Biblioteca de los Sistemas de Salud de la OMS
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WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants - Volume 2
(358 pages)

Índice de contenido
Ver el documentoIntroduction
Ver el documentoGeneral technical notices
Ver el documentoRadix Althaeae
Ver el documentoHerba Andrographidis
Ver el documentoRadix Angelicae Sinensis
Ver el documentoFlos Calendulae
Ver el documentoFlos Caryophylli
Ver el documentoRhizoma Cimicifugae Racemosae
Ver el documentoFolium cum Flore Crataegi
Ver el documentoRadix Eleutherococci
Ver el documentoAetheroleum Eucalypti
Ver el documentoFolium Eucalypti
Ver el documentoCortex Frangulae
Ver el documentoFolium et Cortex Hamamelidis
Ver el documentoSemen Hippocastani
Ver el documentoHerba Hyperici
Ver el documentoAetheroleum Melaleucae Alternifoliae
Ver el documentoFolium Melissae
Ver el documentoAetheroleum Menthae Piperitae
Ver el documentoFolium Menthae Piperitae
Ver el documentoFolium Ocimi Sancti
Ver el documentoOleum Oenotherae Biennis
Ver el documentoRhizoma Piperis Methystici
Ver el documentoCortex Pruni Africanae
Ver el documentoCortex Rhamni Purshianae
Ver el documentoFlos Sambuci
Ver el documentoRadix Senegae
Ver el documentoFructus Serenoae Repentis
Ver el documentoFructus Silybi Mariae
Ver el documentoHerba Tanaceti Parthenii
Ver el documentoRadix Urticae
Ver el documentoFolium Uvae Ursi
Ver el documentoAnnex: Participants in the Second WHO Consultation on Selected Medicinal Plants

Herba Andrographidis


Herba Andrographidis consists of the dried aerial parts of Andrographis paniculata (Burm. f.) Nees (Acanthaceae) (1-3).


Justicia latebrosa Russ., J. paniculata Burm. f., J. stricta Lam. ex Steud. (3, 4).

Selected vernacular names

Akar cerita bidara, alui, Andrographidis Kraut, bidara, bhoonimba, bhuinimo, bhulimb, bhuninba, charayeta, charayetha, charita, cheranta, cherota, chiraita, chiretta, chuan-hsin-lien, chuan-xin-lián, công công, faathalaaichon, fathalaai, fathalaichon, fathalaijone, halviva, herba sambiloto, hinbinkohomba, I-chienhsi, kalafath, kalmegh, kan-jang, kariyat, khee-pang-hee, king of bitters, kiriathu, kirta, kiryata, kiryato, lanhelian, mahatikta, mahatita, naelavemu, naynahudandi, nelavemu, quasab-uz-zarirah, rice bitters, sambilata, sambiloto, senshinren, sinta, xuyên tâm liên, yaa kannguu yijianxi (1, 2, 5-11).

Geographical distribution

Widely found and cultivated in tropical and subtropical Asia, south-east Asia and India (6, 8, 10).


A herbaceous annual, erect, up to 1m high; stem acutely quadrangular, much branched. Leaves simple, opposite, lanceolate, glabrous, 2-12 cm long, 1-3 cm wide; apex acute; margin entire, slightly undulate, upper leaves often bractiform; petiole short. Inflorescence patent, terminal and axillary in panicle, 10-30 mm long; bract small; pedicel short. Calyx 5-particle, small, linear. Corolla tube narrow, about 6 mm long; limb longer than the tube, bilabiate; upper lip oblong, white with a yellowish top; lower lip broadly cuneate, 3-lobed, white with violet markings. Stamens 2, inserted in the throat and far exserted; anther basally bearded. Superior ovary, 2-celled; style far exserted. Capsule erect, linear-oblong, 1-2 cm long and 2-5 mm wide, compressed, longitudinally furrowed on broad faces, acute at both ends, thinly glandular-hairy. Seeds small, subquadrate (1-3, 5, 10).

Plant material of interest: dried aerial parts

General appearance

Mixture of broken, crisp, mainly dark green lanceolate leaves and quadrangular stems; capsule fruit and small flowers occasionally found (1, 3). Stem texture fragile, easily broken; leaves simple, petiole short or nearly sessile, lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate, with acuminate apex and cuneate-decurrent base, lamina crumpled and easily broken (2).

