Ask the Pharmacist: Immune system benefits of Andrographis

Suzy Cohen
The immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to keep us healthy by defending the body against harmful invaders.

People are starting to think outside the pill as they shelter-in-place and look online for herbs and vitamins that support immune function. As consumers become savvier about natural plant-based medicine, we are seeing increasing interest in one herb called Andrographis.

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Research articles typically refer to one of its biologically active constitutes called “andrographolide.” This is an extracted natural compound from the leaves and stem of Andrographis paniculata. It’s one of many compounds that has a medicinal action on the body.

Andrographolide has many powerful actions on the human body and may help cardiovascular conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension. This cluster of problems is sometimes called metabolic syndrome.

Andrographis is used widely overseas for a variety of conditions, but especially those of the upper respiratory tract. For example, Andrographis is commonly given to people who suffer with respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza, sore throats, acute and chronic cough conditions, sinusitis, bronchitis, and upper respiratory tract infections with fever. Here in the US, pharmaceuticals are typically used for these conditions, either to treat the infection, or as an adjunctive. That’s why you’ve probably never heard of Andrographis until today.

That said, if you have Lyme, you may have heard of this before because Lyme doctors should know about Andrographis. It’s an herb that can be used to target and destroy the causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi and in my opinion, it probably works better than cat’s claw. 

Today, I’d like to share some findings about Andrographis. It is sold over-the-counter however, ask your doctor if this is something you should take for your individual concerns. I’m not a doctor so I cannot advise. Furthermore, I am not suggesting this as a treatment for COVID-19 or any coronavirus.

Studies done on animals suggest that Andrographis might help with brain inflammation such as encephalitis. In one study, andrographolide improved synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex (in animals) and down-regulated the expression of genes that were causing harm. 

In other words, andrographolide helped ameliorate symptoms of brain damage in rodents. 

Can it do that in humans? No one can say but getting into the brain is a big deal. A recent study on this herb found that it could produce some anxiolytic effects on the brain, but it was in combination with ashwagandha. That means it has some activity on GABA receptors and therefore, your sleep cycle. The adaptogenic potential of andrographis suggests that it ‘knows’ what to do in the body and can regulate physiological responses by turning them up or down, depending on what your body needs. That’s how adaptogens work.

There are over two dozen species of andrographis, and only a some have useful medicinal properties. I have a longer version of this article listing more benefits. You can get it if you sign up for my newsletter at Andrographis is sold in dietary supplements nationwide and online. It comes in various forms. Again, I must ask you to refer to your practitioner to see if it’s right for you.  

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit