Arabinogalactan supplement benefit and side effects by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

April 20 2014

Arabinogalactans are an abundant class of cell surface proteoglycans widely distributed in flowering plants. They are proteoglycans (a type of protein and sugar combination) found between cells of most plants. They are commonly found in larch and tamarack and herbs and can be used as soluble fiber. Since the late 1980s, arabinogalactanproteins have attracted widespread attention from plant biologists following reports of their involvement in plant development, including a role in root regeneration and seed germination.. Arabinogalactan proteins are readily soluble and possibly play a major role in cell-cell interactions during development.

At this point it is too early to make any recommendations regarding arabinolactan use in terms of treatment or prevention of illness. We know so little about the short and long term effects of arbinogalactans on the immune system. We also know very little how arabinolactans compare to other immune system influencing herbs, mushrooms, and nutrients such as vitamin C,  andrographis, beta-lactans, AHCC mushroom extract, cordyceps, and others.

Does an arabinogalactan supplement have benefits?
A 2004 study done at the University of Minnesota that examined supplementation of arabinolactan fiber for six months did not make much of a difference in cholesterol or blood sugar control. However, arabinolactans may have immune stimulating properties. Arabinolactans are found in the plant Andrographis paniculata. Arabinolactans probably have some beneficial effects on fecal microflora.

Blood sugar and blood lipid levels
No long-term benefits of supplementation with arabinogalactans on serum lipids and glucose.
J Am Diet Assoc. 2004.
Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota
We conducted a 6-month randomized, double-blind, parallel trial in which subjects consumed their usual diet plus arabinogalactan, a functional fiber isolated from either larch or tamarack. Healthy human subjects (28 men, 26 women) ages 18 to 55 years old consumed 8.4 g/day larch arabinogalactan (n=18), tamarack arabinogalactan (n=19), or a placebo of rice starch (n=17). Serum cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I, glucose, and insulin were measured monthly. Three-day food records, body weight, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal symptom surveys were obtained monthly. Serum lipids seemed to decrease at month 2, but there were no statistically significant differences among diets for any measured endpoint. Arabinogalactan is a recognized soluble fiber and is currently being used in products because it is not viscous, is easily incorporated into foods and beverages, and is well accepted by consumers.

Research, immune system
Immunomodulating activity of arabinogalactan and fucoidan in vitro.
J Med Food. 2005.
Department of Biotechnology & Bioproducts Research Center, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea.
Many polysaccharides obtained from natural sources are considered to be biological response modifiers and have been shown to enhance various immune responses. Here, we investigated the immunomodulating effects of arabinogalactan and fucoidan in vitro. Mouse spleen lymphocytes became cytotoxic to tumor cells after culture with arabinogalactan and fucoidan at concentrations of 10-100 microg/mL. These data suggest that arabinogalactan and fucoidan are activators of lymphocytes and macrophages. This property may contribute to their effectiveness in the immunoprevention of cancer.

Immunological activity of larch arabinogalactan and Echinacea: a preliminary, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Altern Med Rev. 2002.
Kim LS, Waters RF, Burkholder PM.
Research Department, Southwest College, Arizona
The immune system influencing effects of two Echinacea species, E. purpurea and E. angustifolia and larch arabinogalactan extracted from Larix occidentalis were examined in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, prospective four-week clinical trial at a naturopathic medical school research center. Forty-eight healthy female volunteers (22-51 y) were randomly assigned to one of six groups: standardized extract of E. purpurea (EP); ultra-refined E. purpurea/E. angustifolia (urEPA); E. purpurea/E. angustifolia (EPA); E. purpurea/E. angustifolia plus larch arabinogalactan (EPALA); larch arabinogalactan; or placebo. Immunological tests with enumerative measurements, stool cultures for Lactobacillus acidophilus and yeast, and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) using the Medical Outcomes Study derived SF-36 self-administered questionnaire were assessed at baseline and at four weeks. Complement properdin increased by 21 percent in the EPA group and by 18 percent in the EPALA group, compared to the placebo group. SF-36 showed improvements in overall physical health, vitality, and emotional health in the same two groups (EPA and EPALA). Volunteers in the EPA and EPALA groups had increased production of complement properdin after four weeks of intervention. The increased complement properdin may be an indication of one aspect of immune system stimulation in patients treated with either E. purpurea/E. angustifolia or E. purpurea/E. angustifolia plus larch arabinogalactan.

Effect over time of in-vivo administration of the polysaccharide arabinogalactan on immune and hemopoietic cell lineages in murine spleen and bone marrow.
Phytomedicine. 2003.
Current evidence indicates an immunostimulating role for complex carbohydrates, i.e., polysaccharides, from several plant sources. In the present work, we determined the specific in vivo effects, with time of administration, of one such compound, a neutral arabinogalactan from larch not only on immune (lymphoid) cells, but also on natural killer (NK) lymphoid cells, as well as a variety of other hemopoietic cells in both the bone marrow and spleen of healthy, young adult mice. The latter were injected daily with arabinogalactan for 7 or 14 days. Additional, aged (1 1/2-2 yr) mice were similarly injected for 14 days only. Control mice were given the PBS vehicle in all cases, following the above injection regimen. Animals from all groups were sampled 24 h after the final injection and the immune and hemopoietic cell populations in the bone marow and spleen were assessed quantitatively. The results indicated that immediately following either 7 or 14 days of arabinogalactan administration to young, adult mice, lymphoid cells in the bone marrow were significantly decreased, respectively) relative to controls but remained unchanged at both time intervals in the spleen. NK cells, after 7 days of arabinogalactan exposure, were also decreased significantly in the bone marrow, but unchanged in the spleen. After 14 days' exposure to the polysaccharide, NK cells in the bone marrow had returned to normal (control) levels, but were increased in the spleen to levels greater than 2-fold that of control. Among other hemopoietic cell lineages, none was influenced in the bone marrow or spleen by one-week administration of arabinogalactan; however, after two-week exposure, precursor myeloid cells and their mature (functional) progeny (granulocytes), were significantly reduced in the spleen, as were splenic monocytes. These lineages in the bone marrow, however, remained steadfastly unaltered even after 14 days of continuous exposure to the agent. Of the vast cascade of cytokines induced in the presence of this polysaccharide, it appears that immunopoiesis- and hemopoiesis-inhibiting ones are most prevalent during at least the first two weeks of daily exposure.

