Andrographis paniculata, is an herb that is cultivated in South and Southeast Asia, where its leaves and roots are used to treat infections. The active ingredients, including andrographolides, have been investigated for potential health benefits in scientific studies.
“A. paniculata has been reported as having antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, choleretic, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, and adaptogenic effects,” writes Shahid Akbar, MD, PhD, in a recent review. “In the Unani system of medicine, it is considered aperient, anti-inflammatory, emollient, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, gastric and liver tonic, carminative, antihelmintic, and antipyretic.”1
A study published in 1975 revealed an effect for Andrographis paniculata against Ascaris lumbricoides, the most common intestinal parasite worldwide.2 Subsequent research determined that the herb could also kill the parasite Dipetalonema reconditum, which infects dogs and is transmitted by mosquitos.3
Andrographis and Liver Health
An early clinical trial conducted in India found improvement in liver function as indicated by serum bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase and other blood factors, in the majority of acute infective hepatitis patients that received kalmegh (another name for A. paniculata).4 In rats given the toxic compound carbon tetrachloride, which induced liver microsomal lipid peroxidation, pretreatment with A. paniculata leaf extract prevented this effect.5 Similar protective effects have been found for andrographolide.6 Andrographolide has also been demonstrated to help protect the liver against the adverse effects of other compounds, including acetaminophen.7
In a study of A. paniculata compounds in toxin-treated animals, andrographiside and neoandrographolide exhibited greater liver-protective effects than andrographolide and showed similar effects as the liver-protective compound silymarin in the prevention of the formation of lipid peroxidation degradation products.8 Theresearchers suggested that the greater protective activity of andrographiside and neoandrographolide shown in this study may be due to glucoside groups that act as strong antioxidants.
Microbes and Infections
Andrographolide appears to have an antibacterial action against a number of Gram-positive bacteria–particularly Staphylococcus aureus–and was shown to have an inhibitory effect on Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation.9 In cell cultures, DASM (which is derived from andrographolide) inhibited three strains of human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) and one strain of HIV-2.10 In a clinical trial involving 13 HIV positive and 5 uninfected participants, CD4(+) lymphocyte levels increased significantly in those who were HIV positive following the administration of an intermediate dose of andrographolide.11
A trial of 152 adults with pharyngotonsillitis found that A. paniculata had similar fever and throat pain-relieving effects as acetaminophen when consumed daily for seven days.12In a trial that included 158 adults with a common cold, treatment with a dried extract of the herb decreased fatigue, sleeplessness, sore throat, and nasal secretions after two days in comparison with a placebo.13 At day four, all symptoms, which included those above as well as headache, earache, throat mucus, and cough frequency and intensity, were significantly reduced in the Andrographis-treated group. Double-blind trials that evaluated the effects of Kan Jang, a Chinese medicine that contains A. paniculata, have also resulted in a reduction in upper respiratory tract infections and sinusitis.14,15
In an experimental model of heart attack, intravenous administration of A. paniculata limited the area of ischemic damage and its surrounding area and showed a weak fibrinolytic action.16 Another experiment showed an ability for an extract of A. paniculata to prevent blood clots or heart attack in animals undergoing coronary artery injury.17 A randomized trial of A. paniculata extract in 60 participants with elevated triglycerides (which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease) resulted in those who received a higher dose experiencing a reduction in triglycerides comparable to that associated with a 300 milligram daily dose of the drug gemfibrozil.18
Effects on Cancer
Like most plant compounds, andrographolide is associated with an anticancer effect. In human colorectal carcinoma cells, andrographolide inhibited cell cycle progression in a dose-dependent manner.19 In a study involving human oral cancer cells, treatment with the A. Paniculata compound dehydroandrographolide inhibited migration and invasion, in addition to suppressing tumor metastases in mice that received implanted cells.20 In non-small cell lung cancer cell cultures and in tumors transplanted into experimental animals, andrographolidehad a synergistic effect with the chemotherapy paclitaxel.21 In human T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells, A. paniculata induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) and inhibited growth in animals that received tumor grafts.22 And in human breast cancer cells, andrographolide increased apoptosis and demonstrated an inhibitory effect on cell cycle progression.23 “Andrographolide seems to have a potential role as an ideal chemopreventive agent for breast cancer although it deserves further in-depth studies in order to explore its precise mechanism of action as an anticancer agent in vivo,” Malabika Banerjee and colleagues remark.
Andrographolide has reduced viability and migration in human prostate cancer cells, and decreased proliferation and induced apoptosis in multiple myeloma cells.24,25 Andrographis paniculata and its components have been shown to be effective against human pancreatic cancer cells, liver carcinoma cells, and more.26,27
Andrographis and Autoimmune Conditions
Among other benefits for A. paniculata, the herb may be helpful to patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).28 In a randomized, double-blind trial, A. paniculata taken twice per day for a year significantly reduced fatigue severity scores in interferon-treated MS patients in comparison with a placebo.28 Another trial, involving 120 ulcerative colitis patients, resulted in clinical response among 76% and remission in 21% of participants who received an extract of A. paniculata, while those who received the drug mesalazine had clinical response and remission rates of 82% and 16%. The authors concluded that A. paniculata extract “may be an efficacious alternative to mesalazine in ulcerative colitis.”29 And in arandomized trial that included 60 participants with active rheumatoid arthritis, 14 weeks of treatment with Paractin which contained 30% total andrographolides, was associated with decreased joint tenderness, number of tender and swollen joints, blood markers, and other factors in comparison with the placebo group, suggesting that Paractin could be a useful natural complement in the treatment of the disease.30
Of interest to life extensionists, A. paniculata was shown to increase epidermal stem cell proliferation and enhance type 1 collagen production in normal human fibroblasts.31 When tested in humans, eight weeks of topical A. paniculata extract improved skin hydration, dermal density, wrinkling and sagging. “Based on these results, we suggest that Andrographis paniculata may be introduced as a possible anti-aging agent,” J. You and colleagues conclude.31
The Bottom Line
Andrographis paniculata, its components, and preparations derived from the herb, have shown remarkable effects in several areas of health. As one of its most popular uses is in the treatment of infection, it may be worthwhile keeping some on hand in the event that one strikes.
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- Hsieh MJ et al. Biochem Pharmacol. 2017 Apr 15;130:10-20.
- Yuan H et al. Pharm Biol. 2016 Nov;54(11):2629-2635.
- Yang T et al. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2016 Apr 11;10:1389-97.
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- Zou Y et al. Tumour Biol. 2015 Jul;36(7):5179-86.
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- Tang T et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Jan;33(2):194-202.
- Burgos RA et al. Clin Rheumatol. 2009 Aug;28(8):931-46.
- You J et al. Molecules. 2015 Sep 22;20(9):17557-69.