Is Laughter Good for Our Health?

We all can appreciate “a good laugh”! It has been suggested that laughter occurs as a result of recognition of truth but is also triggered by exaggeration or ridiculousness.

Laughter can also be a response to anxiety — think of the “nervous laugh” — or a way of relieving it.1


Research has correlated types of laughter with social signals related to reward, affiliation, and dominance.2 By four months of age, infants laugh in response to social cues.3

Laughter and Psychological Disorders

Laughter has a significant social component and, like yawning, is notorious for being contagious. People laugh more often in the presence of others than when alone. A recent study revealed reduced laughter contagion among boys at risk for psychopathology. “Human laughter engages brain areas that facilitate social reciprocity and emotional resonance, consistent with its established role in promoting affiliation and social cohesion,” E. O’Nions and colleagues write. “We show that, compared with typically developing boys, those at risk for antisocial behavior in general (irrespective of their risk of psychopathy) display reduced neural response to laughter in the supplementary motor area, a premotor region thought to facilitate motor readiness to join in during social behavior. Those at highest risk for developing psychopathy additionally show reduced neural responses to laughter in the anterior insula. “These findings suggest that atypical processing of laughter could represent a novel mechanism that impoverishes social relationships and increases risk for psychopathy and antisocial behavior.”4

Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA) Could Help Scientists Understand Laughter

You may have seen television advertisements concerning drug treatment of pseudobulbar affect (PBA), a phenomenon that occurs in association with a number of neurologic disorders. The condition is characterized by sudden, frequent episodes of laughing and/or crying that can be socially disabling. Although it is estimated to affect up to two million people in the United States, it is currently under-recognized and undertreated.5

With PBA, laughter (and, more often, crying) is involuntary and doesn’t necessarily express how the person afflicted by the condition is feeling or thinking. It is believed to be caused by injury to the neurologic pathways that regulate the expression of emotion. Perhaps fittingly, while crying episodes have been associated with depression and poorer quality of life in PBA patients, laughter has not.6 Investigation into the causes of this pathologic laughter could shed some light on how and why people laugh.

Anecdotal Evidence for Laughter as a Treatment 

In 1964, editor Norman Cousins was diagnosed with the degenerative disease ankylosing spondylitis, which was associated with constant pain and poor prognosis. Since Cousins believed that stress had contributed to his illness, he reasoned that positive emotions could improve it. He began watching funny television shows or movies, and asserted that 10 minutes of belly laughter resulted in 2 hours of pain free sleep that was not achievable with morphine. His subsequent recovery was chronicled in his popular book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, which became a made-for-TV movie in 1984 that starred Ed Asner.7

While it can’t be definitively concluded that laughter was the reason for Cousins’ turnaround, he survived 26 years after his ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis, and 36 years after being diagnosed with heart disease. His experience, and that of others have given rise to “laughter therapy” or so-called “laughter yoga” as an alternative therapy to manage pain and other conditions.

Is Laughter a Drug?

A recent European study found that social laughter increased pleasure and triggered endogenous opioid release in the brain’s thalamus, caudate nucleus, and anterior insula. Consequently, pain threshold was found to significantly increase in male and female volunteers after viewing laughter-inducing comedy in comparison with nonhumorous dramas. S. Manninen and colleagues reported, “Opioid receptor density in the frontal cortex predicted social laughter rates. Modulation of the opioidergic activity by social laughter may be an important neurochemical mechanism reinforcing and maintaining social bonds between humans.” 8

Therapeutic Effects of Laughing

Laughter also lowers cortisol levels, according to the results of a study of pediatric inpatients. Following a humor therapy program, salivary cortisol levels decreased and stress perception improved in comparison with children in a nonintervention group.9

A review titled “Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health,” noted that laughter decreases serum cortisol, epinephrine, and the dopamine catabolite 3,4-dihydrophenylacetic acid, which is associated with a reversal of the stress response.10 It also alters dopamine and serotonin activity, which are reduced in depression, and stimulates the secretion of pain-relieving endorphins. “Laughter therapy is effective and scientifically supported as a single or adjuvant therapy,” author J. Yim concludes.10

In a study involving hemodialysis patients, a month of hour-long weekly group sessions of simulated laughter, breathing, stretching exercises, and meditation combined with daily individual laughter sessions improved mood, symptoms, and other factors.11 Laughter yoga has also helped improve mood in adults with Parkinson’s disease.12

A study of 20,934 Japanese women and men aged 65 years and older found a 21% higher adjusted risk of cardiovascular disease and a 60% greater risk of stroke among those who reported never or almost never laughing in comparison with those who reported laughing on a daily basis.13 The authors of the report note that the association could not be explained by confounding factors such as depression.

