Effective Herb for the Common Cold
Andrographis paniculata, an herb used in both traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines, appears to relieve the symptoms of the common cold, according to a recent research review published in Planta Medica (2004;70:293–8).
The common cold, a viral infection in the upper respiratory system (throat, nose, sinuses, and ears), is the leading cause of visits to the doctor in the United States. Antibiotics have no effect on the course of viral infections, yet millions of prescriptions are written each year for people seeking relief from common colds, which has contributed to the growing worldwide problem of increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Identifying safe and effective treatments for the common cold could potentially slow the development of these bacteria and also provide relief for millions of people.
Andrographis paniculata has traditionally been used to treat fever, sore throat, and respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. It is now popular in many parts of the world as a treatment for colds and flu. Animal and laboratory studies have shown that extracts of andrographis are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral; they can also stimulate the immune system and reduce fevers. A number of human studies have suggested that andrographis might reduce the severity and shorten the duration of the common cold.
Seven controlled trials involving a total of 896 people with upper respiratory infections were included in the current review. In three of these studies, 60 mg per day of a standardized extract of andrographis was used in combination with an extract of Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosis), and 48 to 60 mg per day of the standardized extract of andrographis was used alone in three other studies. In all of these studies, people using andrographis improved faster than those receiving placebo. Another study compared the effects of two doses, 180 and 360 mg per day, of crude andrographis to an over-the-counter cold medication. Those using the higher amount did as well as people using the cold medication in this study. Digestive upset was experienced by a significant number of people (20%), although no side effects were reported for the studies using the standardized extract.
The results of the studies reviewed in this article provide good evidence that Andrographis paniculata, alone or in combination with Siberian ginseng, is effective in the treatment of upper respiratory infections. Studies using different preparations may be helpful in finding the best way to use this herb. For now, healthcare providers can include andrographis in conservative treatment recommendations for the common cold.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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