The Secret to overcoming the Silent Epidemic that’s destroying your Health
What Is It?
Andrographis paniculata is known in Indonesia as Sambiloto which is the name used in Jamu - Indonesian traditional medicine - and will be used throughout this article. It is also known commonly as "King of Bitters," and is a member of the plant family Acanthaceae. The plant is an annual. It is branched, erect growing up to 1 meter in height. The leaves and stems of the plant are used to extract the active phytochemicals. It grows abundantly in southeastern Asia: Indonesia, India (and Sri Lanka), Pakistan and it is cultivated extensively in China and Thailand. It grows best in the tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world.
It is normally grown from seeds, and is ubiquitous in its native areas: it grows in forest areas, and along roads and in villages. Because of its well-known medicinal properties, in Indonesia it is also commonly cultivated. It grows easily in all types of soil. In fact, it grows in poor soil types where almost no other plant can be cultivated.
The primary medicinal component of Andrographis is andrographolide. It has a very bitter taste, is a colorless crystalline in appearance, and is called a "diterpene lactone". The other medicinal chemicals are also bitter principles: diterpenoids viz. deoxyandrographolide, -19ß-D-glucoside, and neo-andrographolide, all of which have been isolated from the leaves. Besides the related bitters mentioned, other active components include 14-deoxy-11,12- didehydroandrographolide (andrographlide D), homoandrographolide, andrographan, andrographon, andrographosterin, and stigmasterol - the last of which was isolated from an Astrographis preparation. The leaves contain the highest amount of andrographolide (2.39%), the most medicinally active phytochemical in the plant, while the seeds contain the lowest.
What Is It Used For?
Sambiloto has been used for centuries in Asia and continues to be used today in Indonesia as a medicinal herb, to treat gastro-intestinal tract and upper respiratory infections, fever, herpes, sore throat, and a variety of other chronic and infectious diseases. It is found in several different medical traditions including Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
As a preventive of heart attack, the powerful effect of “clot busting” is a significant benefit, especially for people in stressful occupations and those who are overweight, have little exercise, and are generally followers of the “Western Lifestyle”. Some practitioners have suggested a daily dose of aspirin for this purpose, but information is steadily accumulating about the serious negative side effects of such a drug regime. Macular degeneration (blindness), cataracts, gastro intestinal bleeding and even increased incidence of strokes and heart attacks as a result of asprin taking are now documented in authoritative Journals like the British Medical Journal and Opthalmology (reference 30, 31).
In traditional Chinese medicine it is an important "cold property" herb, used to rid the body of heat, as in fevers, and to dispel toxins from the body. This alone is a major benefit in protecting against Western “Lifestyle diseases”. In Scandinavian countries, it is still commonly used to prevent and treat common colds.
Research conducted since the '80's has confirmed that Sambiloto, properly administered, is a broad spectrum herb and has a surprisingly wide range of pharmacological effects, some of them extremely beneficial:
1) Analgesic: pain killer.
2) Anti-hyperglycaemic: has a blood glucose lowering effect.
3) Anti-inflammatory: reduces swelling and cuts down exudation from capillaries, anti-inflammatory action probably mediated, in part, by adrenal function.
4) Antibacterial: fights bacterial activity, although Sambiloto appears to have weak direct antibacterial action, it has remarkably beneficial effect in reducing diarrhea and symptoms arising from bacterial infections.
5) Antimalarial: prophylactic properties prevent infection and parasite multiplication in the blood stream.
6) Antihepatotoxic: eliminates liver toxins, such as products of alcohol consumption.
7) Antipyretic: fever reducer - both in humans and animals, caused by multiple infections or by toxins.
8) Antithrombotic: blood clot preventative. This is where the prevention of heart attack comes in.
9) Antiviral: inhibits viral activity. Inhibits HIV replication.
10) Antioxidant: operates against free radicals.
11) Cancerolytic: fights, even kills, cancer cells.
12) Cardioprotective: protects heart muscles.
13) Choleretic: alters the properties and increases the flow of bile.
14) Depurative: cleans and purifies the system, particularly the blood.
15) Expectorant: promotes clearance of mucus from the respiratory system.
16) Hepatoprotective: protects the liver and gall bladder.
17) Hypoglycemic: blood sugar reducer, protective against diabetes.
18) Immune Enhancer: increases white cell phagocytosis, inhibits HIV-1 replication, and improves CD4+ and T lymphocyte counts.
19) Thrombolytic: blood clot eliminator.
20) Vermicidal: kills intestinal worms.
