Side Effects and Contra-indications

Sambiloto has been shown to have anti-fertility effects. This includes abortionant properties. That is it can abort pregnancy. We recommend all women avoid its use during pregnancy as a precaution. In almost every other respect Sambiloto has an extremely low toxicity.

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In traditional Jamu systems of healing in Indonesian, Sambiloto has long been perceived as very safe. In Chinese medicine, and in Thailand and India, it has always been seen as safe. Although trial and error in humans may not be considered scientific, it is a way of determining whether a substance is effective or harmful. The traditional understanding of cultures which have used it over centuries, is that it is very safe. When scientists began to investigate the safety of Sambiloto, formal toxicological studies in animal models and in animal and human clinical trials confirmed that andrographolide and other Sambiloto compounds have very low toxicity.

Research over many years has confirmed this extremely low toxicity. In mice that received oral extracts of Sambiloto extract (10 g/kg body weight) once a day for seven days, none of the mice died. This very high amount did produce decreased activity and general lethargy. Heart, kidney, liver, and spleen were found to be normal in these animals.

Even intravenous injections of 10mg/Kg in rabbits produced nothing abnormal. Liver enzyme tests and heart, liver, kidney, and spleen were normal in these animals.

Overall, evidence to date confirms that andrographolides are naturally occurring compounds with low toxicity.

On rare occasions, dizziness and heart palpitations have been reported by people who use Sambiloto. As with all herbs, some people will have an allergic reaction to Sambiloto. The allergic reactions associated with allergic reactions ranging from minor skin rashes to more serious sicknesses. The obvious solution in these rare cases is to avoid its use.

Known Mechanisms of Action

Sambiloto (Andrographis paniculata) has been extensive studied, most of it in the last half of the 20th century, and much of it concentrating on Sambiloto’s pharmacological composition, safety, efficacy, and mechanisms of action. A good deal of this research has centered around a screening technique called signal transduction technology – probably best explained in a seminal work by Jean Barilla, M.S.:

”One of the criticisms made by the conventional medical and scientific community regarding dietary supplements is that their development and use have been based on folklore, not science. Using signal transduction technology to investigate the effect on a botanical or other nutrition supplement on the cell-level processes of cells is good science. This approach will legitimize the nutritional approach to the prevention and treatment of disease and speed the process of development of new and more effective supplements. Importantly, this technology avoids the use of animal testing, which often lasts for years before a supplement is approved for human use; not using animals is an additional benefit those who consider animal testing to be inhumane. In addition to saving time and animals, this technology reduces the costs involved in getting a supplement to market – a saving which will be passed on to consumers.

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“Using signal transduction technology, extracts of Andrographis paniculata (Sambiloto) have been found to counteract interference with the cell cycle. Such interference is the basis for the development of cancer or infection with viruses such as HIV. Andrographolides are thought to enhance immune system functions such as production of white blood cells (scavengers of bacteria and other foreign matter), release of interferon, and activity of the lymph system. Interferon is a protein (called a cytokine) made by cells in response to viruses. It is a potent antiviral agent and is also antiproliferative (stops the reproduction of viruses).

The lymph system is an important part of the immune system. Briefly, it is another circulatory system (like the vascular system) that carries a fluid, the lymph. The lymph carries away the by-products of cellular metabolism and also acts as a shuttle for invading bacteria and viruses, taking them to the lymph nodes where the white blood cells (lymphocytes) destroy them. Sambiloto, a superb immune system enhancer, is even more effective when combined with immune stimulators, such as the herb Meniran. The theory behind the mechanism of operation also confirms that Andrographolides are also likely to be useful in conventional cancer therapy after suitable scientific confirmation.

Several studies have looked at the disposition of andrographolide in various organs of the body. Biodistribution experiments have been done in experimental animals. Following injection of radioactively labeled andrographolide, this compound appears to be widely distributed in the body. High concentrations are noted in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and other organs with high blood flow, including the colon, spleen, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Andrographolide appears to have a relatively short half-life of approximately two hours.

The term “half-life” refers to the time when the concentration of the compound in the body is half of what it originally was when it entered the body. This is what is left after the compound has been metabolized (broken down), changed into other forms (called metabolites), and excreted by one of several routes (urine, feces, exhaled air, sweat, or other body excretions). Compounds with short half-lives need to be given often since they do not stay in the body for long. Andrographolides are excreted fairly rapidly from the body via the urine and gastrointestinal tract. In some studies, 80 percent of the administered dose of andrographolide is removed from the body within eight hours, with excretion rates of more than 90 percent of the compound within forty-eight hours. A daily dose is needed for effectiveness.

The wide tissue and organ distribution and the immune-stimulating and regulatory actions of Sambiloto make it an ideal candidate in the prevention and treatment of many diseases and conditions.


Sambiloto has clear anti-fertility as well as pregnancy-terminating effects in larger amounts. In India, where Sambiloto is used for common ailments such as diarrhea, fever, and other digestive disorders, it is recommended that the herb be used only for short-term treatment. This is due to the content of compounds that are contraceptive in nature.

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The authors of the study done on the rats concluded that the observations suggested an antispermatogenic (sperm production blocking) or antiandrogenic (blocking effects of sex hormones known as androgens) ability of the plant. It should be noted that many herbal extracts have effects on reproductive functions and thus should not be used during pregnancy.

Anti HIV

Work has continued to show strong promise as a treatment for HIV infection. As early as 1991, Sambiloto was shown in some laboratory testing in California, USA to be effective in preventing HIV virus from reproducing (Reference 11). In 2000 work with human volunteers in Washington USA showed that the bodies natural defense mechanisms were enhanced when Sambiloto was administered, in the absence of the retroviral drugs usually used in HIV patients. The patients showed no increase in HIV virus during the trial, indicating that the virus was unable to multiply.

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More research is continuing, but we believe, in line with the antiviral benefits that Sambiloto has shown in trials and over hundreds of years in traditional medicine records, that it will prove to be a valuable inclusion in the fight against AIDS.

Anti-Oxidant and Antihyperglycaemic (Blood Sugar) Benefits

Studies conducted in Singapore in 2000 showed Sambiloto to be an effective anti-oxidant in laboratory animal trials (Reference 20). It was also shown by the same work to be anti-hyperglycaemic in diabetic animals, and important sugar regulating effect. More recent research in China (in 2002) has also shown that Sambiloto prevents formation of oxygen radicals in an inflammatory response in laboratory animals. Scavenging of free radicals, the powerful effect we are looking for was confirmed in some research in USA, also in 2002.

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Screening of antihyperglycaemic activity in of several herbs in Malaysia in 2004 showed that Sambiloto produced significant reduction in blood concentrations of sugar, and the most significant results of the herbs screened. This is a magnificent confirmation of the anti-diabetic properties of Sambiloto.

Effect of Sambiloto on Lyme disease

There are evidences for curing other spirochetal infections such as Leptospirosis through treatment using herbs like Sambiloto. Extract of this herb, in the form of an injection or tablets of the crude extract or of the isolated lactones, was reported to effectively treat leptospirosis. In one evaluation, 31 of 35 cases were said to be cured by the Andrographis lactones. There are people who had used Sambiloto treating the Lyme disease (Sambiloto is the best all around herb for Lyme!).

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Immunological Benefits: Cancer

Studies using laboratory animal models have shown that Sambiloto is a potent stimulator of the immune system in two ways: (1) Antigen-specific response: antibodies are made to counteract invading microbes, and (2) Nonspecific immune response: macrophage cells scavenge and destroy invaders. Sambiloto activates both responses – making it effective against a variety of infectious and cancer-causing agents.

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The mechanisms of effective treatment from Sambiloto are rooted in its effects in boosting immunity. Cancer results when cells do not respond to signals that are intended to limit growth. When cells develop normally, at each stage of development the cells become more specialized in order to be able to perform the duties of that particular cell. For example, cells that will make insulin will develop the cellular machinery to do so. When cancer upsets normal development, cells do not mature — they more closely resemble immature body cells. The more they resemble immature cells, the more unfavorable the outcome: the cancer grows and spreads (metastasizes) more rapidly.

Sambiloto has been shown to cause cancer cell maturity or differentiation, thus breaking the cancer proliferation. In addition Sambiloto extracts have also been shown to be cytotoxic (cell-killing) against cancer cells in laboratory work. This cancer cell-killing ability was demonstrated against human epidermoid carcinoma (squamous cell carcinoma) of the skin lining of the nasopharynx and against lymphocytic leukemia cells. It was the andrographolide component that was found to have the cancer cell-killing ability. This ability to kill cancer cells was superior to the levels of the effectiveness recommended by the National Cancer Institute for a cytotoxic substance.