How Andrographis Supports Immune Function

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People are starting to think outside the pill as they shelter-in-place, and look online for herbs and vitamins that could support immune function. As consumers become more savvy about natural plant-based medicine, we are seeing increasing interest in one herb in particular called Andrographis.

Research articles typically refer to its biologically active constitutes called “andrographolides.” There are several and they are all extracted naturally from the leaves and stem of Andrographis paniculata. The andrographolides are one of many naturally-occurring compounds that have a medicinal action on the body.

Andrographolides have a powerful action on the human body and may help cardiovascular conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension. This cluster of problems is sometimes called Metabolic Syndrome.

A 2019 scientific ARTICLE, published in the international, peer-reviewed, open-access journal Antioxidants, makes these claims:
“Traditionally, Andrographis paniculata has been used as an herbal remedy for lung infection treatments. Its leaves contain a diterpenoid labdane called andrographolide, responsible for a wide range of biological activities such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.”

Andrographis is used widely overseas for a variety of conditions, but especially those of the upper respiratory tract. For example, in countries overseas, where natural medicine is revered, Andrographis is given to people who suffer with respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza, sore throats, acute and chronic cough conditions, sinusitis, bronchitis, and upper respiratory tract infections with fever. Here in the US, pharmaceuticals are prescribed to treat these conditions.

Furthermore, in the US, there are practitioners who treat Lyme disease and they know that Andrographis can be used to target and destroy the causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi. To give credit where credit is due, this finding was shared widely when one of my heroes, Stephen Harrod Buhner, described it in his book called Healing Lyme. Andrographis may hold benefits for neurological symptoms of Lyme disease as well. It is probably even better at targeting Borrelia than Cat’s Claw and other herbs, which seem to be more popular. If Andrographis can support brain and nervous system function AND kill a spirochete, that’s impressive.

Today, I’d like to share some findings about Andrographis. It is sold without a prescription, at any health food store, or online. However, herbs act like drugs, so you should ask your doctor if this is something you can take considering your personal medical history and allergy profiles. I’m not a doctor so I cannot advise. And to be clear for the FDA readers I have, I am not suggesting this as a treatment for COVID-19 or any coronavirus, or any virus, or any disease. All of that requires a qualified physician and proper medical treatment.

Andrographolides for Brain Function*
Studies done on animals suggest that it might help with brain inflammation such as encephalitis. Andrographolide compounds improved synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex (in animals) and down-regulated the expression of genes that were causing harm. In other words, andrographolides helped ameliorate symptoms of brain damage in animals.

Can it do that in humans too?
No one can say, but getting into the brain is a big deal. And if you saw the list of genes it works upon to change gene expression, it leads me to believe there would be some significant benefits in the treatment for memory impairment.

A recent study on this herb found that it could produce some relaxing effects on the brain, but this particular study used the Andrographis in combo with ashwagandha. That means it has some activity on GABA receptors and therefore, your sleep cycle. The adaptogenic potential of andrographis suggests that it ‘knows’ what to do in the body, and can regulate physiological responses by cranking some pathways up, or tamping them down, depending on what your body needs. That’s how adaptogens work. By the way, andrograpahis is sometimes called the “king of bitters” in case you look it up.

Interesting Uses (but not approved in the US)
There are over 2 dozen species of andrographis, but only some have useful medicinal properties. The ones that act like natural remedies have profound and widespread actions on the body. Overseas, not in the US, this herb is commonly used for a variety of issues. Commonly cultivated in tropical and subtropical Asia (especially in China, Thailand, and India), Andrographis paniculata is one of the most used medicinal plants in Southeast Asia. We have to exercise caution because the studies which these countries conducted were not always designed perfectly so the clinical proof isn’t super tight. But there are centuries of anecdotal use and a few good animal models. Remember, there’s not a ton of money used to perfect studies on herbs and plants. Everyone here knows that. The big money goes into studying drugs, which are patentable. Plants are not. So again, consume this RESEARCH with all of this in mind. Here’s what they’re using this herb for in other parts of the world:

Uncomplicated UTI
Cough, colds and flu
Sleep aid through action on GABA
Uncomplicated upper respiratory tract (Study Roxas and Jurenka 2006)
Acute diarrhea
Liver dysfunction
Blood Sugar abnormalities
Spirochete (like Lyme)
Anti-Parasitic (malaria, Leishmaniana, filariasis, human roundworm)
Gall bladder function, bile flow, bile acid formation and salts
Immune function and regulation

With herbal agents there’s not a lot of resistance that develops, if at all. That’s important because antibiotic resistance is dangerous to human health and it’s a fact that antibiotics have been over-prescribed for decades. That’s why we’re seeing a resurgence in TB and other infections that are hard to treat now. So if you have lung issues, then call a qualified practitioner and talk about this herb. Tell him or her that andrographis appears to be beneficial and useful for acute upper RESPIRATORY symptoms and possibly for shortening duration of symptoms.

Side effects vary of course, but as with all herbs there is the possibility for allergic reaction. The herb should then be discontinued immediately and follow your doctor’s recommendations. Some people experience drowsiness, dizziness and heart palpitations, as well as nausea or stomach upset. Furthermore, the compound may slow blood clotting, meaning it could thin the blood so do not use if you have a bleeding condition, or if you take antiocoagulants. We never know what an individual’s response will be to an herb so please be careful when introducing new supplements to your regimen. Of course, ask your doctor if it’s right for you. I have a lot of doctors reading this, so I’m providing references this time to make your research easier and faster:

Further Reading and References

Andrographolide, a New Hope in the Prevention and Treatment of Metabolic Syndrome

Efficacy and Tolerability of Phytomedicines in Multiple Sclerosis Patients: A Review.

Broad-spectrum antiviral properties of andrographolide

An in vitro study of anti-inflammatory activity of standardised Andrographis paniculata extracts and pure andrographolide.

Andrographolide, a New Hope in the Prevention and Treatment of Metabolic Syndrome

Here are some other useful articles that might interest you:

The Flu vs. Coronavirus: A Potential Health Emergency

How To Make Your Immune System Fight For You

Natural Alternatives to Antibiotics

If you Lose Your Sense of Smell, Stay Home