In cancer patients being treated with radiation, three hour-long laughter therapy sessions were associated with a 14.12 point reduction in total mood disturbance compared to only a 1.21 point reduction in a control group that did not receive laughter therapy.14

In older diabetic and healthy adults, viewing humorous videos was associated with greater improvement in recall, learning, and visual recognition compared to a similar-aged control group who did not watch a video.15 In a group of people living in residential aged care homes, a six-week laughter yoga program was associated with a significant post-session increase in positive mood, happiness, and lower systolic blood pressure.16 And in depressed and lonely institutionalized individuals between the ages of 65 and 75 years, laughter therapy significantly reduced depression.17

These studies are just a few of the many investigations that have looked at the potential benefits of laughter.

The Bottom Line

For the most part, laughter benefits the young and the old, the sick and the healthy and, like smiling, transcends languages and cultures. Next time you find something amusing, try letting go with a big belly laugh. It’s more contagious than a virus and certainly more healthy to your mind, body, relationships, and outlook on life.

References

  1. Bown A. Am J Psychoanal. 2017 Jun;77(2):163-176.
  2. Wood A et al. PLoS One. 2017 Aug 29;12(8):e0183811.
  3. Mireault GC et al. Br J Dev Psychol. 2017 Sep 25.
  4. O’Nions E et al. Curr Biol. 2017 Oct 9;27(19):3049-3055.e4.
  5. Brooks BR et al. PLoS One. 2013 Aug 21;8(8):e72232.
  6. Thakore NJ et al. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2017 Oct;88(10):825-831.
  7. Cousins, Norman, Anatomy of an illness as perceived by the patient : reflections on healing and regeneration, introd. by René Dubos, New York : Norton, 1979.
  8. Manninen S et al. J Neurosci. 2017 Jun 21;37(25):6125-6131.
  9. Sánchez JC et al. Hosp Pediatr. 2017 Jan;7(1):46-53.
  10. Yim J. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2016 Jul;239(3):243-9.
  11. Heo EH et al. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016 Nov;25:1-7.
  12. DeCaro DS et al. Explore (NY). 2016 May-Jun;12(3):196-9
  13. Hayashi K et al. J Epidemiol. 2016 Oct 5;26(10):546-552.
  14. Kim SH et al. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Apr;21(4):217-22.
  15. Bains GS et al. Altern Ther Health Med. 2015 May-Jun;21(3):16-25.
  16. Ellis JM et al. Australas J Ageing. 2017 Sep;36(3):E28-E31.
  17. Quintero A et al. Biomedica. 2015 Jan-Mar;35(1):90-100.

6 Reasons to Include Beets in Your Eating Pattern

Beets (Beta vulgaris) may not be on everyone’s “favorite foods” list, but these ruby roots are hard to top when it comes to healthy eating. Beets have been a staple of inland diets for centuries and are now gaining attention as a sports performance-boosting food, and more.

Nutrients Found in Beets

Beets are a source of beneficial nutrients including betaine (trimethylglycine or TMG), betalains, betacyanin, betanin, folate, fiber, and iron. Like all plant foods, beets contain antioxidants, particularly in the peel, where their phenolic compounds are most concentrated.1,2 The red varieties of the root appear to have the greatest antioxidant activity.3 An analysis of commonly consumed vegetables that included fresh and frozen spinach, leek, white cabbage, Chinese cabbage, and beets found that beets had the highest concentration of beneficial nitrates, which leafy green vegetables otherwise contribute to the diet.4

Protection from Harmful Free Radicals

In rats exposed to the carcinogen carbon tetrachloride, pretreatment with beetroot juice for 28 days resulted in less liver lipid peroxidation and a decreased decline in antioxidant enzymes in comparison with no pretreatment.5 Pretreated animals had three times the activity of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) compared to those that did not receive beetroot. Beetroot product have also demonstrated an antioxidant effect in the cells of obese individuals.6

Effects on Blood Pressure, Arterial and Vascular Health

A number of investigations have found an association between beetroot and lower blood pressure. A study involving 14 healthy humans compared the effects of beetroot juice and water. Three hours after ingestion, beetroot juice was associated with an average reduction in blood pressure of 10.4/8 mm Hg, accompanied by an increase in plasma nitrite (an indicator of blood vessel dilation) converted from beet’s nitrate content. Beetroot juice was also associated with a decrease in platelet aggregation and protection against the induction of endothelial dysfunction. Interruption of the conversion of nitrate to nitrite prevented these effects. “Certain vegetables possess a high nitrate content, and we hypothesized that this might represent a source of vasoprotective nitric oxide via bioactivation,” write Andrew J. Webb and colleagues. “These findings suggest that dietary nitrate underlies the beneficial effects of a vegetable-rich diet and highlights the potential of a ‘natural’ low cost approach for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.” 7

