Superbugs are on the march.
No longer fazed by antibiotics, they kill 700,000 people globally every year. By 2050 this is expected to rise to 10 million. The United Nations has called it a global health emergency.
Resistance to antibiotics has been induced mainly by their overuse in agriculture, but doctors also misuse them by writing out prescriptions for conditions where they do no good, such as colds and flu. These are viral diseases. Antibiotics, which kill bacteria, are useless against them.
In the UK it’s become a top priority of administrators in the National Health Service (NHS) to reduce antibiotic prescribing for these types of infection, so they’re looking at this new non-drug remedy. . .
If the tests are successful, UK doctors will be able to prescribe an herb called Andrographis paniculata for respiratory tract infections (RTIs).
Also known as Indian echinacea and the king of bitters, Andrographis is one of the most widely used plants in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine. It’s prescribed for the treatment of colds, fever, cough, sore throat, bug and snake bite, diabetes, dysentery and malaria.
The herbal remedy has been the subject of many lab studies and is known to have a large number of active constituents boasting a broad range of effects.
These work against inflammation, allergies, viruses, microbes, diarrhea, malaria, hyperglycemia and cancer. It’s a dazzling list, and that ain’t all. . .
The herb, it is said, also protects the liver, stimulates the immune system, alleviates sexual dysfunction, benefits cardiovascular health, demonstrates analgesic effects and acts as an antioxidant.
Early Tests are Encouraging
In 2017, a comprehensive review was carried out by a dozen researchers from England, France and China. They published their findings in the journal PLoS One.
They looked at 33 randomized controlled trials which, taken together, involved 7,175 patients. Results were consistent in showing the herb improved cough and sore throat, and shortened their duration.
It also significantly improved overall symptoms of acute RTIs, compared to placebo. There were no major side effects, only some minor gastrointestinal problems in some people.
One of the research team, Professor Michael Moore from the University of Southampton, says, “Andrographis appears both safe and helpful. In the future we hope this will lead to reduced reliance on antibiotics for these largely self-limiting illnesses.”
A “Big Step Forward”
The results of the review convinced NHS officials to test the remedy in 20 doctors’ practices as part of a five-year action plan aimed at reducing antibiotic prescribing.
In the new trial, participants will be randomly allocated to take three capsules containing 250 mg each of either Andrographis paniculata or placebo four times a day for seven days. It is taken with water before food. At a total of 3,000 mg for the day, it’s a big dose.
The trial will be double-blind, so neither the doctor nor the patient will know which of the two options they are prescribing or receiving. Patients will be asked to report on their symptoms after a week.
Dr. Michael Dixon, NHS England’s National Clinical Lead for Social Prescription, says, “Involving family doctors from the outset is especially welcome as [they] are on the front-line in reducing reliance on antibiotics.
“To have the prospect of a natural remedy like Andrographis…would be a big step forward.”
Andrographis can be found at most health food stores in the US. While you’re at it, don’t overlook other proven cold & flu remedies. I take elderberry extract in very large doses when I have a cold, and in smaller daily doses all winter for prevention.
I also take a combination of echinacea and goldenseal when I’m in the throes of a virus. And always, year-round, I take NAC, a precursor of glutathione, the body’s most powerful self-made antioxidant. Quercetin – another daily supplement in my regimen – brings great relief to sinus problems and, in my opinion, is helpful to treat and prevent colds and flu.