Organoleptic properties

Odour: slight, characteristic; taste: intensely bitter (1-3, 9).

Microscopic characteristics

Leaf upper epidermis: stomata absent, glandular trichomes present, unicellular and multicellular trichomes rare, cystoliths fairly large; lithocysts large (27-30 µm thick, 96-210 µm long and up to 49 µm wide); columnar palisade cells; collenchyma in midrib beneath epidermis; parenchyma cells spongy; vascular bundles of lignified xylem in the upper part and lignified phloem in the lower part; spiral, scalariform and reticulate vessels. Leaf lower epidermis: a layer of wavy-walled cells; stomata diacytic; trichomes up to 36 µm in diameter and 180 µm long, and cystoliths present. Stem: epidermis has glandular and non-glandular trichomes. Collenchyma dense at the corners of stems; parenchyma contains chloroplastids. Endodermis composed of a layer of thick-walled cells. Wood with spiral, scalariform and pitted xylem vessels; pith composed of large parenchyma cells. Small acicular crystals of calcium oxalate occur in the pith and cortical cells of stem and leaf (1-3, 8).

Powdered plant material

Leaf fragments in surface view show upper epidermis with underlying palisade and cystoliths, lower epidermis with underlying palisade cells with stomata, cystoliths and glandular trichomes. Leaf fragments in sectional view show upper epidermis with palisade cells, spongy parenchyma cells, vascular bundles; and lower epidermis with bundles of xylem associated with fibres; fragments of spiral, scalariform, reticulate and pitted vessels; fragments of epidermal cells from midrib; fragments of parenchyma cells in transverse and longitudinal sections. Bundles of fibres. Fragments of epidermal cells from stem with stomata, cystoliths and glandular trichomes. Scattered cystoliths; scattered unicellular and multicellular trichomes, mostly from epidermal cells in fruit walls; scattered glandular trichomes from bundles of fibres in fruit wall; scattered pollen grains (1).

General identity tests

Macroscopic and microscopic examinations, chemical tests, and thin-layer chromatography for the presence of diterpene lactones (1-3).

Purity tests


Tests for specific microorganisms and microbial contamination limits are as described in the WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (12).


Not less than 6% of total diterpene lactones, calculated as andrographolide (1, 3).

Foreign organic matter

Not more than 2% (1, 3).

Acid-insoluble ash

Not more than 2% (1, 3).

Water-soluble extractive

Not less than 18% (1, 3).

Alcohol-soluble extractive

Not less than 13% using 85% ethanol (1, 3).

Loss on drying

Not more than 10% (1).

Pesticide residues

The recommended maximum limit of aldrin and dieldrin is not more than 0.05 mg/kg (13). For other pesticides, see the European pharmacopoeia (13), and the WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (12) and pesticide residues (14).

Heavy metals

For maximum limits and analysis of heavy metals, consult the WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (12).

Radioactive residues

Where applicable, consult the WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (12) for the analysis of radioactive isotopes.

Other purity tests

Total ash test to be established in accordance with national requirements.

Chemical assays

Chemical and thin-layer chromatography methods are used for qualitative analysis of andrographolide diterpene lactones (1, 2). Titrimetric (1) and high-performance liquid chromatography (15) methods are available for quantitative analysis of total diterpene lactones.

Major chemical constituents

The major constituents are diterpene lactones (free and in glycosidic forms) including andrographolide, deoxyandrographolide, 11,12-didehydro-14-deoxyandrographolide, neoandrographolide, andrographiside, deoxyandrographiside and andropanoside (1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 16). The structures of andrographolide and related diterpene lactones are presented below.

andrographolide R = H

neoandrographolide R = H

andrographiside R = Glc

andropanoside R = OH

Medicinal uses

Uses supported by clinical data

Prophylaxis and symptomatic treatment of upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold and uncomplicated sinusitis (17-19), bronchitis (6, 9) and pharyngotonsillitis (20), lower urinary tract infections (21) and acute diarrhoea (22, 23).

Uses described in pharmacopoeias and in traditional systems of medicine

Treatment of bacillary dysentery, bronchitis, carbuncles, colitis, coughs, dyspepsia, fevers, hepatitis, malaria, mouth ulcers, sores, tuberculosis and venomous snake bites (1, 2, 6, 7, 10, 16, 24-27).