Among individuals with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), the consumption of beetroot juice resulted in an ability to walk 18% longer before experiencing claudication pain, a 17% increase in peak walking time, and a decrease in diastolic blood pressure compared to a placebo. “These findings support the hypothesis that nitrite-related nitric oxide signaling increases peripheral tissue oxygenation in areas of hypoxia and increases exercise tolerance in PAD,” Aarti A. Kenjale and colleagues write.8

A randomized, double-blind trial that compared the effects of nitrate-rich beetroot juice to nitrate-depleted beetroot juice in 69 participants with untreated high cholesterol resulted in improved flow-mediated dilatation (which is a measure of vascular function) and other benefits after six weeks among those who received nitrate-rich juice.9

A meta-analysis of 16 crossover trials with a total of 254 participants concluded that beetroot juice and nitrate supplementation were associated with a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.10 Another meta-analysis, that included 9 crossover trials and 3 parallel trials with a total of 246 participants confirmed an association between beetroot and inorganic nitrate intake and improvement in vascular fuction.11

Cancer

Among Europeans, beetroot juice is a popular addition to standard cancer therapy.12 Green beets contain apigenin, vitexin, vitexin-2-O-xyloside and vitexin-2-O-rhamnoside, while red beetroots provide betaxanthins and betacyanins, which, in addition to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, have anti-proliferative effects in cancer cells.13 Two decades ago, Cancer Letters published the finding of an inhibitory effect for beet root extract against Epstein-Barr virus, as well as skin and lung cancer cells.14 Further investigation by the researchers uncovered a protective effect for beetroot in mice in which skin and liver tumors were initiated. “The most interesting observation is that the cancer chemopreventive effect was exhibited at a very low dose used in the study and thus indicating that beetroot warrants more attention for possible human applications in the control of malignancy,” G. J. Kapadia and colleagues conclude.15

A study in breast and prostate cancer cells found cytotoxic effects that were attributed to the pigment betanin, a constituent of beetroot extract.16 Although the ability of the extract was less than that of the chemotherapy doxorubicin, the researchers involved in the study recommend the evaluation of the addition of beetroot to the drug to reduce chemotherapy side effects. Other research suggests the use of beetroot to prevent hypertension resulting from anthracycline chemotherapy.17

Athletes

Beets’ best known current use is in sports. A double-blind crossover study that evaluated the effects of six days of beetroot juice consumption found a decrease in oxygen cost with exercise as well as a reduction in systolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.18

Another crossover study involving nine competitive cyclists that compared the effects of beetroot juice to nitrate-depleted beetroot juice resulted in an increase in power output and performance during four kilometer and 16.1 kilometer cycling time trials in association with nitrate-containing juice.19 Other research by the team that compared the effects of six days of beetroot juice intake to six days of beetroot juice that was nitrate-depleted found a decrease in the oxygen cost of walking, moderate intensity running, and severe intensity running among those who received beetroot that contained nitrate, as well as increased time to exhaustion during severe intensity running.20 “The novel findings of Lansley et al. have several clinical implications,” commented Leonardo F. Ferreira and Bradley J. Behnke in an accompanying editorial. “A dietary therapy that lowers blood pressure and increases exercise tolerance may obviate the use of expensive drugs with potentially deleterious side effects . . . we can be cautiously optimistic that a relatively simple approach for treating cardiovascular perturbations and exercise intolerance is within our sight.”21

An analysis of 23 articles that provided data on beetroot juice supplementation concluded that beetroot can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency which improves performance.22

Looking Ahead

Future research will undoubtedly uncover more exciting benefits for this humble root.

“Beetroot supplementation is a new and exciting area of research that to date has been shown to induce favorable effects in several facets of health and disease,” conclude Tom Clifford and colleagues in a 2015 review. “This indicates that beetroot supplementation holds promise as an economic, practical, and important natural dietary intervention in clinical settings. Because of beetroot’s high biological activity, there are still several unexplored areas in which supplementation might confer health benefits. This includes but is not limited to; pain reduction, cognitive function, vascular function, insulin resistance, cancer, and inflammation, especially in older and diseased populations.”23

