The benefits and side effects of andrographis paniculata (kalmegh)

Andrographis Paniculata Image Source: Nutritionaloutlook

Andrographis paniculata (kalmegh) is a popular traditional treatment for the common cold. Although this plant is used famously in Chinese medicine, its use as a liver tonic is based in the traditional Indian medicine (1).

Due to its extremely bitter taste, it is known in India as “maha-tikta” which literally means “the king of bitters” and in Malaysia, it has the name “hempedu bumi” which means “bile of earth”. The name “kalmegh” means “dark cloud”.

In Indian medicine, the roots or leaves of this herb (in some cases, the entire plant) are used to treat various infections (2), and when the symptoms of cold first appear, taking this herb to treat it will show the results in only a few days.

Andrographolide is the bitter bicyclic diterpenoid lactone that is extracted from the leaves of this herb and is the most popular constituent of the plant.

Here is a comprehensive review of andrographis paniculata and all you need to know about it.

The secret of the great medicinal benefits of andrographis paniculata lies in its extreme bitter taste.

In nature, most of the poisons have a bitter taste. So, if you ingest something that has an even bitter taste than the poison, a nerve reflex is triggered and stomach acid is produced to “digest” the poison so that it does not harm the body. Tasting something extremely bitter leads to vomiting or diarrhea, which are excellent ways to get rid of toxins that are harmful for the body.

The active ingredient in the herb is andrographolides, which has anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-viral properties. This means that it has the ability to fight off infections and prevents radical damage to your cells.

Recommended dosage

Andrographis paniculata is available for general use in the form of pills or capsules, which is the best way to take this herb.

You can easily find these pills or capsules as products labeled “andrographis paniculata extract.”

The minimal daily dosage is 60 mg per day, while the optimal dosage is 300 mg. However, keep in mind that the dosages may vary according to the disease you are treating.

Benefits of andrographis paniculata

Some people have claimed that the use of this herb was the reason that the 1919 epidemic flu in India stopped. Although this has not been proven yet (3), andrographis paniculata remains one of the most popular and effective cures of the common cold. In a placebo-controlled double blind study, complete prevention of colds have been noticed with the use of andrographis paniculata (4), and many studies have shown significant clinical improvement in patients of common cold and sinusitis who were treated with the constituents of this herb. (5), (6).

Andrographis paniculata has shown anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-parasitic properties which makes it an essential herb in the treatment of various infections. andrographis paniculata can be used in the treatment of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, as supported by a recent study (7).

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in both men and women all around the world. In both Indian and Chinese traditional medicine, this herb is used to improve the cardiac health. The fat deposition in the coronary arteries leads to the hardening of blood vessels and the development of lipid clots. In a study, it has been concluded that extracts from the andrographis paniculata can significantly increase the blood clotting time and prevent the constriction of blood vessels (8). With the use of this herb, heart attacks can be prevented as the anti-clotting properties of this plant ensures a smooth and unobstructed flow of blood, and the chances of a person experiencing a heart attack will be greatly reduced.

Fever and sore throat are common conditions that affect a person who is suffering from tonsillitis, and can cause extreme discomfort to the patient. In Indian traditional medicine, a hot infusion (40-60ml) of this herb mixed with Coriander leaves was used to alleviate fever immediately (2). This way, the patient would be relieved of the distress.

Oedema is a medical condition in which an excess of watery fluid accumulates in the tissues or cavities of the body. Generally, oedema turns chronic after around three months, and this can result in excessive fibrous tissue and swelling that does not reduce on limb elevation (9). In chronic oedema, many skin changes occur and one of them is pitting—the condition in which a finger will leave a dent (shallow pit) on the skin if pressed.

In the traditional medicine, a paste of andrographis and ginger was used to destroy chronic oedema (2). A dosage of 10 to 15 grams showed positive results in the patients suffering from chronic oedema.

Side effects of andrographis paniculata

In general, the use of andrographis paniculata has shown positive results and no side-effects. Nevertheless, there have been some studies whose results report side-effects of this herb.

The extreme bitterness of the extracts of this herb may result in emesis (10).

Other side-effects that have been observed with the usage of andrographis paniculata include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Headache and fatigue
  • Gastric instability
  • Loss of appetite and metallic taste
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Lymphadenopathy

Since andrographis paniculata has ovulation preventive effects, it is recommended to avoid it during pregnancy (10).

The side-effects of andrographis paniculata mainly generate when the daily dosage is taken to be 1500mg and higher. If used in lower dosages, the extracts of this herb provide excellent results without the side effects.

However, you should consult your medical practitioner before taking dosages of andrographis paniculata to be on the safe side.

Summary: The therapeutic potentials of andrographis paniculata have resulted in an increase in its demand. This plant has a myriad of pharmacological properties and it should be noted that investigation and studies of these various properties needs clinical validation so that they can be used to fight a wide range of diseases, from parasitic infections to cancer. All said, we do recommend this herb for the treatment of cold and fever and to keep a healthy heart.

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