But it is primarily for the magnificent heart and cardio vascular protectant properties, and its anti inflammatory qualities that Sambiloto in the cabinet of the five best herbs in the world for followers of the Western Lifestyle. It also shows strong Liver protection and healing properties (hepatoprotective and antihepatotoxic), which adds to the protection given by Curcuma. These liver benefits are particularly valuable for people who consume alcohol on a regular basis.
Cardiovascular Benefits – Prevents Heart Attack and Thrombosis
Hardening of the arteries, a buildup of plaque (made up of calcium and fats) on the blood vessel walls, seems to be a result of the Western lifestyle. It is often associated with high fat diets, high cholesterol, and a variety of other risk factors. Many of these factors, like the stress that many of us experience every day, seem to be unavoidable. Often, a piece of the artery wall plaque breaks off, forms a clot, and this results in an artery being blocked.
As a result, our hospitals are full of patients undergoing surgery for cardiovascular procedures. The standard techniques are angioplasty and bypass surgery. Both of these are often a result of a cardiac emergency, from which many people die. Those who are lucky enough to survive, or who detect the growing blockages before it’s too late may need urgent surgical intervention to save their lives.
Angioplasty is used to clear blocked blood vessels (usually arteries). A balloon is inserted into the artery and then inflated to clear away fatty deposits, widen the artery, and improve blood flow. The second treatment for coronary artery obstructions is bypass surgery. A new vein taken from another part of the body, from an animal, or a synthetic, replaces the obstructed artery. Today, angioplasty and bypass surgery are routine, with about 800,000 such procedures done in the United States each year. But unfortunately these treatments are not a cure-all. With angioplasty, restricted blood flow recurs in 30 percent of patients within six months; 50 percent of patients will require a repeat procedure. Many of these patients eventually require bypass surgery, which is successful in only 50 to 65% of cases.
Clot-dissolving drugs used in the emergency treatment of heart attacks appear to be as effective as angioplasty and may prevent some of the heart attacks or strokes that occur within one month of angioplasty. The process of blood clotting in the body is not yet fully understood. There is a delicate balance between the clotting necessary to achieve healing and processes that will cause abnormal and unwanted clotting.
Some research to understand the signals involved in bleeding and blood vessel development is focused on making use of signal transduction technology, which has been shown to be the mechanism of the active ingredients of Sambiloto. This is the key to its protective mechanism. It has been demonstrated that extracts of Sambiloto can increase the time it takes for blood clots to form, which decreases the risk of subsequent closing of blood vessels seen after angioplasty procedures. This has been shown in studies with laboratory animals (Reference 24).
In 80 to 90% of patients with destroyed heart muscle resulting from an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), clots are found in the heart shortly after the beginning of symptoms. When heart muscle is deprived of its blood supply, and therefore of oxygen, the tissue dies. Physicians believe that the best treatment is to limit the size of the myocardial infarction (the area of tissue damage) in order to preserve the pump function of the heart. Agents that dissolve the clots and increase blood flow through the blocked artery are constantly being sought. Sambiloto is being further researched to confirm its potential to be a part of the conventional medical treatment in such cases.
Researchers in China have demonstrated that Sambiloto extract given to laboratory dogs one hour after development of heart attack decreased the damage that occurred to the heart muscle (Reference 12). This damage occurs after the blood supply is restored to the muscle. This is due to a sudden influx of oxygen (which produces free radicals that damage tissue) and abnormally high amounts of calcium. The researchers also found that further clotting was reduced, damage to heart muscle was reduced, and the healing process was enhanced.
Anti-Hypertensive (High Blood Pressure)
Another way to prevent cardiovascular disease is to correct high blood pressure. Researchers have reported that an extract of Sambiloto produced antihypertensive (blood pressure lowering) effects (reference 26). The extract was given intravenously to hypertensive rats. Noradrenaline, a hormone secreted by the brain, acts to constrict blood vessels and increase heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Sambiloto extract inhibited the increase in blood pressure that is caused by noradrenaline. Researchers believe that Sambiloto has this antihypertensive effect because it relaxes the smooth muscle in the walls of blood vessels. This relaxation prevents the blood vessel from constricting and limiting blood flow to the heart, brain, and other organs in the body. Sambiloto keeps blood, and therefore oxygen, flowing to the brain. Diminished blood flow to the brain can cause short-term memory loss, ringing in the ears, dizziness, headaches, depression, and impaired mental performance.