References

  1. Kähkönen MP et al. J Agric Food Chem. 1999 Oct;47(10):3954-62.
  2. Kujala TS et al. J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Nov;48(11):5338-42.
  3. Wettasinghe M et al. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Nov 6;50(23):6704-9.
  4. Petersen A et al. Food Addit Contam. 1999 Jul;16(7):291-9.
  5. Kujawska M et al. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Mar 25;57(6):2570-5.
  6. Zielińska-Przyjemska M et al. Phytother Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):49-55.
  7. Webb AJ et al. Hypertension. 2008 Mar;51(3):784-90.
  8. Kenjale AA et al. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Jun;110(6):1582-91.
  9. Velmurugan S et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jan;103(1):25-38.
  10. Siervo M et al. J Nutr. 2013 Jun;143(6):818-26.
  11. Lara J et al. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Mar;55(2):451-459.
  12. Obrist R et al. Dtsch Med Wochenschr. 1986 Feb 21;111(8):283-7.
  13. Ninfali P et al. Phytother Res. 2017 Jun;31(6):871-884.
  14. Kapadia GJ et al. Cancer Lett. 1996 Feb 27;100(1-2):211-4.
  15. Kapadia GJ et al. Pharmacol Res. 2003 Feb;47(2):141-8.
  16. Kapadia CG et al. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2011 Mar;11(3):280-4.
  17. Kuriakose RK et al. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:8139861.
  18. Bailey SJ et al. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009 Oct;107(4):1144-55.
  19. Lansley KE et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jun;43(6):1125-31.
  20. Lansley KE et al. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Mar;110(3):591-600.
  21. Ferreira LF et al. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Mar;110(3):585-6.
  22. Domínguez R et al. Nutrients. 2017 Jan 6;9(1).
  23. Clifford T et al. Nutrients. 2015 Apr 14;7(4):2801-22.

How to Find the Best Vitamins and Supplements

Holli Lapes RD, LD/N

What are the Best Vitamin Supplements?

Some of the best vitamin supplements to take are vitamin D and vitamin B12. The reason for this is that certain individuals may be deficient in these two vitamins. 1,2 According to the 2015– 2020 dietary guidelines for Americans, the following are categorized as under-consumed nutrients of public health concern: vitamins A, D, E, and C.3


Until recent years, the role of vitamin K2 has been vastly underrated. It plays an important role in cardiovascular and bone health.4,5 Vitamin K2 in the Menaquinone-7(MK-7) form assists in the transport of calcium from the bloodstream into the bone. Vitamin K2 is also required by calcium-regulating proteins in the arteries.6 Without adequate vitamin K, calcium can accumulate in soft tissues such as the arteries.

Let’s backtrack for a moment. Why do we even need to take vitamin supplements at all?

Well, frankly, the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) are often inadequate to support optimal health. While the government developed RDAs, these values only represent minimal amounts of nutrients that are intended to protect you from a deficiency. However, that sometimes fails as well, as is the case with vitamin D. But why should we settle for borderline health, shouldn’t we want to be in the best health that we could possibly be? Shouldn’t we strive for optimal health?

If one is eating 5−7 servings of fruit and vegetables daily (that are grown in nutrient-rich soil) along with a balanced diet, this can be very beneficial in helping to meet nutrient needs. However, due to various factors such as age, health status, genetics, environment, lifestyle, and health goals — one may choose to optimize their nutrient intake, or at least help to fill in the gaps with vitamin supplements such as individual vitamins or a multi-nutrient formula. If you’re not sure of your status, ask your doctor for blood testing or you can purchase blood tests through Life Extension.

What are the Best Supplements to Take?

The best supplements to take are really those that are based on your individual needs. For example, many common over-the-counter and prescription medications deplete nutrients. So, you’ll need to replenish those that are depleted from your medications. Also, it depends on the health goal / health concern that a given nutrient has been researched for, and if that same goal aligns with your health goal. Here are some of the best supplements categorized by health goal.

The best vitamins and supplements are those that are of high quality and produce desired results (provide health benefits) as evidenced by clinical research studies. Keep in mind that individual results will vary due to our individual biochemistries. In other words, everybody is different, and our bodies don’t always process foods, supplements, and medications in the same way.

Duration of use and formula characteristics are important factors when it comes to results. Take this question as an example; how long was this nutrient taken in the clinical study before the participants saw results? One would want to mimic the research study as much as possible in order to achieve those same beneficial results.

When it comes to quality, look for supplements that have been tested for purity and potency. Ask the company who is formulating your supplements about their quality standards. A trusted company will be transparent and have answers for you.

What are the Best Weight Loss Supplements?

The bad news is that there is no such thing as a magical weight loss pill. However, there are supplements that can facilitate weight loss, especially when combined with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Also, some of the best weight loss supplements may not be named as such. Did you know that whey protein may actually help with weight loss?7 Yet whey protein isn’t necessarily categorized as a weight loss supplement. First, ask yourself why you’re not losing weight. Is it because of cravings and snacking? Is it because of hormones? Once you find out why, then you can find out how.

What are the Best Workout Supplements?

Protein powder and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) are two of the best workout supplements. Look for a protein powder that contains creatine (supports muscle strength),8 whey (builds lean muscle),9 and an amino acid profile including glutamine (supports muscle recovery and endurance).10 CoQ10 is very active in our muscles and this co-enzyme helps our body repair itself because of its role as an antioxidant.11 Also, CoQ10 is required to generate cellular energy from the food we eat and use it for activity throughout our bodies.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to our health, there is no one size fits all approach. If you need assistance finding the best supplements for your individual needs, call us at 1-800-226-2370! You can also take this online quiz to help get you started: Custom Supplement Guide: Individualized Quiz

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22982792
  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
  3. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-2/a-closer-look-at-current-intakes-and-recommended-shifts/#underconsumed-nutrients  
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18722618/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23525894
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18841280
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28415067
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17986903
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12832028
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10731013
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26526835

Flowering Herb for Life: 4 Health Benefits of Chinese Skullcap

Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) is a flowering herb used in Chinese medicine that has gained recognition for its role in the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as arthritisScutellaria baicalensis is not to be confused with other members of the Lamiaceae, or mint family, such as Scutellaria lateriflora found in North America. Both of these species and others are referred to as skullcap because of the shape of their flowers’ calyx.

Bacterial and Viral Infections

Chinese skullcap has other effects in addition to its anti-inflammatory property. Some of the earliest published research documented a bactericidal effect against oral bacteria.1 This effect was subsequently documented in a trial that tested the effects of a toothpaste containing an extract of the herb, which found a reduction in the extent of gingivitis, plaque development, and associated bacteria.2

The Scutellaria baicalensis flavonoid baicalin has shown an ability to inhibit human T cell leukemia virus.3 Baicalin has also demonstrated an ability to inhibit HIV-1 infection and replication in human lymphoid and mononuclear cells.4 Another in vitro study found that the Scutellaria flavonoid wogonin suppressed hepatitis B virus surface antigen production.5 And in a study of patients with severe hand, foot, and mouth disease which compared the effects of Scutellaria baicalensis to those of the antiviral drug ribavirin, Scutellaria baicalensis was more effective at reducing fever duration, time to nervous system involvement, and viral loads, as well as the number of participants with oral ulcers and skin rashes.6

Scutellaria baicalensis flavonoidsbaicalin, baicalein, and wogonin have demonstrated an anti-inflammatory effect similar to that of the drug prednisolone.7 A study published in 2016 found that baicalein inhibits the activation of nuclear factor-kappa beta transcription factors that are involved in inflammation, immunity and other processes.8

Blood Flow

In an experiment involving cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells, baicalein inhibited the reduction of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA, involved in the breakdown of blood clots) production induced by the enzyme trypsin.9 Elsewhere, Y. Kimura and colleagues concluded that baicalein “might be active as a drug in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and thrombosis.”10

A review of baicalein’s cardiovascular properties noted that “Baicalein is a potent free radical scavenger and xanthine oxidase inhibitor, thus improving endothelial function and conferring cardiovascular protective actions against oxidative stress-induced cell injury. The pharmacological findings have highlighted the therapeutic potentials of using plant-derived baicalein and its analogs for the treatment of arteriosclerosis and hypertension.”11

In rat brain cortex mitochondria, baicalein and baicalin inhibited lipid peroxidation, and in human neuroblastoma cells, the flavonoids protected against hydrogen peroxide-induced injury. It was suggested that baicalein and baicalin could be used to scavenge free radicals that occur in excess in head injuries.12

Cancer

Scutellaria baicalensis has been used historically in Chinese medicine for its anticancer effects.13 In a study involving human squamous cell carcinoma, breast cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, and prostate cancer, the herb inhibited growth of all cell lines while dose-dependently inhibiting prostaglandin E2, a metabolite of arachidonic acid that is involved in inflammation.13 In four types of human prostate cancer cells, baicalin inhibited cancer cell proliferation, which was associated with the induction of apoptosis (programmed cell death).14 Investigation of Scutellaria baicalensis extract as well as its compounds skullcapflavone, wogonin, baicalein and neobaicalein in prostate cancer cells revealed comparable cell cycle modifications, growth inhibitory levels, and global gene expression profiles.15 In mice, the compounds decreased the growth of prostate cancer grafts by 55%.15