Uses described in folk medicine, not supported by experimental or clinical data

Treatment of colic, otitis media, vaginitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, chickenpox, eczema and burns (6, 7).

Experimental pharmacology

Antibacterial activity

An ethanol extract of the leaves inhibited the growth in vitro of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus (28). A 50% methanol extract of the leaves inhibited growth in vitro of Proteus vulgaris (29). However, no in vitro antibacterial activity was observed when dried powder from the aerial parts was tested against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi or Shigella species (30).

Anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) activity

Aqueous extracts of the leaves inhibited HIV-1 infection and replication in the lymphoid cell line MOLT-4 (31). A hot aqueous extract of the aerial parts reduced the percentage of HIV antigen-positive H9 cells (32). Dehydroandrographolide inhibited HIV-1 and HIV-1 (UCD123) infection of H9 cells at 1.6µg/ml and 50µg/ml, respectively, and also inhibited HIV-1 infection of human lymphocytes at 50µg/ml (33). A methanol extract of the leaves suppressed syncytia formation in co-cultures of uninfected and HIV-1-infected MOLT cells (median effective dose [ED50] 70µg/ml) (34).

Immunostimulatory activity

Intragastric administration of an ethanol extract of the aerial parts (25mg/kg body weight) or purified andrographolides (1 mg/kg body weight) to mice stimulated antibody production and the delayed-type hypersensitivity response to sheep red blood cells (35). The extract also stimulated a non-specific immune response in mice, measured by macrophage migration index, phagocytosis of [14C]leucine-labelled E. coli, and proliferation of splenic lymphocytes (35). The extract was more effective than either andrographolide or neoandrographolide alone, suggesting that other constituents may be involved in the immunostimulant response (35).

Antipyretic activity

Intragastric administration of an ethanol extract of the aerial parts (500mg/kg body weight) to rats decreased yeast-induced pyrexia (36). The extract was reported to be as effective as 200 mg/kg body weight of aspirin, and no toxicity was observed at doses up to 600 mg/kg body weight (36). Intragastric administration of andrographolide (100 mg/kg body weight) to mice decreased brewer’s yeast-induced pyrexia (37). Intragastric administration of deoxyandrographolide, andrographolide, neoandrographolide or 11,12-didehydro-14-deoxyandrographolide (100 mg/kg body weight) to mice, rats or rabbits reduced pyrexia induced by 2,4-dinitrophenol or endotoxins (6, 38).

Antidiarrhoeal activity

Herba Andrographidis has antidiarrhoeal activity in situ (39, 40). An ethanol, chloroform or 1-butanol extract of the aerial parts (300mg/ml) inhibited the E. coli enterotoxin-induced secretory response - which causes a diarrhoeal syndrome - in the rabbit and guinea-pig ileal loop assay (39, 40). However, an aqueous extract of the aerial parts was not active (40). The constituent diterpene lactones, andrographolide and neoandrographolide, exhibited potent antisecretory activity in vivo against E. coli enterotoxin-induced diarrhoea (40). Andrographolide (1 mg per loop) was as active as loperamide when tested against heat-labile E. coli enterotoxin-induced diarrhoea and more effective than loperamide when tested against heat-stable E. coli enterotoxin-induced diarrhoea (40). Neoandrographolide (1 mg per loop) was as effective as loperamide when tested against heat-labile E. coli enterotoxin-induced diarrhoea and slightly less active than loperamide when tested against heat-stable E. coli enterotoxin-induced diarrhoea (40). The mechanism of action involves inhibition of the intestinal secretory response induced by heat-labile E. coli enterotoxins, which are known to act through the stimulation of adenylate cyclase, and by inhibition of the secretion induced by heat-stable E. coli enterotoxins, which act through the activation of guanylate cyclase (39). Incubation of murine macrophages with andrographolide (1-50 µmol/l) inhibited bacterial endotoxin-induced nitrite accumulation in a concentration- and timedependent manner. Western blot analysis demonstrated that andrographolide inhibited the expression of an inducible isoform of nitric oxide synthase linked to endotoxin-induced circulatory shock (41).

Anti-inflammatory activity

Intragastric administration of deoxyandrographolide, andrographolide, neoandrographolide or 11,12-didehydrodeoxyandrographolide to mice inhibited the increase in cutaneous or peritoneal capillary permeability induced by xylene or acetic acid, and reduced acute exudation in Selye granulocysts treated with croton oil. 11,12-Didehydrodeoxyandrographolide had the most potent antiinflammatory activity in vivo (6).

