What You Will Learn in This Article
- What is Andrographis?
- The Benefits of Andrographis
- How Andrographis Helps Digestion
- How Andrographis Helps Balance Hormones
- How to Take Andrographis
The herb andrographis often comes up when researching natural remedies for colds and flu. It’s a wonderful herb to have in your natural remedy toolbox – but it’s not just for the occasional cough or stomach upset. It’s a great addition for whole body wellness. In fact, this tried-and-true herb can be an excellent tonic for your digestive system year round, as well as for your hormones.
What is Andrographis?
Andrographis (Latin name Andrographis paniculata) is an herb that has been used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries. It’s a bitter herb that is often referred to as the “King of the Bitters,” and it comes from a flowering plant that grows in the countries spanning southern Asia.
In traditional Asian medicine, it’s especially used for infectious diseases and digestive issues, but its uses go far beyond these areas. It’s no wonder that andrographis is one of the most widely used herbs in the world. (1) For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine uses andrographis for the flu, diarrhea, fevers, sore throats, coughs, and respiratory infections. Ayurvedic medicine especially uses it for fevers, liver disease, and skin infections. Malaysian medicine uses it for diabetes and high blood pressure, and Japanese medicine uses it for fever and the common cold. Other forms of traditional medicine even use it as a liver and cardiovascular tonic, as an antioxidant, and for sexual dysfunction. (1) It’s even safe enough for use in children over age 3, though in lower doses and for shorter periods of time. (2) Andrographis is truly an herb for all seasons (of the year and of life).
Many of the studies that we have so far in the scientific literature are on the main active component of andrographis, which is andrographolide. Just a few of its researched benefits include fighting inflammation, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. (3) However, these may well be in cell or animal studies, and more research is needed.
The Benefits of Andrographis
Andrographis has historically been used as the “go to” herb for the common cold. Some noteworthy benefits of andrographis include ramping up the immune system, fighting infections, providing antioxidants, and reducing inflammation throughout the body.
Regarding its immune system benefits, andrographis has traditionally been used for colds, viruses, and upper respiratory tract infections. In fact, research confirms these uses of andrographis for the immune system. An alcohol-based extract of andrographis was shown in an animal study to stimulate the immune response – both antigen specific and nonspecific immunity. (4) So, it’s quite well-rounded in its ability to provide immune support.
Respiratory infections in general tend to be caused by viruses. (5) And andrographis, as mentioned earlier, has been helpful for respiratory infections. It also has multiple strong effects on the immune system. A study of andrographolide, the main active component in andrographis, found that it enhanced these aspects of the natural defense system:
- Cytotoxic T cells
- Natural Killer (NK) cells
- Antibody-dependent cell mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC)
All of these aspects of the immune system help it to fight a number of viral infections. (6) It helps with the body’s core immune strength and resilience in the face of infections.
For the common cold, a dosage of 1200 mg of Andrographis a day for 2 to 4 days when people first felt a cold coming on, significantly reduced symptoms. It especially helped with sore throat, runny nose, and earache. A difference was already noticed after the second day of taking the herb. (7)
Cancer is another immune-related condition that could be helped by andrographis or its extracts in the future, so stay tuned. It’s not confirmed in humans, and lots of research will be done in the meantime. (8)
Andrographis could also really help the heart and cardiovascular system stay healthy. According to an animal study, andrographis extract and andrographolide significantly reduced triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, as well as blood sugar levels. (9)
In animal studies, andrographis has also been shown to lower blood pressure. (10) However, that may be a temporary effect. In a study of healthy human participants, andrographis led to a temporary drop in blood pressure 30 minutes after taking it. (11)
How Does Andrographis Help Digestion?
The best studied way that andrographis can help digestion is through its anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers are particularly excited about its potential in treating the Inflammatory Bowel Disease, ulcerative colitis (UC), which is characterized by an inflamed colon/large intestine and bloody diarrhea. (12)
One of the standard treatments for ulcerative colitis is the drug mesalamine (brand names include Asacol®, Pentasa®, Rowasa®, etc). An extract of andrographis was studied against mesalamine in patients with mild to moderate UC. After 8 weeks of treatment (andrographis extract at 1200 mg/day), there was no significant difference between the drug and the herb. (13) Not bad—an herb can produce the same results as pharmaceuticals but without all the side effects.
