Native to India and Sri Lanka, the herbaceous plant has long been used in South and South East Asia as a dietary supplement in ayurvedic medicine for the prevention and, according to some, even cure cancer.
While evidence of its impact on cancer has yet to be discovered, numerous scientific studies have attested to its immunoprotective and anti-cold effects.
Systemic support and seasonal symptoms
This has led Swisse to develop Ultiboost Immune Forte as the latest product in its Immune Health range, with claims that it provides acute immune support and helps alleviate cold symptoms such as a sore throat, nasal secretion, and fatigue.
The vegan-friendly product comes in tablet form, with each tablet containing 2.25g of Andrographis as its key ingredient. It also contains 1g of Echinacea, and essential nutrients such as zinc and vitamin C.
Swisse product training specialist Katie Bieshaar told NutraIngredients-Asia: "We decided that we wanted to create an acute formulation for the cold season, and we have many naturopaths and scientists on our team who look at possible new formulations.
"Andrographis is the hero for us in the formulation. There have been quite a few studies on its fast-acting effects on cold symptoms, so it was an easy decision, based on our knowledge of herbs, to use it for the tablet."
She added that the tablet could lead to symptomatic relief of more prominent symptoms, such as mild tonsillitis and sinusitis.
Formulation and application challenges
Bieshaar said Swisse was keen on developing other formulations for Ultiboost Immune Forte apart from tablets. However, its strong bitter flavour, as well as the firm still being in the early stages of research, presented challenges.
"We are not too sure how Andrographis works, but our research shows a compound called andrographolide that is responsible (for its immune system benefits), and it actually works better in a herbal extract than when isolated.
"We standardised the extracts from Andrographis to make sure there was enough andrographolide in each tablet, as it's responsible for most of the immune support."
Andrographolide is a major constituent in Andrographis that lends the plant its distinctly bitter taste, which has caused it to be dubbed the King of Bitters. For this reason, the company decided on a coated tablet format to mask Andrographis' extreme bitterness.
Furthermore, while there has been extensive prior research into the plant's immunoprotective and anti-cold benefits, Swisse has yet to conduct its own clinical trials on the efficacy of its product.
Bieshaar revealed that in animal studies, Andrographis had been shown to support liver function, increase bile production and aid digestion, but pending human studies on these effects, the firm has opted to hold off on making such claims surrounding Ultiboost Immune Forte.
"It's tough because our research is on cold and immune support, so while research into additional uses of Andrographis beyond immune support is promising, more evidence is needed before we can make these claims."