Scutellaria baicalensis and baicalin have been shown to inhibit the overgrowth of human prostate cancer cells stimulated by the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).16 Also, baicalin has been shown to inhibit androgen activation signaling and to promote human dermal papilla cell proliferation, suggesting that these extracts could be used for treating androgen-associated disorders, such as androgenetic alopecia.16

In a study involving human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cell lines, Scutellaria baicalensis inhibited growth as well as COX-2 expression.17 And in human brain tumor cells, Scutellaria baicalensis inhibited cell growth in recurrent and drug resistant cell lines, supporting a potential use against glioblastoma multiforme.18

Investigation of baicalin and baicalein has revealed an anti-angiogenic effect (ability to prevent new blood vessel formation), which may contribute to its anticancer effect.19

A study that tested the effects of Scutellaria extract enriched with baicalin in peripheral white blood cells obtained from children with acute lymphocytic leukemia resulted in lower viability of these cells, without affecting the survival of healthy white blood cells.20 Scutellaria extract was found to induce apoptosis in these as well as B-type human leukemia cells.20

Scutellaria baicalensis may also be helpful to reduce side effects of chemotherapy. Lung cancer patients treated with chemotherapy and Scutellaria baicalensis underwent stimulation of red blood cell formation, which can be suppressed by chemotherapy.21 The herb was also shown to increase T-lymphocytes in chemotherapy-treated lung cancer patients.22

Brain Health and Aging

Human subjects who received Scutellaria baicalensis and Acacia catechu exhibited significant improvement in accuracy and speed of processing information in computer tasks, suggesting that the combination could help maintain memory, support processing speed, and reduce memory errors that occur with aging.23 In a rat study, baicalein has been shown to reduce the release of glutamate in nerve terminals of the brain’s hippocampus and help protect neurons against kainic acid-induced excitotoxicity.24

Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi is the most widely used medicinal plant in traditional Eastern medicine, especially in Chinese medicine,” note B. P. Gaire and colleagues in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine.25 Like most herbs, Scutellaria baicalensis has a variety of traditional and modern uses. Future research could see the development of Scutellaria baicalensis as a source of new prescription drugs for cancer and other needed areas.

References

  1. Tsao TF et al. J Dent Res. 1982 Sep;61(9):1103-6.
  2. Arweiler NB et al. Clin Oral Investig. 2011 Dec;15(6):909-13.
  3. Baylor NW et al. J Infect Dis. 1992 Mar;165(3):433-7.
  4. Li BQ et al. Cell Mol Biol Res. 1993;39(2):119-24.
  5. Huang RL et al. Planta Med. 2000 Dec;66(8):694-8.
  6. Lin H et al. Biomed Res Int. 2016;2016:5697571.
  7. Chung CP et al. Planta Med. 1995 Apr;61(2):150-3.
  8. Li J et al. Oncol Rep. 2016 Nov;36(5):2771-2776.
  9. Kimura Y et al. J Nat Prod. 1997 Jun;60(6):598-601.
  10. Kimura Y et al. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1997 Aug;49(8):816-22.
  11. Huang Y et al. Curr Drug Targets Cardiovasc Haematol Disord. 2005 Apr;5(2):177-84.
  12. Gao Z et al. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1999 Nov 16;1472(3):643-50.
  13. Ye F et al. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Oct;8(5):567-72.
  14. Chan FL et al. Cancer Lett. 2000 Nov 28;160(2):219-28.
  15. Bonham M et al. Clin Cancer Res. 2005 May 15;11(10):3905-14.
  16. Kim AR et al. Planta Med. 2014 Feb;80(2-3):153-8.
  17. Zhang DY et al. Cancer Res. 2003 Jul 15;63(14):4037-43.
  18. Scheck AC et al. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006 Aug 16;6:27.
  19. Liu JJ et al. Int J Cancer. 2003 Sep 10;106(4):559-65.
  20. Orzechowska B et al. Int Immunopharmacol. 2014 Dec;23(2):558-67.
  21. Gol'dberg VE et al. Eksp Klin Farmakol. 1997 Nov-Dec;60(6):28-30.
  22. Smol'ianinov ES et al. Eksp Klin Farmakol. 1997 Nov-Dec;60(6):49-51.
  23. Yimam M et al. Behav Neurol. 2016;2016:7240802.
  24. Chang Y et al. Am J Chin Med. 2016;44(5):943-62.
  25. Gaire BP et al. Chin J Integr Med. 2014 Sep;20(9):712-20.