Antimalarial activity

A 50% ethanol extract of the aerial parts inhibited the growth of Plasmodium berghei both in vitro (100 mg/ml) and in mice after intragastric administration (1 g/kg body weight) (42). Intragastric administration of a 1-butanol, chloroform or ethanol-water extract of the aerial parts to Mastomys natalensis inhibited the growth of P. berghei at doses of 1-2 g/kg body weight (43). Andrographolide (5 mg/kg body weight) and neoandrographolide (2.5mg/kg body weight) were also effective when administered by gastric lavage (43).

Antivenom activity

Intraperitoneal injection of an ethanol extract of the aerial parts (25 g/kg body weight) to mice poisoned with cobra venom markedly delayed the occurrence of respiratory failure and death (6, 44). The same extract induced contractions in guinea-pig ileum at concentrations of 2 mg/ml. The contractions were enhanced by physostigmine and blocked by atropine, but were unchanged by antihistamines (44). These data suggest that extracts of the aerial parts do not modify the activity of the nicotinic receptors but produce significant muscarinic activity, which accounts for its antivenom effects (6, 44).

Antihepatotoxic activity

The aerial parts and their constituent andrographolides have antihepatotoxic activity in vitro and in vivo (45-54). Intraperitoneal administration of a methanol extract of the aerial parts (861.3 mg/kg body weight) to mice reduced hepatotoxicity induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), and reversed CCl4-induced histopathological changes in the liver (52). Intraperitoneal administration of andrographolide (100 mg/kg body weight) to mice inhibited the CCl4-induced increase in the activity of serum glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase, serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase, alkaline phosphatase, bilirubin and hepatic triglycerides (52). Intraperitoneal administration of a methanol extract of the aerial parts (500 mg/kg body weight) to rats also suppressed the CCl4-induced increase in the activity of serum glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase, serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase, alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin (51). Intragastric administration of an aqueous extract of the aerial parts (500mg/kg body weight) to ethanol-treated rats decreased the activity of serum transaminases and suppressed histopathological changes in the liver (49). Andrographolide, the major antihepatotoxic component of the plant, exerted a pronounced protective effect in rats against hepatotoxicity induced by CCl4 (47), Dgalactosamine (54), paracetamol (48) and ethanol (49). Andrographolide was more effective than silymarin, the standard hepatoprotective agent (47, 48).

Clinical pharmacology

The common cold

Herba Andrographidis has been used clinically for symptomatic treatment of the common cold and uncomplicated sinusitis, pharyngotonsillitis, pneumonia and bronchitis (6, 17, 18, 20). A placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial assessed the efficacy of a standardized extract of the aerial parts (containing 4% andrographolides) for treatment of the common cold in 61 adult patients. A significant reduction (P < 0.0001) in clinical symptoms such as sore throat, tiredness, muscular ache and malaise was observed on day 4 in the group receiving 1200 mg extract daily, as compared with the placebo group. No adverse reactions were reported in either group (17).

A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind pilot trial was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of a standardized extract of the aerial parts (containing 4% andrographolides) on the initial symptoms of the common cold and uncomplicated sinusitis. Fifty adult patients received either 1020mg extract or a placebo daily for 5 days. The results demonstrated that patients in the treated group took less sick leave than those in the placebo group (0.21 day compared to 0.96 day). Furthermore, 68% of treated patients felt totally recovered, as compared with 36% of the placebo group. Also 55% of the treated patients thought that the course of illness was much easier than normal, as compared with 19% of the placebo group (18).

A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study evaluated a standardized extract of the aerial parts (containing 4% andrographolides) in the prophylaxis of the common cold in 107 schoolchildren during the winter season. The children received either 200 mg extract or a placebo daily for 3 months and were evaluated weekly by a physician. There was no difference in the occurrence of colds between the two groups during the first 2 months of treatment. However, after the third month of treatment, there was a significant difference (P < 0.05) in the occurrence of the common cold in the treated group (30%) as compared with the placebo group (62%) (19).

