There’s still no cure, but that doesn’t stop us from making the common cold the leading cause of doctor visits in the United States. When those symptoms hit—congestion, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and the not-as-cute-as-its-name sniffles—we want relief. Even better would be dodging cold and flu infections before they make us miserable.
Long used in traditional Ayurvedic, Thai, and Chinese medicine, andrographis (A. paniculata) is a promising herbal remedy for bacterial and viral respiratory tract infections. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials indicate that andrographis may help prevent and treat these conditions, as well. This herb appears to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and immune-boosting properties. For some seasonal symptoms, that could be just what the practitioner ordered.
Fight Cold and Flu
The rise of ever-graver concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria emphasizes how important it is to avoid unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions—especially for cold and flu, which tend to be viral infections. Natural, holistic cold-season support is understandably appealing.
Andrographis has enjoyed more than 10 years of popularity in Scandinavia for immune support during the winter months, says Ray Sahelian, MD. A recent review of seven double-blind, controlled trials found that andrographis (often tested in a Swedish combination formula with eleuthero, an adaptogenic herb) was superior to placebo in relieving subjective symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. Together these studies indicate that andrographis helps alleviate cold discomfort: In one investigation, for example, the greatest improvements were seen in earache, nasal drainage, sleeplessness, and sore throat—although other symptoms were also reduced. Research also shows preliminary evidence of a preventive effect.
Pharmacological and clinical trials support the safety of this proprietary combination of andrographis and eleuthero, and adverse event reports found in the review process were generally infrequent and mild. “A. paniculata may be a safe and efficacious treatment for the relief of symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection,” note review authors.
Most trials—and thus safety results—are limited to adults. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, however, investigated andrographis for the possible prevention of colds in healthy children. Youngsters took 200 mg andrographis extract five days per week for three months—with no adverse events reported. Please consult a healthcare provider about selecting supplements for kids.
In addition to its application for respiratory health, Ayurvedic, traditional Chinese, and Thai herbalists have found andrographis useful in cases of fever and bowel complaints. An extract of andrographis appears to show promise in fighting diabetes, an effect that may be attributed to its role in improving glucose metabolism. Recent research has confirmed the herb’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. What’s more, this herb may have tumor-inhibiting abilities. A new trial found that A. paniculata extract, as well as its major component andrographolide, counteracted the formation of tumor-specific blood vessels in both in vitro and in vivo tests.
Dosages and Cautions
Typical dosage ranges for adults include the following:
• 1.5 to 6 grams per day of dried aerial parts
• 6 to 9 grams per day of dried herb as infusion (tea)
• 3 to 6 milliliters per day of a 1:2 liquid extract or the equivalent in capsule or tablet form.
Until more human studies are completed, avoid andrographis during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, except under professional supervision. Some animal studies suggest that long-term use of this herb may suppress fertility—so anyone attempting to conceive may want to refrain from using this herb.
“I prefer immune-stimulating herbs such as A. paniculata not to be used all the time without breaks,” says Dr. Sahelian. His recommendation? If you choose to supplement with andrographis, take it no more than five times weekly for only three weeks per month. A practitioner trained in herbal medicine can help determine the right dosage for you.