It's cold and flu season and we're bound to be exposed to a few viruses at this time of year, especially those of us with young children. It's the time of year I try to be prepared and have things on hand that I can take should I feel the hint of a cold or a flu. My goal is to either nip them in the bud or at least get through them as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Our natural medicine chest is full of herbs, vitamins and other support that we might use for this purpose but for many years now I've had a favourite.
What is this wonderful remedy that I reach for? It's a herb called Andrographis, or Andrographis paniculata in Latin.
Andrographis is a very bitter herb (also known as the “king of bitters”) that is commonly found in India. It is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine but also has been used in the traditional medicinal systems of Thailand and China. It is regarded as a “cold” herb so is indicated for treating “hot” conditions such as infections.
What It's Used For
Traditionally, this herb has been used for many things including different types of infections such as colds and flu as well as for liver and digestive support.
Pharmacological research has pointed to a myriad of potential uses from the common cold to tonsillitis, antibacterial effects, ulcerative colitis, and support for liver conditions.
Clinically, my main uses for it includes colds and flu, chronic or acute coughs and also sinus infections.Andrographis has a drying quality that I've found particularly useful for drying up nasal congestion and its cooling nature is great for the heat of a fever or angry sinusitis. I have found that when used quickly and with the correct dose, this herb works wonderfully, at times stopping a cold or flu in its tracks and at least drastically helping to deal with the symptoms such as fever, sore through, cough and congestion.
How I Use It
I usually use Andrographis combined with other herbs such as Echinacea. At the onset of a cold or a flu I instruct my patients to use the highest dose that we have determined to be right for them and to take it regularly throughout the day. Usually they do this for a few days and notice beneficial effects right away. As they start to feel better I suggest they gradually decrease the herb until they feel completely well.
Toxicity and Side Effects
Research indicates that Andrographis has overall, very low toxicity and is well tolerated. Taking too much could cause digestive discomfort. This herb has been used safely in children however I have not used it clinically for kids as I have not found a way to effectively get it in, due to its bitter taste.
Who is This Not For?
There is some research that was done on mice suggesting that there may be some anti-fertility effects of this herb so I would not suggest it to a woman trying to conceive or who is pregnant. Andrographis might have blood pressure lowering and blood thinning effects which may affect those taking medications for these purposes.
* Hopefully it goes without saying that this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the advice of your naturopathic doctor.
Wishing you a healthy, happy and sniffle free winter!
Dr. Alexis Blanks is a naturopathic doctor who is clinically trained and naturally focused. She is co-owner of Flourish Naturopathic at Moss Healthcare. Learn more at FlourishND.com.