Botanical Name: Andrographis paniculata.
Other Common Names: Chuan xin liang, fah tolai, India echinacea, kalmegh, king of bitters, kiryat, sambiloto.
Habitat: The plant is native to southern India and Sri Lanka, and is found in China, Thailand, India, and Pakistan and is also introduced and cultivated in the East and West Indies.
It is found in a variety of habitats, such as plains, hillsides, and coastlines. It is also found in disturbed and cultivated areas such as roadsides, farms, and wastelands.
Description: Andrographis paniculata is easily grown and considered an annual or biennial bush. It will grow in sun or partial shade to a height of 18 inches to over 4 feet. An erect shrub, Andrographis is green with sparse lanceolate leaves up to 5 inches long on green stems. The leaves are scentless. The shrub’s small flowers are tubular-shaped and white with pale violet streaks. The seeds are known to drop quickly if not harvested. The whole plant has a bitter taste due to the pungent diterpenoid lactones, hence the name “king of bitters” in some places.
Plant Parts Used: Leaves and stems.
Therapeutic and Traditional Uses, Benefits and Claims of Andrographis
Andrographis has a long historical record as an ancient medicinal herb, used for centuries in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine.
It is a traditional herbal treatment for diseases and ailments such as diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, pneumonia, swollen lymph nodes, leprosy, bronchitis, sore throats, tuberculosis, chicken pox, coughs, headaches, ear infection, inflammation, burns and mumps.
Andrographis was used as a treatment for malaria, as a replacement for quinine.
This bitter shrub has shown immunity-boosting capabilities by stimulating the body’s natural immune systems. Japanese researchers have reported that the plant is effective in preventing the multiplication of cancer cells.
Andrographolides in the plant are thought to enhance immune function such as in the production of white blood cells, to support the release of interferon, and to promote the healthy activity of the lymphatic system.
Some scientists believe the herb may help in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Traditional herbalists use this medicinal herb for many conditions for its anti-inflammatory action. It is used as an herbal treatment for pain associated with conditions such as muscular pain, arthritis, rheumatism, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.
Andrographis is believed to be effective in the treatment of liver and gall bladder conditions such as viral hepatitis, jaundice, drug-induced liver damage, liver congestion and sluggish liver.
It has been found to be as effective as silymarin (the active component in milk thistle) in protecting the liver.
Clinical studies in China have shown that it helps to prevent blood clot formation. There, it is used as an herbal treatment for atherosclerosis and heart attack. Some studies have shown that andrographis may be helpful in preventing the condition known as restenosis, or “reclogging” of arteries following angioplasty.
The plant has antioxidant properties that may aid in sugar regulation in people with diabetes by reducing blood sugar concentration.
Dosage and Administration
An infusion may be made by placing one teaspoon dried andrographis leaf in a teapot or infuser and adding one cup of boiling water; steep for 5 to 10 minutes. This is most effective when sipped on an empty stomach. Use 10 to 12 grams of the fresh herb’s leaves.
Up to 6 grams of dried herb per day may be used, but the bitter taste may challenge that amount for most users. To take the edge off some of the bitter taste, follow the tea with fresh fruit or dried cranberries.
A piece of licorice root may also be effectively used as a flavor additive.
Extracts of andrographis may be used in amounts of up to 400 mg twice a day for up to 10 days with standardized extracts of 5- to 6- percent andrographolide.
Possible Side Effects and Interactions of Andrographis
As with all herbal remedies use andrographis paniculata with caution. Few side effects have been reported, making it safe for many users; there were some cases of itchy skin.
People with known gallbladder diseases should not use andrographis, nor should preparations containing the herb be used in people suffering from myasthenia gravis or those with high blood pressure or cardiac or kidney conditions.
Bitter herbs may also exacerbate existing ulcers or contribute to heartburn. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or anticipating becoming pregnant should not use this herb as it can act as an abortive.
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Nadkarni, A.K. and K.M. Nadkarni: Indian Materia Medica. Vol 1. Bombay, India. Popular Prakashan 1976.
Coon J.T. and E. Ernst: Andrographis Paniculata in the Treatment of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: A Systematic Review of Safety and Efficacy. Planta Med 2004.