it, then read on.
What is Andrographis?
Andrographis is an herb which has a long history of use in Asian medicine. Otherwise referred to as Indian echinacea or by its scientific name, Andrographis paniculata, the herb has long been used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.
Known also as the King of bitters, the herb is rich in compounds called androgrpholides, believed to have a number of medicinal properties including antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
While it has recently come under scrutiny for its exciting anti-cancer potential, the herb is most often used for more common and less serious conditions. These include sinus infection, the common cold, pain and inflammation and detoxification.
In fact, the herb appears to have very powerful anti-inflammatory effects. One study revealed that it inhibited IL-1b more than the other 20 plants in the study and was actually more effective that a commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory – dexamethasone. (1)
These days, the herb is becoming readily available in supplementary form including capsules and tinctures.
The herb contains a number of beneficial compounds including flavonoids, diterpenoids and polyphenols. The most bioactive component is a diterpenoid called andrographolide. This is also the compound which has been studied most extensively because of its potential anti-cancer effect.
Medicine is typically made from the plant’s leaves which can contain up to 6% androgrpholide. The herb and extracts taken from the herb have proven beneficial in studies done to date.
Health Benefits and Uses
Respiratory Infections and Common Cold
One of the most common uses of the herb is to treat the common cold and various other conditions related to the upper respiratory system.
A number of studies including a review published in 2004 have revealed that the herb is both effective and safe in preventing colds and treating upper respiratory infection. (2)
In one comparative study, andrographis was even more effective for children than echinacea – another herb used for treating colds. Not only that, but research also found that it was a safe and effective cold remedy for children. (5)
Not only is andrographis effective against the common cold but studies have also found that it is a useful ally against other respiratory tract conditions.
Studies have found it helped reduce inflammation in the pharynx and tonsils with one study finding it reduced inflammation in the tonsils and pharynx just as well as Tylenol. (6) Another study found that when used as a pre-treatment, the herb can help prevent lung injury caused by cigarette smoke. (7)
Studies have revealed that andrographis has excellent antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasitic properties.
Andrographis has demonstrated activity against various drug-resistant bacterial strains including S.Aureus (MRSA). (8)
Studies have also found that the herb was effective against another drug-resistant bacteria called P. Aureginosa. This pathogen is responsible for a number of serious illnesses linked to sepsis and pneumonia.
Other studies have found that andrographis was effective against Weil’s disease and helped bolster salmonella vaccines in mice. (9)
Several compounds extracted from andrographis have demonstrated antiviral effects against the herpes simplex virus. (10)
Laboratory studies have also demonstrated that the herb is effective against various parasites. These include the Giant roundworm and the parasite responsible for malaria. (11) (12)
Rheumatism and Arthritis
Andrographis may also help relieve the pain and swelling associated with joint problems like rheumatism and arthritis.
According to studies, the herb does not have a significant impact on pain but does reduced the incidence of swollen joints as well as the intensity of the inflammation. (13)
When used in combination with a commonly prescribed anti-arthritic medications, andrographis helped improve the effectiveness of the medication. (14)
Several animal studies have demonstrated that andrographis may improve the health of the brain.
According to one study, extracts fed to mice led to reduced inflammation in the brain. (15) Another study found that the herb was highly effective in treating cognitive deficits linked to diabetes in rats. According to the researchers, it works by reducing oxidative stress in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. (16)
Because of its excellent anti-inflammatory properties, andrographis may have use in treating various gut issues including colitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
One study published in demonstrated that andrographis reduced the symptoms and signs of colitis in mice. The herb has also been suggested as a potential treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. (17)
As well as the animal studies, research conducted on humans found that andrographis was effective in treating colitis when taken at a dose of 1200 to 1800. (18)
Ethanol extracts of the herb have also been used to treat gastroenteritis and bacillary dysentary with significantly positive effects. (19)
Andrographis may also improve digestion. One study found that it can stimulate absorption and digestion of carbohydrates. (20)
Much of the recent research into the benefits of andrographis has focused on its anti-cancer potential. The research so far has been extremely positive with studies demonstrating that the herb has anti-cancer activity against a wide range of different cancer cells.
Not only does andrographis help fight cancer but being pre-treated with the herb can significantly enhance the effectiveness of certain cancer medications. (21) Research has also revealed that the herb can increase the cytotoxic activities of the white blood cells in fighting cancer cells. (22)
Studies so far have found that andrographis is effective against various forms of cancer including the following:
- Colon cancer (23)
- Breast cancer (24)
- Leukemia (25)
- Brain cancer (26)
- Skin cancer (27)
- Lung cancer (28)
- Pancreatic cancer (29)
- Kidney cancer (30)
Because of its outstanding antioxidant potential, andrographis can be applied topically to help treat the skin and help it look younger and healthier.
Studies have found that topical applications made with the herb can help improve skin elasticity as well as suppress wrinkles and thickening of the skin caused by UV rays. (31)
Research on mice has also found that topical applications of the herb can significantly increase the level of collagen in the skin and reduce the disruption to elasticity caused by UV damage.
Liver Health and Detoxification
A host of studies on animals have revealed that andrographis can protect the liver and help detox the system.
Studies have demonstrated that andrographis can protect the liver from harmful toxins while it also preserved liver cells in mice induced with toxic substances. (32) Another study found that the herb helped prevent cirrhosis of the liver in rats. (33)
How To Use Andrographis
These days, andrographis is widely available in supplementary form. The standard dose varies quite widely but a dose between 2,000 and 6,000 mg is typically recommended for a cold.
Before using andrographis, make sure that you buy from a reputable supplier and read the labeling instructions very carefully. Speak to your doctor before taking the supplement and make sure that you are not at risk of adverse side effects.
Precautions and Side Effects
Andrographis is considered to be well-tolerated and non-toxic as long as it is taken at an appropriate level. Some studies have reported side effects but they have largely been infrequent and mild.
Nevertheless, you should be aware of any potential side effects. Reported adverse effects include diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, rashes and pruritis. One participant in a study also suffered an anaphylactic reaction to the herb.
Because of the lack of concrete safety data, pregnant women should avoid using andrographis as should women who are breastfeeding.
Women who are trying to conceive should also avoid using the herb because it may have an impact on fertility. Some studies on animals have also suggested that the herb can have a negative impact on male fertility but other studies have had contradicting results.
- Andrographis is an herb with a long history of use in Asia and a wide range of medicinal properties.
- Historically, it has been used for the common cold and other respiratory disorders but a growing body of research indicates that it has a great deal of potential.
- The herb has excellent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties which can help combat various pathogens. Much of the recent research has focused on its anti-cancer potential and studies have found it may be effective against a wide range of cancers.
- While andrographis is generally regarded as safe, there are certain mild side effects you need to be aware of and pregnant women should avoid taking the herb.
Have you ever used andrographis and what did you think of its effects? Please let us know whether you would recommend it as a treatment option. We would be delighted to hear from you.