Andrographis is a shrub found throughout India and other Asian countries that is sometimes called "Indian echinacea." It has been used historically in epidemics, including the Indian flu epidemic in 1919 during which andrographis was credited with stopping the spread of the disease.1

Over the last decade, a proprietary extract of andrographis (currently sold in combination with eleutherococcus) has become popular in Scandinavia as a treatment for colds. It is beginning to become available in the United States as well. Reasonably good evidence tells us that either form of this extract can reduce the severity of cold symptoms. It may also help prevent colds.

Although we don't know how andrographis might work for colds, preliminary evidence suggests that it might stimulate immunity,2 potentially making it useful for general immune support.

Andrographis combined with eleutherococcus, licorice, and schisandra has shown promise for a genetic disease called familial Mediterranean fever.24,25

Researchers have also studied andrographis as a potential treatment for ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. In one trial, 120 people with ulcerative colitis were randomized to andrographis extract (400 mg, 3 times daily) or the standard drug mesalazine (1,500 mg, 3 times daily).30 After 8 weeks of treatment, the two groups had similar results.

In a randomized trial of 224 patients with ulcerative colitis, patients were randomized to 1,200 mg or 1,800 mg of andrographis a day, divided into three doses, compared to placebo. Significantly more patients taking the higher dose showed a clinical response, but not a clinical remission, compared to patients taking the placebo. Patients on the lower dose of andrographis showed no significant benefit.31

Preliminary studies in animals weakly suggest that andrographis may offer benefits for preventing heart disease.3,4,5 In addition, highly preliminary studies suggest that andrographis may help protect the liver from toxic injury, perhaps more successfully than the more famous liver-protective herb milk thistle.6,7,8It also appears to stimulate gallbladder contraction.9

Andrographis does not appear to have any antibacterial effects.10