Is there a future for andrographolide to be an anti-inflammatory drug? Deciphering its major mechanisms of action
Andrographis paniculata has long been part of the traditional herbal medicine system in Asia and in Scandinavia. Andrographolide was isolated as a major bioactive constituent of A. paniculata in 1951, and since 1984, andrographolide and its analogs have been scrutinized with modern drug discovery approach for anti-inflammatory properties. With this accumulated wealth of pre-clinical data, it is imperative to review and consolidate different sources of information, to decipher the major anti-inflammatory mechanisms of action in inflammatory diseases, and to provide direction for future studies. Andrographolide and its analogs have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory benefits in a variety of inflammatory disease models. Among the diverse signaling pathways investigated, inhibition of NF-κB activity is the prevailing anti-inflammatory mechanism elicited by andrographolide. There is also increasing evidence supporting endogenous antioxidant defense enhancement by andrographolide through Nrf2 activation. However, the exact pathway leading to NF-κB and Nrf2 activation by andrographolide has yet to be elucidated. Validation and consensus on the major mechanistic actions of andrographolide in different inflammatory conditions are required before translating current findings into clinical settings. There are a few clinical trials conducted using andrographolide in fixed combination formulation which have shown anti-inflammatory benefits and good safety profile. A concerted effort is definitely needed to identify potent andrographolide lead compounds with improved pharmacokinetics and toxicological properties. Taken together, andrographolide and its analogs have great potential to be the next new class of anti-inflammatory agents, and more andrographolide molecules are likely moving towards clinical study stage in the near future.