King of Bitters

This genus includes 20 species of annuals, perennials, and shrubs distributed in tropical Asia. Andrographis paniculata is common in hedgerows on the plains of India and has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. Some of the common names applied to it in India mean "king of bitters"; the entire plant is intensely bitter. In India it is used as a household remedy for fever, notably in Bengal, where the juice from the leaves is mixed with Cumin (Cuminum cyminum), aniseed (Pimpinella anisum), and greater cardamom (Amomum subulatum) to make a medicine known as alui. Andrographis echioides from southern India is also used to lower fever. In Vietnam, A. paniculata is used in folk medicine as a tonic after childbirth. In Malaysia, where it is known as hempedu bumi, it is regarded as a remedy for cardiovascular disease, skin problems, and snakebite. Though not traditionally used in Chinese medicine, A. paniculata was described as an herbal published during the Maoist Cultural Revolution as a substitute for Coptis chinesis (See goldthread).

Native to India, andrographis has long been used to treat fever; improve cardiovascular, urinary, and digestive health; and fight disease. Some scientific evidence suggests that andrographis may be able to stimulate the immune system, kill bacteria and fungi, reduce pain and fever, and relieve upper respiratory infections.

Upright perennial with four-angled stems, and smooth, narrow leaves, 3-8cm (1¼-3in) long. Panicles of small, tubular, two-lipped white flowers with pink to purple markings inside the lower lip, appear in summer, followed by capsules containing numerous seeds.

Andrographis is a branched, erect annual plant that grows in forests and wastelands in China, India, Pakistan, and Thailand. It's leaves and stems are harvested in late summer for medicinal use. It is cultivated extensively in China and Thailand, and in the East and West Indies.

