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Andrographis: King of Toxic Heat-Clearing Herbs

Toxic heat isn’t something you just pick up from taking a hike in the desert on a 100-degree day. Working too much, worrying about finances, eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol, and other forms of stress can produce toxic heat in your body. 

How can you tell if you have toxic heat? Stick your tongue out. If your tongue is red with a bright, shiny yellow coat, it’s a surefire sign. You may also have discomfort in your nose, throat, or head or a sluggish immune system that can’t seem to shake off your symptoms.

If you can relate, you should get to know the Traditional Chinese Medicine herb Andrographis (Chuan Xin Lian). 

How Does Andrographis Work in TCM? 

In TCM theory, Andrographis herb contains some of the most bitter properties. For this reason, it’s “The King of Bitters.” Cold in nature, Andrographis enters the Lung channel. If you have any symptoms of toxic heat in your respiratory system, taking Andrographis extract granules or the formula Andrografix may help.  

“Andrographis may be a safe and efficacious treatment for the relief of symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection; more research is warranted.”

Planta Medica, 2004

In addition to driving toxic heat from the respiratory system, Andrographis also may help drive out excess heat from the digestive system. This is because the heat-clearing herb influences the Large Intestine meridian. 

If your stool smells excessively stinky or your thirst is unquenchable, it could indicate that you have toxic heat in the Large Intestine channel. Although Andrographis does not directly influence the Small Intestine and stomach, the herb, according to TCM theory, may help dry dampness and clear heat from these digestive organs. 

By clearing heat from the digestive organs, taking Andrographis may promote healthier-looking skin. After all, the skin is a reflection of the internal environment, and the easiest way for toxins to manifest if the Liver can’t dredge them is by exiting the epidermis. Toxic heat that escapes through the skin manifests as abscesses, nodules, sores, swelling, and breakouts. 

Andrographis also influences the Bladder channel so that it may support water metabolism. 

Toxic Heat = Poison 

Before we explore other ways that Andrographis may support the body, let’s take a step back and review why toxic heat poses a significant threat to our health. 

To some degree, nearly everyone has some excess internal heat in the body. The problem becomes when internal heat becomes like a landfill, building up and accumulating without the heat purging from the body. This significant imbalance creates a toxic internal environment. 

When poisonous insect bites, your skin swells, and your immune system launches an inflammatory response. However, with toxic internal heat, it’s like your body is constantly being stung by wasps! This is why some people never seem to be able to shake a cold or flu. It’s the toxic heat that keeps them down!

It’s important to note that toxic heat is not the only “Heat” pattern in TCM. As such, Andrographis may not be the most appropriate herb to resolve internal heat symptoms. 

Now, then, let’s get back to learning more about how Andrographis may support overall health and well-being. 

Andrographis In Research

According to research published in the journal Natural Small Molecule Drugs From Plants, a scientist first isolated a crystalline substance from Andrographis in 1911. The diterpene compound was appropriately named andrographolide. In 2015, andrographolide was included in the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (2015). And over the last several years, several research studies (such as the study linked in this section) have suggested that this compound can support liver and gallbladder function. 

Being overworked and underpaid, eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol, and other forms of stress can produce toxic heat in your body.  

In addition, research also suggests Andrographis supports normal cellular division, blood-sugar levels, and inflammation. This is not to say that if you eat a diet full of sugary junk food, Andrographis will come to your rescue. The same goes for eating lots of spicy food, which is one common cause of toxic heat in the body. 

The research on Andrographis supports its TCM action in removing poisonous toxic waste from the body. In addition, according to a study in Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, Andrographis supports the function of immune cells by removing cellular debris. 

Early research studies have also shown Andrographis to support circulation, and metabolic function, among other uses. 


Andrographis works by clearing heat and toxins from the body, helping support a normal state of inflammatory response. In the process of cooling the “internal engine of the body” and cleansing the “poisonous” environment, the herb may help support the immune system and mitigate discomfort. 

It’s important to note that specific TCM therapies may aggravate toxic heat. For example, moxibustion may have a warming effect on the body. Consult your local acupuncturist to assess your pattern.