Andrographis Herb Fights Infection and Protects the Body

Andrographis paniculata, is an herb that is cultivated in South and Southeast Asia, where its leaves and roots are used to treat infections. The active ingredients, including andrographolides, have been investigated for potential health benefits in scientific studies.

“A. paniculata has been reported as having antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, choleretic, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, and adaptogenic effects,” writes Shahid Akbar, MD, PhD, in a recent review. “In the Unani system of medicine, it is considered aperient, anti-inflammatory, emollient, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, gastric and liver tonic, carminative, antihelmintic, and antipyretic.”1

A study published in 1975 revealed an effect for Andrographis paniculata against Ascaris lumbricoides, the most common intestinal parasite worldwide.2 Subsequent research determined that the herb could also kill the parasite Dipetalonema reconditum, which infects dogs and is transmitted by mosquitos.3

Andrographis and Liver Health

An early clinical trial conducted in India found improvement in liver function as indicated by serum bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase and other blood factors, in the majority of acute infective hepatitis patients that received kalmegh (another name for A. paniculata).4 In rats given the toxic compound carbon tetrachloride, which induced liver microsomal lipid peroxidation, pretreatment with A. paniculata leaf extract prevented this effect.5 Similar protective effects have been found for andrographolide.6 Andrographolide has also been demonstrated to help protect the liver against the adverse effects of other compounds, including acetaminophen.7

In a study of A. paniculata compounds in toxin-treated animals, andrographiside and neoandrographolide exhibited greater liver-protective effects than andrographolide and showed similar effects as the liver-protective compound silymarin in the prevention of the formation of lipid peroxidation degradation products.8 The researchers suggested that the greater protective activity of andrographiside and neoandrographolide shown in this study may be due to glucoside groups that act as strong antioxidants.

Microbes and Infections

Andrographolide appears to have an antibacterial action against a number of Gram-positive bacteria--particularly Staphylococcus aureus--and was shown to have an inhibitory effect on Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation.9 In cell cultures, DASM (which is derived from andrographolide) inhibited three strains of human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) and one strain of HIV-2.10 In a clinical trial involving 13 HIV positive and 5 uninfected participants, CD4(+) lymphocyte levels increased significantly in those who were HIV positive following the administration of an intermediate dose of andrographolide.11

A trial of 152 adults with pharyngotonsillitis found that A. paniculata had similar fever and throat pain-relieving effects as acetaminophen when consumed daily for seven days.12In a trial that included 158 adults with a common cold, treatment with a dried extract of the herb decreased fatigue, sleeplessness, sore throat, and nasal secretions after two days in comparison with a placebo.13 At day four, all symptoms, which included those above as well as headache, earache, throat mucus, and cough frequency and intensity, were significantly reduced in the Andrographis-treated group. Double-blind trials that evaluated the effects of Kan Jang, a Chinese medicine that contains A. paniculata, have also resulted in a reduction in upper respiratory tract infections and sinusitis.14,15

Heart Health

In an experimental model of heart attack, intravenous administration of A. paniculata limited the area of ischemic damage and its surrounding area and showed a weak fibrinolytic action.16 Another experiment showed an ability for an extract of A. paniculata to prevent blood clots or heart attack in animals undergoing coronary artery injury.17 A randomized trial of A. paniculata extract in 60 participants with elevated triglycerides (which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease) resulted in those who received a higher dose experiencing a reduction in triglycerides comparable to that associated with a 300 milligram daily dose of the drug gemfibrozil.18

Effects on Cancer

Like most plant compounds, andrographolide is associated with an anticancer effect. In human colorectal carcinoma cells, andrographolide inhibited cell cycle progression in a dose-dependent manner.19 In a study involving human oral cancer cells, treatment with the A. Paniculata compound dehydroandrographolide inhibited migration and invasion, in addition to suppressing tumor metastases in mice that received implanted cells.20 In non-small cell lung cancer cell cultures and in tumors transplanted into experimental animals, andrographolidehad a synergistic effect with the chemotherapy paclitaxel.21 In human T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells, A. paniculata induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) and inhibited growth in animals that received tumor grafts.22 And in human breast cancer cells, andrographolide increased apoptosis and demonstrated an inhibitory effect on cell cycle progression.23 “Andrographolide seems to have a potential role as an ideal chemopreventive agent for breast cancer although it deserves further in-depth studies in order to explore its precise mechanism of action as an anticancer agent in vivo,” Malabika Banerjee and colleagues remark.