Andrographis may be a great addition to your daily dietary supplement routine. Like other bitter herbs, andrographis can stimulate the body to produce more digestive enzymes, improving the digestion and absorption of nutrients. (14)
Another way andrographis could potentially improve digestion is through its ability to improve carbohydrate digestion and absorption. A study showed that andrographis extract (andrographolide) improved the production of enzymes by the brush border of the small intestine, improving the digestion of milk sugar, starch, and sugars. (15)
How Does Andrographis Help Balance Hormones?
Andrographis can help support functions in the body that do directly impact hormone balance. Those functions are the inflammatory response and liver detoxification.
Andrographis Helps Lower Inflammation Levels
Andrographis has been shown to help lower inflammation in the body. In both cell and animal studies, andrographis has been found to have an anti-inflammatory effect. (16) We also know from andrographis’s positive effects on patients with ulcerative colitis that it’s able to lower inflammation in the colon. (12, 13)
This tonic herb may also be beneficial for those with inflammation of the joints. In an animal study of rheumatoid arthritis, taking andrographis was helpful for calming the immune response and lowering inflammation in the ankle joints. (17)
Learn more about how inflammation impacts your hormones by reading this article: How to Reduce Inflammation Fast (and Help Your Hormones, Too.
Andrographis Supports Liver Function
Another way andrographis can help support hormone balancing is through its positive effect on the liver. The liver is really important not only for detoxification, but for keeping blood sugar levels in balance and for ridding the body of excess hormones – making sure we don’t become estrogen dominant. Research has found andrographis and its extracts to be able to help the liver detoxify and stay healthy. (18)
It’s also the most commonly used herb for protecting the liver in both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. A review study found that andrographis was a great comprehensive herb for lowering inflammation levels in the liver. (19)
If you’re not sure whether your liver could use some support, read Symptoms of a Sluggish Liver for a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms, Learn more about how the liver impacts your hormones by reading this article: How to Optimize Liver Function to Rebalance Hormones in Women.
Andrographis Helps Lower Blood Sugar
As we already know, keeping blood sugar in balance is a huge part of getting hormones in balance. If you keep having large fluctuations in your blood sugar levels throughout the day, you’re going to have a hard time restoring your adrenal function as well as getting your inflammation in check. The resulting disruption in cortisol levels, pregnenolone, and progesterone could lead to a spiraling down into estrogen dominance and all the symptoms that go along with it.
That’s where andrographis comes in. Andrographis has been shown to have a blood sugar-lowering effect while also helping improve insulin sensitivity. You may have heard about insulin resistance. That’s what you don’t want. Rather, you want to be insulin sensitive so that your body is able to use the insulin to keep your blood sugar in balance. A dosage of 50 mg/kg of body weight of andrographolide was helpful in lowering blood sugar in animal studies. (20) Translated into human amounts, that’s about 3,000 mg for a 132 lb woman.
Andrographis Supports the Gallbladder
Andrographis is also a cholagogue, which means it stimulates bile production and its release. This can be helpful in binding up “dirty” estrogens that cause the various symptoms of estrogen dominance. Furthermore, it induces the CYP1A1 gene which increases 2-hydroxy-estrone, the protective form of estrogen that mitigates estrogen dominance.
How to Take Andrographis
A basic recommended dosage of andrographis is 2,000 – 6,000 mg of the whole extract. (21) While capsules are convenient and a great way to avoid the bitter flavor, they may not be the best way to take this herb. After all, one of the main ways that bitters work is through their activation of the bitter taste receptors along the digestive tract. When you actually put the extract in your mouth, you can better stimulate those bitter taste receptors. (14)
After 9 months in development, I’m so glad to announce that we will be releasing our Digestive Bitters very soon. There will be a Before Meal formula (to “fire up your digestion”) and After Meal (to calm and sweeten the eating experience).
Let me just say: if you have tasted the yucky bitters sold in stores, you will be in for a wonderful surprise with the Wellena Digestive Bitters because they taste divine. Still, they contain highly medicinal, healing herbs that will help you digest food better, be less constipated, feel calmer and more nourished. More soon!
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