Liver & Gallbladder Protection
Sambiloto’s four related medicinal compounds were tested for a protective effect against liver toxicity (hepatotoxicity) produced in mice by giving them carbon tetrachloride (a cleaning solvent), alcohol, or other toxic chemicals (Reference 14, 16). These chemicals damage the liver by causing lipid peroxidation. This is a process whereby free radicals produced by the chemical attack and destroy cellular membranes that surround liver cells. When the Sambiloto compounds were given to animals in two separate trials three days before the toxic chemicals, there was a significant protective effect in the liver. This effect was attributed to the antioxidant ability of the Sambiloto compounds. This is a significant finding for followers of the Western lifestyle, which often involves high consumption of alcohol, which is a liver toxin with serious consequences taken over the long term.
In another study, andrographolide from Sambiloto was shown to produce a significant increase in bile flow (Reference 32) . Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder and aids in digestion. When a chemical, paracetamol, was given to animals pretreated with Sambiloto, the usual decrease in bile production seen with this chemical was prevented. In this case Sambiloto was more potent than Silymarin, another similar but inferior herb.
Infective hepatitis is an acute inflammatory condition of the liver. It is often followed by liver cirrhosis and may progress to a coma and death. In Indonesia, there is much anecdotal evidence to confirm that Sambiloto is an effective cure for Hepatitis, particularly when taken in combination with Curcuma. Other indications of effectiveness of Sambiloto included improvement in liver function tests, and many recorded cases of hepatitis cures in Indonesian literature.
The andrographolides present in Sambiloto are potent stimulators of gallbladder function. In animal experiments, those that received andrographolides for seven consecutive days showed an increase in bile flow, bile salts, and bile acids. These increases are beneficial and result in enhanced gallbladder function. Use of Sambiloto is therefore likely to decrease the probability of gallstone formation and also aid fat digestion. The andrographolides also prevented decreases in the amount of bile that are caused by acetaminophen toxicity (Reference 33).
Immunological Benefits: Cancer
Studies using laboratory animal models have shown that Sambiloto is a potent stimulator of the immune system in two ways: (1) Antigen-specific response: antibodies are made to counteract invading microbes, and (2) Nonspecific immune response: macrophage cells scavenge and destroy invaders. Sambiloto activates both responses - making it effective against a variety of infectious and cancer-causing agents (Reference 35).
The mechanisms of effective treatment from Sambiloto are rooted in its effects in boosting immunity. Cancer results when cells do not respond to signals that are intended to limit growth. When cells develop normally, at each stage of development the cells become more specialized in order to be able to perform the duties of that particular cell. For example, cells that will make insulin will develop the cellular machinery to do so. When cancer upsets normal development, cells do not mature -- they more closely resemble immature body cells. The more they resemble immature cells, the more unfavorable the outcome: the cancer grows and spreads (metastasizes) more rapidly.
Sambiloto has been shown to cause cancer cell maturity or differentiation, thus breaking the cancer proliferation. In addition Sambiloto extracts have also been shown to be cytotoxic (cell-killing) against cancer cells in laboratory work. This cancer cell-killing ability was demonstrated against human epidermoid carcinoma (squamous cell carcinoma) of the skin lining of the nasopharynx and against lymphocytic leukemia cells (Reference 13,14). It was the andrographolide component that was found to have the cancer cell-killing ability. This ability to kill cancer cells was superior to the levels of the effectiveness recommended by the National Cancer Institute for a cytotoxic substance.
Effect of Sambiloto on Lyme disease
There are evidences for curing other spirochetal infections such as Leptospirosis through treatment using herbs like Sambiloto. Extract of this herb, in the form of an injection or tablets of the crude extract or of the isolated lactones, was reported to effectively treat leptospirosis. In one evaluation, 31 of 35 cases were said to be cured by the Andrographis lactones. There are people who had used Sambiloto treating the Lyme disease (Sambiloto is the best all around herb for Lyme!).
Anti-Oxidant and Antihyperglycaemic (Blood Sugar) Benefits
Studies conducted in Singapore in 2000 showed Sambiloto to be an effective anti-oxidant in laboratory animal trials (Reference 20). It was also shown by the same work to be anti-hyperglycaemic in diabetic animals, and important sugar regulating effect. More recent research in China (in 2002) has also shown that Sambiloto prevents formation of oxygen radicals in an inflammatory response in laboratory animals (Reference 23). Scavenging of free radicals, the powerful effect we are looking for was confirmed in some research in USA, also in 2002 (Reference 1).
Screening of antihyperglycaemic activity in of several herbs in Malaysia in 2004 showed that Sambiloto produced significant reduction in blood concentrations of sugar, and the most significant results of the herbs screened (Reference 7). This is a magnificent confirmation of the anti-diabetic properties of Sambiloto.