A randomized, double-blind comparison study of 152 adult patients with pharyngotonsillitis evaluated the efficacy of powdered aerial parts (6 g daily) and paracetamol (1 capsule of 325 mg as needed) for improving symptomatology. Baseline evaluation showed no significant difference between the two groups. The crude drug was as effective as paracetamol in reducing the incidence of sore throat and fever after 3 days of treatment (20). In a study without controls, treatment of patients with a standardized extract of A. paniculata (containing 4% andrographolides) reduced the incidence of fever associated with the common cold. The body temperature of patients treated with the extract was lowered in less than 48 hours after treatment (55). This finding was con- firmed in a later study (17).

Urinary infections

A clinical trial compared the efficacy of Herba Andrographidis, co-trimoxazole (sulfamethoxazole + trimethoprim) and norfloxacin in the prevention of urinary tract infections after extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. Patients received a 5-day course of either Herba Andrographidis (4 tablets of 250mg, three times daily) or co-trimoxazole (2 tablets of 25 mg, twice daily) or norfloxacin (1 tablet of 200 mg, twice daily). After 1 month of treatment, urinalysis results of 100 patients demonstrated that pyuria, haematuria and proteinuria were reduced in all treatment groups, and there was no significant difference between the three treatments (21).


The aerial parts have been used for the treatment of acute bacillary dysentery and enteritis (2, 6, 22, 23). In clinical studies, the combination of andrographolide and neoandrographolide was reported to be more effective than either furazolidine or chloramphenicol in the treatment of bacillary dysentery (6). A randomized, double-blind clinical study of 200 patients compared the efficacy of the powdered aerial parts with tetracycline in the treatment of acute diarrhoea and bacillary dysentery (22, 23). Patients received capsules of either the aerial parts or tetracycline (both 500 mg, four times daily) for 3 days. Compared with tetracycline, the aerial parts decreased the diarrhoea (both the frequency and amount of discharge) (22). Furthermore, the aerial parts were more effective in treating diarrhoea resulting from shigellosis than from cholera (22).

Infectious hepatitis

Administration of a decoction of the aerial parts to patients with infectious hepatitis was reported to provide symptomatic relief (24).


Herba Andrographidis should not be used during pregnancy or lactation.

Herba Andrographidis is contraindicated in cases of known allergy to plants of the Acanthaceae family.


Due to potential anaphylactic reactions, crude extracts of Herba Andrographidis should not be injected (6, 56).


Drug interactions

Extracts of Herba Andrographidis may have a synergistic effect with isoniazid (6).

Carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, impairment of fertility

Herba Andrographidis extracts are not mutagenic in vitro (57) and have antimutagenic activity (58). A standardized extract of A. paniculata did not produce reproductive toxicity in male rats after 60 days of intragastric administration of 20-1000mg/kg body weight daily (59).

Pregnancy: teratogenic effects

See Contraindications.

Pregnancy: non-teratogenic effects

In vivo studies in mice and rabbits suggest that Herba Andrographidis may have abortifacient activity (6, 60). Conversely, no interruption of pregnancy, fetal resorption or decrease in the number of live offspring was observed in pregnant rats after intragastric administration of an extract of the aerial parts at 2g/kg body weight during the first 9 days of gestation (61). Since potential antagonism exists between Herba Andrographidis and endogenous progesterone, Herba Andrographidis should not be used during pregnancy (2, 61).

Nursing mothers

See Contraindications.

Other precautions

No information available on general precautions or precautions concerning drug and laboratory test interactions; or paediatric use. Therefore, Herba Andrographidis should not be administered to children without medical supervision.

Adverse reactions

Large oral doses of Herba Andrographidis may cause gastric discomfort, vomiting and loss of appetite (6). These side-effects appear to be due to the bitter taste of andrographolide (6). Anaphylactic reactions may occur if the crude drug extract is injected (6, 56). Two cases of urticaria have been reported (18).

Dosage forms

Crude drug, capsules, tablets and pills (1, 2, 6). Store in a well-closed container, protected from light and moisture.


(Unless otherwise indicated)

For pyrexia: a decoction from 3 g crude drug, twice daily (1, 5). For the common cold: 1.5-3.0 g powdered crude drug three times daily, after meals and at bedtime (1). For diarrhoea: a decoction from 3-9 g crude drug as a single dose as needed (1, 5), or two tablets of 500 mg four times daily, after meals and at bedtime (5).


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