Chinese Herbal Extract Effective Treatment for Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
By Darin Ingels, ND
Adults with acute upper respiratory tract infections (URIs) or sinusitis may feel better by taking a Chinese herbal extract, according to a new study in Phytomedicine (2002;9:589–97). This treatment may be an effective first line treatment for adults with uncomplicated sinus and throat infections, instead of antibiotics.
URI is a broad term to describe several types of infections that include laryngitis, tracheitis (inflammation of the trachea, or windpipe), bronchitis, and the common cold. URIs are the most common cause for outpatient physician visits in the United States and are the main reason for absence from work or school. The cause is most often a virus, although bacteria and other micro-organisms can also cause these infections. Most viral infections are self-limiting and will resolve without any treatment. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses and should not be taken for a viral URI. However, the conventional treatment for bacterial infections is antibiotics. Some physicians will recommend taking an over-the-counter cough suppressant for cough or ibuprofen (Advil®) to reduce fever.
In the new study, 185 adults from ages 15 to 64 with symptoms of an acute URI or sinusitis were assigned to receive 12 tablets a day of a proprietary Chinese herbal extract containing 85 mg of Andrographis paniculata and 10 mg of Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng) per tablet, or placebo, for five days. Participants were questioned about their symptoms and examined by a physician initially and after five days of treatment.
Headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue improved to a significantly greater extent in the group receiving the herbal treatment than in the group given the placebo. No significant difference in cough or eye symptoms were observed between the treatment or placebo groups. The Chinese herbal treatment was well tolerated.
Andrographis paniculata has long been used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine. Several studies have demonstrated that it is effective in reducing the severity of the common cold, treating digestive problems, and stopping other types of infections, including malaria. Another study showed that Andrographis taken in combination with antibiotics was more effective for dysentery that antibiotics alone.
Compounds called andrographolides are believed by some scientists to be the active ingredients in Andrographis. However, more research is necessary to determine if the benefits of the herb are due to one or many constituents. Some physicians recommend taking 100 mg twice a day of a standardized extract of Andrographis at the initial onset of an infection, although the results of the new study suggest that higher amounts may be necessary to be effective.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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