Work has continued to show strong promise as a treatment for HIV infection. As early as 1991, Sambiloto was shown in some laboratory testing in California, USA to be effective in preventing HIV virus from reproducing (Reference 11). In 2000 work with human volunteers in Washington USA showed that the bodies natural defense mechanisms were enhanced when Sambiloto was administered, in the absence of the retroviral drugs usually used in HIV patients. The patients showed no increase in HIV virus during the trial, indicating that the virus was unable to multiply (Reference 21).
More research is continuing, but we believe, in line with the antiviral benefits that Sambiloto has shown in trials and over hundreds of years in traditional medicine records, that it will prove to be a valuable inclusion in the fight against AIDS.
Sambiloto has clear anti-fertility as well as pregnancy-terminating effects in larger amounts. In India, where Sambiloto is used for common ailments such as diarrhea, fever, and other digestive disorders, it is recommended that the herb be used only for short-term treatment. This is due to the content of compounds that are contraceptive in nature.
The authors of the study done on the rats concluded that the observations suggested an antispermatogenic (sperm production blocking) or antiandrogenic (blocking effects of sex hormones known as androgens) ability of the plant. It should be noted that many herbal extracts have effects on reproductive functions and thus should not be used during pregnancy (Reference 10, 29).
Known Mechanisms of Action
Sambiloto (Andrographis paniculata) has been extensive studied, most of it in the last half of the 20th century, and much of it concentrating on Sambiloto’s pharmacological composition, safety, efficacy, and mechanisms of action. A good deal of this research has centered around a screening technique called signal transduction technology - probably best explained in a seminal work by Jean Barilla, M.S.(Reference 34):
”One of the criticisms made by the conventional medical and scientific community regarding dietary supplements is that their development and use have been based on folklore, not science. Using signal transduction technology to investigate the effect on a botanical or other nutrition supplement on the cell-level processes of cells is good science. This approach will legitimize the nutritional approach to the prevention and treatment of disease and speed the process of development of new and more effective supplements. Importantly, this technology avoids the use of animal testing, which often lasts for years before a supplement is approved for human use; not using animals is an additional benefit those who consider animal testing to be inhumane. In addition to saving time and animals, this technology reduces the costs involved in getting a supplement to market - a saving which will be passed on to consumers.
“Using signal transduction technology, extracts of Andrographis paniculata (Sambiloto) have been found to counteract interference with the cell cycle. Such interference is the basis for the development of cancer or infection with viruses such as HIV. Andrographolides are thought to enhance immune system functions such as production of white blood cells (scavengers of bacteria and other foreign matter), release of interferon, and activity of the lymph system. Interferon is a protein (called a cytokine) made by cells in response to viruses. It is a potent antiviral agent and is also antiproliferative (stops the reproduction of viruses).
The lymph system is an important part of the immune system. Briefly, it is another circulatory system (like the vascular system) that carries a fluid, the lymph. The lymph carries away the by-products of cellular metabolism and also acts as a shuttle for invading bacteria and viruses, taking them to the lymph nodes where the white blood cells (lymphocytes) destroy them. Sambiloto, a superb immune system enhancer, is even more effective when combined with immune stimulators, such as the herb Meniran. The theory behind the mechanism of operation also confirms that Andrographolides are also likely to be useful in conventional cancer therapy after suitable scientific confirmation.
Several studies have looked at the disposition of andrographolide in various organs of the body (Reference 37). Biodistribution experiments have been done in experimental animals. Following injection of radioactively labeled andrographolide, this compound appears to be widely distributed in the body. High concentrations are noted in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and other organs with high blood flow, including the colon, spleen, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Andrographolide appears to have a relatively short half-life of approximately two hours.
The term "half-life" refers to the time when the concentration of the compound in the body is half of what it originally was when it entered the body. This is what is left after the compound has been metabolized (broken down), changed into other forms (called metabolites), and excreted by one of several routes (urine, feces, exhaled air, sweat, or other body excretions). Compounds with short half-lives need to be given often since they do not stay in the body for long. Andrographolides are excreted fairly rapidly from the body via the urine and gastrointestinal tract. In some studies, 80 percent of the administered dose of andrographolide is removed from the body within eight hours, with excretion rates of more than 90 percent of the compound within forty-eight hours. A daily dose is needed for effectiveness.
The wide tissue and organ distribution and the immune-stimulating and regulatory actions of Sambiloto make it an ideal candidate in the prevention and treatment of many diseases and conditions.