Andrographis - King of Bitters


Andrographis paniculata, also known as Kalmegh which means ‘King of bitters’ has

Andrographis paniculatabeen effectively used in traditional Asian medicines for centuries. The herb is native to India and Sri Lanka and is widely cultivated in southern Asia. As a traditional Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine it is highly valued by the local people and is usually found growing in hedgerows and gardens in India.

In Ayurvedic medicine, the leaf is used for its bitter tonic, stomachic, antipyretic and laxative properties. It is said to increase appetite, strengthen digestion, diminish flatulence and treat hyperacidity and biliousness.

These days Andrographis has become popular for the treatment of colds. Research shows that it can reduce the severity of cold symptoms and also helps to prevent colds. The major constituents in Andrographis are diterpene lactones known as andrographolides.

These constituents are extracted from the leaves of the plant and are an extremely bitter substance, hence its name ‘King of bitters’. Andrographolides are believed to have immune-stimulating, anti-inflammatory, liver-protective, and bile secretion-stimulating actions. As an immune stimulator Andrographis is thought to increase the body’s resistance to infection by stimulating the production of antibodies and macrophages – white blood cells that scavenge foreign matter.

Studies indicate that Andrographis works by reducing the symptoms and duration of the common cold. Therefore it is recommended to take Andrographis as either a preventative during the cooler months, or to treat an acute infection if a cold has taken hold. A number of randomised, double blind studies have been conducted on Andrographis and its affect on reducing the prevalence and intensity of symptoms and signs of common cold compared with placebo.

One particular study in Valdivia, Chile compared 1200mg/day of Andrographis with placebo on a group of 158 adults over a period of 5 days. At day 2 of treatment a significant decrease in the intensity of the symptoms of tiredness, sleeplessness, sore throat and nasal secretion was observed in the Andrographis group compared with the placebo group. At day 4, a significant decrease in the intensity of all symptoms was observed for the Andrographis group. The study concluded that Andrographis paniculata had a high degree of effectiveness in reducing the prevalence and intensity of the symptoms in uncomplicated common cold. No adverse effects were observed or reported.1

How much Andrographis should you use?

To assist in preventing a common cold for an adult the daily preventative dose is Andrographis dry leaf equivalent to 2-3g, and for a child 1g daily. If the cold has already set in it is recommended that an adult take up to 6g Andrographis per day. Being very bitter, Andrographis is difficult for some to take in the liquid form, using tablets or capsules solve this problem.

Suggested Herbal Combinations

Andrographis combines well with Echinacea and Olive leaf for treatment of acute and chronic infections. For gastrointestinal and liver disorders Andrographis combines well with St Mary’s Thistle.

1.Caceres, Hancke, Burgos, Sandberg & Wikman. 1999.

‘Use of visual analogue scale measurements (VAS) to assess the effectiveness of standardised Andrographis paniculata extract SHA-10 in reducing the symptoms of common cold. A randomised double blind-placebo study’, J. Phytomedicine. Vol.6, no.4, pp.217-23.

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