BITTERWEED (Andrographis paniculata)

Common Name: Bitterweed, King of Bitters, Creat, Chiretta, Indian Echinachea, Hempedu bumi (Mal), Sambiloto (Indo), Fa-Talai-Jorn (Thai)
(Chinese): 穿心莲 Chuan Xin Lian, 四方蓮

Botanical name: Andrographis paniculata;
Synonym: Justicia paniculata

Family: Acanthaceae

Plant Description:
Upright herbaceous shrub, found in variety of habitats from wastelands and roadsides to hills, wetlands and seasides, often considered to be a weed.

Leaves glossy green. Stems 4-sided and furrowed. Flowers borne in terminal panicles, corollas white and splotched with purple spots. Fruits are small, finely-hairy, explosive capsules, held upright on stalks, brown when mature, with numerous small yellowish-brown seeds.

Well known for centuries as “wonder drug” in folk medicine. Whole plant extremely bitter to the taste. Leaves can be eaten raw, harvested for medicinal purposes, contain maximum concentration of active constituents when harvested 2 months before plants start flowering.

A direct translation of the Malay name, ‘hempedu bumi’ is ‘bile of the earth’. It is traditionally used as a tonic throughout South East Asia, China and India.

It has many names: Hempedu bumi and Pokok cerita (Malay), Sambiloto (Indonesian), Kalmegh (Hindi), Nilavembu (Tamil), Chiretta (English) and Chuanxinlian (China).

As the name hempedu bumi implies, it is a powerfully bitter herb which makes it a perfect addition to bitter formula. Scientific testing shows that it can function as an antioxidant. It also has complex compounds that help protect the liver from a variety of toxins. Andrographis is believed to stimulate protein synthesis in the liver cells and can help the regeneration process.

This plant, traditionally regarded as a ‘penawar bisa’ or ‘antidote for poison’, has been used traditionally as a cure for poisoning and snake bite. It is also well known for its hypotensive properties, a claim that has been justified by clinical study in India and Thailand.

Another main use of this herb is its amazing properties to relief fever and it is in common use amongst the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia. Clinical studies on bacterial and viral respiratory infections have demonstrated good effects, implying an immune stimulating action. Human trials have found Andrographis useful in pharyngotonsilitis, providing relief from fever and sore throats. Andrographis fluid extract and isolated andrograholide stimulated both antigen specific and non-specific immune responses in mice. The whole herb extract produced stronger immunostimulation.

There is much ongoing research into Andrographis paniculata and it may indeed be one of the major herbs on the horizon.


by: Dr. Herbal


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