Common Name:
King of Bitters
Other Names:
Andrographis, Andrographolide, Chiretta, Chuan Xin Liang, Creat, Fah Tolai, Indian Echinacea, Kalmegh, Kariyat, Kiryat.
Botanical Name:
Andrographis paniculata syn. Justicia paniculata (kariyat)
Native Location:
India, S China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia
Moist, well=drained soil in sun or partial shade and high humidity.
By seed sown in spring at 18°C (65°F)
Leaves and whole plant are collected as required and used fresh in infusions, or as a juice. Roots are harvested from mature plants for decoctions and tinctures.
30-90cm (1-3ft)
30-90cm (1-3ft)
Min. 13-15°C (55-59°F)
Parts Used:
Leaves, whole plant, roots, rhizome
An extremely bitter herb that acts as a tonic and alterative. It lowers fever, relieves intermittent fever, improves appetite and digestion, expels intestinal parasites, and has anti-bacterial effects.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for malaria, influenza, syphilis, liver and digestive problems, and dysentery.
To prevent and treat colds, flue, allergies, constipation, pain, tonsilitis, and sinusitis; as an antiseptic.
Evidence of Benefit:
Andrographis is an ancient medicinal herb with an extensive history in Asia. It has been used for centuries to treat upper respiratory infections, fever, herpes, sore throat, and a variety of other chronic and infectious diseases. In Scandinavian countries, it is commonly used to prevent and treat the common cold. There have been conclusive studies of its use against cancer, AIDS, and a variety of bacterial and viral diseases.
Benefits of andrographis for specific health conditions include the following:
  • Atherosclerosis and Heart Attack: Clinical studies in China have found that andrographis prevents the formation of blood clots and the use of the herb prevents restenosis, or "reclogging", of arteries after angioplasty. The herb changes the way the linings of blood vessels respond to calcium, helping them to stay open.
  • Cancer: It has been shown that if a cancer cell can be made to mature (or differentiate), it will not have the ability to grow out of control. Results of a study have demonstrated that andrographis has potent cell-differentiation-inducing activity on leukemia cells. Moreover, extracts from andrographis leaves are cytotoxic (cell-killing) against cancer cells. Japanese researchers have reported that andrographis stops stomach cancer cells from multiplying. Other studies have found positive results with skin cancer, prostate and breast cancer cells, and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas.
  • Cold, Fever, and Flu: Andrographis prevents infections with rhinoviruses, the type of viruses most often responsible for the common cold. Taking 200mg a day of andrographis preparation (marketed as Kan Jang) throughout the cold season reduces the risk of catching a cold by over 50 percent. Andrographis also relieves runny nose, headache, sore muscles, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue, although a dose of 1,200mg or more a day may be needed for this effect. Andrographis has also been used to reduce fever and pain, and for disorders of the intestinal tract.
  • Diarrhea and Other Intestinal Disorders: Extracts of andrographis have been shown to have significant effects against the diarrhea associated with E. coli bacterial infections. In one study, chronic inflammation of the colon was treated with a combination of 60g of andrographis and 30g of rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa), with a cure rate of 72 percent. Twenty-six percent experienced symptomatic relief.
  • Hepatitis; Liver and Gallbladder Problems: The primary active ingredient in andrographis, andrographolide, increases bile flows and levels of bile salts and bile acids. It was found to be more potent than silymarin (an active ingredient in milk thistle), which is used clinically as a hepaprotective agent. Also, the andrographolides present in andrographis are potent stimulators of gallbladder function, therefore reducing the probability of gallstone formation.
  • HIV/AIDS: Andrographis counteracts the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in at least four different ways. Studies at the University of California ahve shown that a combination of chemicals in the herb keeps the virus from attaching to healthy T cells. This keeps the cells from becoming infected. Manufacturer-reported studies found the herb also fights HIV in cells once they have become infected. Also a natural protease inhibitor, andrographis is currently being studied for this property. Compounds in the herb make it more difficult for HIV to take over a "control enzyme" in certain T cells that force the cells to make copies of the virus. This action is the same as the action of the AIDS drug zidovudine (Retrovir, better known as AZT), and taking andrographis makes it possible for doctors to treat AIDS with lower doses of AZT and fewer side effects. Finally, andrographis keeps HIV from activating an "off-switch" that causes uninfected T cells to die. The use of this herb reduces viral load while helping maintain T-cell counts.
Considerations for Use:
Andrographis should be used in the form of tablets made from a standardized extract. The brand Androtech (produced by BioTherapies), which combines andrographis with echinacea and zinc, is useful for preventing and treating colds, while other standardized preparations of the herb are useful for other applications. Andrographis reduces fertility in both men and women, and should be avoided during pregnancy and nursing.
