The Health Benefits of Andrographis
Andrographis is a plant that is native to South Asian countries such as India and Sri Lanka. The leaf and underground stem are used to make medicine.
Andrographis is frequently used for preventing and treating the common cold and flu (influenza). Some people claim andrographis stopped the 1919 flu epidemic in India, although this has not been proven.
Andrographis is also used for a wide assortment of other conditions. It is used for digestive complaints including diarrhea, constipation, intestinal gas, colic, and stomach pain; for liver conditions including an enlarged liver, jaundice, and liver damage due to medications; for infections including leprosy, pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, malaria, cholera, leptospirosis, rabies, sinusitis, and HIV/AIDS; and for skin conditions including wounds, ulcers and itchiness.
Some people use andrographis for sore throat, coughs, swollen tonsils, bronchitis, and allergies. It is also used for “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), and prevention of heart disease and diabetes.
Other uses include treatment of snake and insect bites, loss of appetite, kidney problems (pyelonephritis), hemorrhoids, and an inherited condition called familial Mediterranean fever.
Andrographis is also used as an astringent, bacteria killing agent, painkiller, fever reducer, and treatment for worms.
Some Internet vendors offer andrographis products that contain extra amounts of an active ingredient called andrographolide. Some of these products are almost 30% andrographolide. However, be careful; the safety and effectiveness of andrographis preparations with high andrographolide content are unknown.
How does it work? Andrographis might stimulate the immune system. It may improve the blood cell counts in people with HIV, and help with allergies.
USES & EFFECTIVENESS
Possibly Effective for:
Common cold. Some research shows that taking a specific andrographis extract in combination with Siberian ginseng (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) by mouth improves symptoms of the common cold when started within 72 hours of feeling sick. Some symptoms can improve after 2 days of treatment, but it usually takes 4-5 days of treatment before most symptoms go away. Some research suggests this combination of andrographis and Siberian ginseng relieves cold symptoms in children better than echinacea. Also, early research suggests that taking a specific andrographis extract (KalmCold) might help treat colds, while other research suggests that taking a specific andrographis product (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) might help prevent colds.
Reducing the fever and sore throat due to tonsillitis. Some research shows that high dose andrographis (6 grams daily) works about as well as acetaminophen (Tylenol) after 3 to 7 days of treatment.
Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). Early research suggests that taking andrographis extract daily for 8 weeks reduces symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease about as well as the drug mesalamine.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for:
Treating flu (Influenza). There is some evidence that patients with flu who take a specific Andrographis extract in combination with Siberian ginseng (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) feel better more quickly than patients taking amantadine, a drug approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent Asian flu and treat Influenza A. Patients who take this herbal combination also seem to have fewer complications such as sinus pain, as well as breathing problems and coughing (bronchitis), after the flu.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Early research suggests that taking andrographis for 14 weeks reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis when compared with pretreatment, but not when compared to another group of people taking just a sugar pill.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of andrographis for these uses.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS
Andrographis is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately, short-term. It also appears to be safe when taken as a specific combination product containing andrographis extract and Siberian ginseng (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) for up to 3 months.
Andrographis can cause side effects such as loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, headache, runny nose, and fatigue.
When used in high doses or long-term, andrographis might cause swollen lymph glands, serious allergic reactions, elevations of liver enzymes, and other side effects.