Andrographis is an adaptogenic herb with health benefits that include antiviral, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective and anti-inflammatory properties
Andrographis has a calming and anti-anxiety effect and it helps improve memory, tremors, fatigue and incontinence in people with multiple sclerosis
The “bitter reflex” is stimulated when you taste something bitter. Your body releases gastrin to strengthen digestive function and the reflex stimulates cell repair in the pancreas and intestines
Andrographis paniculata is a plant that grows throughout much of Asia. It has been traditionally used to treat infectious disease, liver complaints and fever. The adaptogenic herb1 has a bitter taste and is indigenous to China, India and Southeast Asia. It grows from 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) to 110 centimeters (3.6 feet) high and has a square stem and small white flowers.2
Adaptogens are plants that help your body to better handle physical and emotional stress. The plants have been used for hundreds of years in Eastern medicine to influence the body without overstimulating or inhibiting normal function.3
There are 26 formulations using Andrographis with other herbs in traditional Ayurvedic health. The common names are “king of bitters” and chiretta.4 The plant comes from the Acanthaceae family, which are mostly herbs and shrubs.5
Andrographis can be found in combination with other herbs in Kan Jang, Kold Kare, KalmCold and Paractin.6 The active components in Andrographis are diterpenoid lactones, which have anti-inflammatory effects by reducing both nitric oxide production and the expression of cyclooxygenase 2.
Researchers have found the plant exhibits multiple effects in humans. Dosing in clinical studies has ranged from 3 to 6 grams per day.7 Slightly higher doses were used in a trial with patients who had HIV, but it was discontinued when participants had adverse reactions.8
The Healing Strength of Andrographis
Bitter flavors are often the least appreciated and the least likely to be used in cooking. Yet, many of the bitter herbs and spices add valuable benefits to your overall health. According to the authors of a paper in the European Journal of Herbal Medicine:9
“With so many bitter herbs, most with a long history of medicinal use in multiple cultures, it is not surprising to read that ‘the urinary system seems to be the only system that does not derive direct benefit from the administration of bitters.’”
Typically, insects and mammals avoid bitter-tasting plants. One hypothesis is they have learned to correlate bitter taste with toxicity. Andrographis compounds and extract have been reported to have anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial and hepato-renal protective properties.10
It may be among the more popular medicinal plants to treat a variety of diseases across Asia, America and the African continents. The bioactive ingredient is a diterpene, called andrographolide.11 There have been a number of studies conducted to evaluate the toxicity of Andrographis, but none has demonstrated acute toxicity in experiments involving animals.12
In much the same way that the bitter compounds can help protect plants from insects, they may also help your body by inhibiting microbial growth, inflammation and oxidation. These are some of the benefits researchers have discovered:
Bitters and Your Gastrointestinal Tract
The stimulating effect on your digestive system is caused by what’s known as the “bitter reflex.” When you eat something bitter, your body releases gastrin. This hormone supports and strengthens digestive function by stimulating the secretion of saliva, hydrochloric acid, pepsin and intrinsic factor.34 Intrinsic factor is required by your body for the absorption of vitamin B12.35
The reflex also triggers your appetite and prepares your body for eating by triggering contractions in your intestines. It stimulates the flow of bile, which improves digestion and helps prevent the accumulation of waste in your liver. It also stimulates cell repair in the pancreas and intestinal wall.
When the integrity of the intestinal wall is compromised, it allows leakage of substances such as undigested food, bacteria and metabolic waste to enter your bloodstream. This is called leaky gut syndrome, which increases the inflammatory process in your body.
The action from the bitter reflex begins when you taste bitter on your tongue. According to the European Journal of Herbal Medicine, bypassing your taste receptors by taking bitters in capsule form will “render it virtually useless.”36
How to Add Bitters to Your Routine
Historically, people used bitters approximately 30 minutes before mealtime to stimulate the appetite and get the gastrointestinal tract ready to eat. There are commercially available bitter tinctures that basically concentrate extracts in an alcohol base.
Another option is to add bitter greens to your salads and to eat your salad first. These may include chicory, dandelion, arugula, radicchio, endive and burdock. This helps take advantage of the bitter reflex during meals.
While Andrographis is generally safe when it’s taken as directed, bitters should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women, those with depressed metabolism, chronic respiratory congestion or a serious erosive or ulcerative condition in the gastrointestinal tract.37
In clinical trials, there have been few adverse reactions noted. However, side effects have been recorded using andrographolide, including headache, rash, diarrhea, pruritus and a lowered sex drive.38
Author: Dr. Joseph Mercola
Source: Mercola: Healing Powers of Ancient Herb Andrographis