Formal toxilogical studies have confirmed that andrographolide and other andrographis compounds have very low toxicity. In rare cases, some people who use andrographis experience dizziness and heart palpitations. Some may have an allergic reaction, ranging from minor skin rash to more serious anaphylaxis.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of andrograhis may range from 1 to 3 gm.
Possible Side Effects:
Andrographis's side effects include gastrointestinal distress, lack of appetite, and hives.
Drug Interactions:
Taking andrographis with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising:
Abciximab (ReoPro)
Antithrombin III (Thrombate III)
Aspirin (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamol (Aggrenox)
Bivalirudin (Angiomax)
Clopidogrel (Plavix)
Dalteparin (Fragmin)
Danaparoid (Orgaran)
Dypiridamole (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine)
Enoxaparin (Lovenox)
Eptifibatide (Integrillin)
Fondaparinux (Arixtra)
Heparin (Hepalean Hep-Lock)
Indobufen (Ibustrin)
Lepirudin (Refludan)
Ticlopidine (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid)
Tinzaparin (Innohep)
Tirofiban (Aggrastat)
Warfarin (Coumadin Jantoven)
Taking andrographis with these drugs may increase the risk of hypotension (excessively low blood pressure):
Acebutolol (Novo-Acebutolol, Sectral)
Amlodipine (Norvasc)
Atenolol (Apo-Atenolol, Tenormin)
Benazepril (Lotensin)
Betaxolol (Betoptic S, Kerlone)
Bisoprolol (Monocor, Zebeta)
Bumetanide (Bumex, Burinex)
Candesartan (Atacand)
Captopril (Capoten, Novo-Captopril)
Carteolol (Cartrol, Ocupress)
Carvedilol (Coreg)
Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
Chlorothalidone (Apo-Chlorothalindone, Thalitone)
Clonidine (Catapres, Duraclon)
Diazoxide (Hyperstat, Proglycem)
Diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac)
Doxazosin (Alti-Doxazosin, Cardura)
Enalapril (Vasotec)
Eplerenone (Inspra)
Eprosartan (Teveten)
Esmolol (Brevibloc)
Felodipine (Plendil, Renedil)
Fenoldopram (Corlopam)
Fosinopril (Monopril)
Furosemide (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Guanabenz (Wytensin)
Guanadrel (Hylorel)
Guanfacine (Tenex)
Hydralazine (Apresoline, Novo-Hylazin)
Hydrochlorothiazide (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Hydrochlorothiazide and Triamterene (Dyazide, Maxzide)
Indapamide (Lozol, Nu-Indapamide)
Irbesartan (Avapro)
Isradipine (DynaCirc)
Labetalol (Normodyne, Trandate)
Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
Losartan (Cozaar)
Mefruside (Baycaron)
Mecamylamine (Inversine)
Methyclothiazide (Aquatensen, Enduron)
Methyldopa (Apo-Methyldopa, Nu-Medopa)
Metolazone (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
Metoprolol (Betaloc, Lopressor)
Minoxidil (Loniten, Rogaine)
Moexipril (Univasc)
Nadolol (Apo-Nadol, Corgard)
Nicardipine (Cardene)
Nifedipine (Adalat CC, Procardia)
Nisoldipine (Sular)
Nitroglycerin (Minitran, Nitro-Dur)
Nitroprusside (Nipride, Nitropress)
Olmesartan (Benicar)
Oxprenolol (Slow-Trasicor, Trasicor)
Perindopril Erbumine (Aceon, Coversyl)
Phenoxybenzamine (Dibenzyline)
Phentolamine (Regitine, Rogitine)
Pindolol (Apo-Pindol, Novo-Pindol)
Polythiazide (Renese)
Prazodin (Minipress, Nu-Prazo)
Propranolol (Inderal, InnoPran XL)
Quinapril (Accupril)
Ramipril (Altace)
Spironolactone (Aldactone, Novo-Spiroton)
Telmisartan (Micardis)
Terazosin (Alti-Terazosin, Hyrtrin)
Timolol (Betimol, Timoptic)
Torsemide (Demadex)
Trandolapril (Mavik)
Triamterene (Dyrenium)
Trichlormethiazide (Metatensin, Naqua)
Valsatran (Diovan)
Verapamil (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Taking andrographis with these drugs may reduce the drug's ability to suppress the immune system:
Antithymocyte Globulin, Equine (Atgam)
Antithymocyte Globulin, Rabbit (Thymoglobulin)
Azathioprine (Imuran)
Basiliximab (Simulect)
Beclomethasone (Beconase, Vanceril)
Betamethasone (Celestone, Diprolene)
Budesonide (Entocort, Rhinocort)
Budesonide and Formoterol (Symbicort)
Cortisone (Cortone)
Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
Daclizumab (Zenapax)
Deflazacort (Calcort, Dezacor)
Dexamethasone (Decadron, Dexasone)
Efalizumab (Raptiva)
Flunisolide (Aerobid, Nasarel)
Fluorometholone (Eflone, Flarex)
Fluticasone (Cutivate, Flonase)
Hydrocortisone (Anusol-HC, Locoid)
Loteprednol (Alrex, Lotemax)
Medrysone (HMS Liquifilm)
Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall)
Methylprednisolone (DepoMedrol, Medrol)
Muromonab-CD3 (Orthoclone OKT 3)
Mycophenolate (CellCept)
Pimecrolimus (Elidel)
Prednisolone (Inflamase Forte, Pred Forte)
Prednisone (Apo-Prednisone, Deltasone)
Rimexolone (Vexol)
Sirolimus (Rapamune)
Tacrolimus (Prograf, Protopic)
Thalidomide (Thalomid)
Triamcinolone (Aristocort, Trinasal)
Disease Interactions:
  • May increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in people with bleeding disorders.
  • May lower blood pressure too much in people with already low blood pressure.
  • May further decrease fertility in men and women with fertility problems.
Supplement Interactions:
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg 120
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by George T. Grossberg, M.D., and Barry Fox, Ph.D. Copyright ©2007 by Barry Fox, Ph.D. pp. 35-38
Prescription for Herbal Healing by Phyllis A. Balch,CNC Copyright©2002 Phyllis A. Balch. pp.21-22