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The major constituents in andrographis are diterpene lactones known as andrographolides. These bitter constituents are believed to have immune-stimulating, anti-inflammatory, fertility-decreasing, liver-protective, and bile secretion-stimulating actions.27 Though some older studies suggested andrographis was antibacterial, modern research has been unable to confirm this finding.28
Several double-blind clinical trials have found that andrographis can help reduce symptom severity in people with common colds.29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Though the earliest clinical trial among these showed modest benefits, later studies have tended to be more supportive. Standardized andrographis extract combined with eleuthero (Siberian ginseng), known as Kan jang, has also been shown in a double-blind clinical trial to reduce symptoms of the common cold.34
A preliminary uncontrolled study using isolated andrographolide found that while it tended to decrease viral load and increase CD4 lymphocyte levels in people with HIV infection, at the amount used, the preparation led to side effects, including headache, fatigue, a bitter/metallic taste in the mouth, and elevated liver enzymes (which returned to normal after the medication was stopped).35 It is unknown whether the andrographolides used in this study directly killed HIV or had an immune-strengthening effect.
Andrographis has proven helpful in combination with antibiotics for people with dysentery, a severe form of diarrhea.36 It has also shown preliminary benefit for people with chronic viral hepatitis.37
Andrographis is generally available as capsules with dried herb or as standardized extracts (containing 11.2 mg andrographolides per 200 mg of extract). For dried herb, 500 to 3,000 mg are taken three times per day. Standardized extracts in clinical studies of the common cold have supplied 48 to 60 mg andrographolides per day, divided into three or four doses38, 39 For indigestion, andrographis may be taken as a tea. Use 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of the herb for each cup (250 ml) of hot water. Allow the mixture to stand for 10 to 15 minutes before drinking (sip before meals).
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.