Andrographis, belonging to family Acanthaceae, is a herb that has been used for centuries in traditional as well as Chinese medicine. Grown mainly in Asia, this plant can grow in pretty much all types of soils. Its leaves are the main source of its active component, Andrographolide. This compound is very bitter, giving the plant its name “King of Bitters”
HOW DOES THE PLANT WORK?
Andrographis is widely distributed in the body. It mainly acts to enhance our immune systems. It increases white blood cell production, which fight infections. It also acts against viruses and can fight cancer cells. It improves our lymphatic system, which is designed to protect our bodies against invading bacteria. Hence, this plant wards off several germs and diseases.
Since Andrographis is metabolized quickly, it has to be administered often to have its full effect.
USES OF ANDROGRAPHIS:
The most interesting use of Andrographis is in cancer patients. Cancer is a painful and terrifying disease in all its forms, and unfortunately the treatment for cancer i.e. chemo therapy and radiation is itself very hard on the body.
Cancer cells are body’s own cells that start growing at an uncontrolled rate. These cells do not mature to form any particular functioning cell type. Instead they keep growing while remaining undifferentiated and hence impede the normal functioning of the body. Andrographis is of interest because in experiments on rats, Andrographis was shown to cause leukemia cells to start maturing and differentiating. Another huge effect is that the active compound of this plant also kills cancer cells.
Andrographis has also been tested on humans. It has been shown to reduce multiplication of cancer cells in the stomach, in breast cancer, prostate and in sarcomas. In 1996, several experiments and trials supported these findings and scientists now believe that the plant works by stopping the synthesis of cancer cell DNA.
IN AIDS AND OTHER VIRAL DISEASES:
Everyone is well familiar with HIV. The virus enters the human body and is stored mainly in the brain and skin cells. HIV attacks the immune system of the body. It gets attached to helper T cells, which are required for protection against invaders. Once attached, the virus takes over the cell and causes it to produce substances that the virus needs to survive.
Scientists have discovered that Andrographis acts by interfering with the whole system of virus communication and replication. When cell division is occurring, phosphate cells are required as a source of energy. Andrographis inhibits the transfer of phosphates, so energy cannot be transmitted for multiplication of virus cells.
There are other mechanisms involved as well. Andrographis inhibits a gene known as c-mos. This gene is normally expressed when HIV binds to helper T cell. Expression of c-mos can cause T cell death as well as replication of the virus.
HIV disrupts the normal cell cycle by attacking an enzyme called CDK-1. This enzyme generally regulates the smooth running of the cell cycle which causes cell division. When CDK-1 is exposed to HIV, the virus causes substances to attach to the enzyme surface, thus inhibiting it from functioning. Research done at NIH has shown that Andrographis can prevent these substances from attaching to CDK surface.
IN FEVER AND COLD:
Andrographis has been shown time and again to reduce fever and cold. In two independent studies, patients who were given Andrographis either had less incidence of common cold or recovered faster from it than the control group. The herb has also been shown to reduce body temperature. If given in a dose of 300mg/kg, it reduces fever to the same amount that a similar dose of aspirin does. As an added advantage, it also has lesser incidence of stomach ulcers and a high safety profile as toxicity caused by Andrographis is pretty less.
Different Andrographis compounds also have effect against inflammation. Dehydroandrographolide, a compound recovered from Andrographis, is best as an anti-inflammatory agent. It acts by producing Adrenal Corticotrophic Hormone, which is produced by adrenal glands and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Andrographis also acts as a pain killer and reduces the appearance of edema.
Two compounds present in Andrographis: neoandrographolide and deoxandrographolide are most effective against Malarial parasite. However it is best if they are used with the medicine generally used for malaria is given both before and after infection.
Although Andrographis has not been proved to kill diarrheal bacteria, it can still stop diarrhea. In a study conducted, 82% people with diarrhea were cured when treated with Andrographis along with fluids. This is great because diarrhea is still a rampant disease, effecting hundreds of thousands across the globe.
IN HEART DISEASES:
Andrographis reduces clot formation. Therefore it can decrease the damage caused by heart attack as when clot forms, blood supply to the heart decreases. It also reduces blood clotting after angioplasty and decreases injury to muscles of heart. Hence it has an overall beneficial effect on the heart.
Andrographolide can cure tonsillitis as well as pneumonia. In a study, it had 91% success rate when treating lung infections and bronchitis. It is also effective in TB when given together with the traditional TB drug, Rifampicin.
Andrographolide has a negative effect on fertility. During research it was shown to decrease sperm production in male rate while females had decreased production of progesterone as well as prevents ovulation. Therefore, they may have a potential to be used as safe contraceptives as their harmful effects are very less.
The other effects of this plant and its derivatives is on liver, where it has a protective effect and can cure hepatitis A. it also has beneficial effects in kidney infections, Leptospirosis, otitis media, herpes, mumps and several other infections.