Andrographolide has reduced viability and migration in human prostate cancer cells, and decreased proliferation and induced apoptosis in multiple myeloma cells.24,25 Andrographis paniculata and its components have been shown to be effective against human pancreatic cancer cells, liver carcinoma cells, and more.26,27

Andrographis and Autoimmune Conditions

Among other benefits for A. paniculata, the herb may be helpful to patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).28 In a randomized, double-blind trial, A. paniculata taken twice per day for a year significantly reduced fatigue severity scores in interferon-treated MS patients in comparison with a placebo.28 Another trial, involving 120 ulcerative colitis patients, resulted in clinical response among 76% and remission in 21% of participants who received an extract of A. paniculata, while those who received the drug mesalazine had clinical response and remission rates of 82% and 16%. The authors concluded that A. paniculata extract “may be an efficacious alternative to mesalazine in ulcerative colitis.”29 And in a randomized trial that included 60 participants with active rheumatoid arthritis, 14 weeks of treatment with Paractin which contained 30% total andrographolides, was associated with decreased joint tenderness, number of tender and swollen joints, blood markers, and other factors in comparison with the placebo group, suggesting that Paractin could be a useful natural complement in the treatment of the disease.30

Skin Health

Of interest to life extensionists, A. paniculata was shown to increase epidermal stem cell proliferation and enhance type 1 collagen production in normal human fibroblasts.31 When tested in humans, eight weeks of topical A. paniculata extract improved skin hydration, dermal density, wrinkling and sagging. “Based on these results, we suggest that Andrographis paniculata may be introduced as a possible anti-aging agent,” J. You and colleagues conclude.31

The Bottom Line

Andrographis paniculata, its components, and preparations derived from the herb, have shown remarkable effects in several areas of health. As one of its most popular uses is in the treatment of infection, it may be worthwhile keeping some on hand in the event that one strikes.

References

  1. Akbar S. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Mar;16(1):66-77.
  2. Raj RK eta l. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1975 Jan-Mar;19(1).
  3. Dutta A et al. J Helminthol. 1982 Jun;56(2):81-4.
  4. Chturvedi GN et al. Anc Sci Life. 1983 Apr;2(4):208-15.
  5. Choudhury BR et al. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 1984 Sep;6(9):481-5.
  6. Handa SS et al. Indian J Med Res. 1990 Aug;92:276-83.
  7. Handa SS et al. Indian J Med Res. 1990 Aug;92:284-92.
  8. Kapil A et al. Biochem Pharmacol. 1993 Jul 6;46(1):182-5.
  9. Banerjee M et al. Folia Microbiol (Praha). 2017 May;62(3):237-244.
  10. Chang RS et al. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1991 May;197(1):59-66.
  11. Calabrese C et al. Phytother Res. 2000 Aug;14(5):333-8.
  12. Thamlikitkul V et al. J Med Assoc Thai. 1991 Oct;74(10):437-42.
  13. Cáceres DD et al. Phytomedicine. 1999 Oct;6(4):217-23.
  14. Melchior J et al. Phytomedicine. 2000 Oct;7(5):341-50.
  15. Gabrielian ES et al. Phytomedicine. 2002 Oct;9(7):589-97.
  16. Zhao HY et al. J Tongji Med Univ. 1990;10(4):212-7.
  17. Zhao HY et al. Chin Med J (Engl). 1991 Sep;104(9):770-5.
  18. Phunikhorn K et al. J Med Assoc Thai. 2015 Jul;98 Suppl 6:S41-7.
  19. Shi MD et al. Chem Biol Interact. 2008 Aug 11;174(3):201-10.
  20. Hsieh MJ et al. Biochem Pharmacol. 2017 Apr 15;130:10-20.
  21. Yuan H et al. Pharm Biol. 2016 Nov;54(11):2629-2635.
  22. Yang T et al. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2016 Apr 11;10:1389-97.
  23. Banerjee M et al. J Biomed Sci. 2016 Apr 16;23:40.
  24. Mir H et al. Cell Cycle. 2016;15(6):819-26.
  25. Gao H et al. Mol Med Rep. 2016 Feb;13(2):1827-32.
  26. Lee S et al. Nat Prod Commun. 2015 Jul;10(7):1153-8.
  27. Zou Y et al. Tumour Biol. 2015 Jul;36(7):5179-86.
  28. Bertoglio JC et al. BMC Neurol. 2016 May 23;16:77.
  29. Tang T et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Jan;33(2):194-202.
  30. Burgos RA et al. Clin Rheumatol. 2009 Aug;28(8):931-46.
  31. You J et al. Molecules. 2015 Sep 22;20(9):17557-69.

All Contents Copyright © 1995-2016 Life Extension® All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. You should not stop taking any medication without first consulting your physician.