Q. Can I take an arabinogalactan supplement daily?
   A. As with most immune system influencing herbs and products, it may be a good idea to take a break once in a while, for instance a week off each month.

Food content
Several vegetables and grains have arabinogalactans including tomatoes, carrots, radishes, and wheat. Arabinogalactans are also found in herbs including echinacea and certain mushrooms as reishi.

Mannatech corporation
Mannatech, Incorporated has entered into an exclusive arrangement with Swiss-based Lonza to purchase and market worldwide fiber harvested from the American larch tree. Mannatech will be the only company allowed to purchase the fiber, arabinogalactan, from Lonza when it is to be used in nutritional supplements containing any two of the following ingredients: naturally derived gums and resins, aloe extract, algal extract or glucosamine. All these ingredients are found in Mannatech's flagship Ambrotose complex, the company's proprietary supplement containing a patented blend of plant sacharides, including arabinogalactan. Lonza currently is the only firm harvesting the soluble and odorless fiber from the American larch. Known as one of the fastest-growing trees in North America, the larch was a staple among early Native Americans, who used the tree's resin, leaves and bark for medicinal food and cosmetic applications. Arabinogalactan, which is the most abundant ingredient in Ambrotose, contains dietary sugars. It is thought that arabinogalactan derived from the American larch exists in higher concentrations than the protein-bound arabinogalactan found in many other plants. Arabinogalactan can be extracted from the cell lumen in its natural state by soaking the wood chips in water. Unlike other processes that use chemicals to extract arabinogalactan from plants, Lonza uses a patented process that utilizes only steam and water.

An arabinogalactan isolated from the medicinal plant Maytenus ilicifolia.
J Nat Prod. 2004.
An arabinogalactan was obtained from the leaves of Maytenus ilicifolia. It consisted of arabinose, galactose, galacturonic acid, and rhamnose in a 69:20:6:5 molar ratio.

An arabinogalactan from the skin of Opuntia ficus-indica prickly pear fruits.
Carbohydr Res. 2004.
The cold-water extract from the skin of Opuntia ficus-indica fruits was fractionated by anion-exchange chromatography. The major fraction, which was purified by size exclusion chromatography, consisted of a polysaccharide composed of galactose and arabinose residues in the ratio 6.3:3.3, with traces of rhamnose, xylose and glucose, but no uronic acid.

Antimicrobial activity of Andrographis paniculata.
Fitoterapia. 2003.
The antimicrobial activity of aqueous extract, andrographolides and arabinogalactan proteins from Andrographis paniculata were evaluated. The aqueous extract showed significant antimicrobial activity, which may be due to the combined effect of the isolated arabinogalactan proteins and andrographolides.

Effects of dietary larch arabinogalactan on gastrointestinal and blood parameters in healthy human subjects.
J Am Coll Nutr. 2001. Robinson RR, Feirtag J, Slavin JL. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota
Larch arabinogalactan is a non-digestible soluble dietary fiber that resists hydrolytic enzyme action and enters the large bowel intact where it is fermented by resident microflora. To determine whether Arabinogalactan has similar physiological properties to other soluble dietary fibers, we examined the effect of 15 and 30 g per day of a commercially available AG from Western Larch on several gastrointestinal and blood parameters. Gastrointestinal parameters included fecal microflora, fecal enzyme activity, fecal short-chain fatty acids, fecal pH, fecal weight, transit time and bowel frequency. Blood parameters included total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, Apo-A1, Apo-B, glucose and insulin. The study consisted of two three-week diet treatments with no washout period. Participants (n=20, 11 males, 9 females) consumed their usual diet in addition to 15 or 30 g Arabinogalactan in a beverage sweetened with aspartame as compared to their usual diet with the control beverage. Significant increases in total fecal anaerobes were observed with 15 g and 30 g Arabinogalactan . A significant increase in Lactobacillus spp. was observed when subjects consumed Arabinogalactan for a total of six weeks regardless of dose. There were no significant changes in other microflora, fecal enzyme activity, transit time, frequency, fecal weight, fecal pH and short-chain fatty acids. Fecal ammonia levels decreased with 15 g and 30 g Arabinogalactan. No significant changes in blood lipids or blood insulin were observed. These data suggest that dietary Arabinogalactan is easily incorporated into the diet, well tolerated in subjects and has some positive effects on fecal chemistry. arabinogalactan larch research.

Press release 2008
The Australian Authorities announced in July 2009 that Larch arabinogalactan is now approved as a therapeutically active ingredient for oral use. Three requirements have to be met for approval all of which are fulfilled by Lonza’s active ingredient: the ingredient arabinogalactan (Larix) is derived from Larix larcinia or Larix occidentalis; the concentration of polysaccharides in the ingredient arabinogalactan (Larix) is greater than or equal to 85%; and the maximum recommended daily dose of the ingredient arabinogalactan (Larix) is not to exceed 15 grams.

Q. Does any company have an arabinogalactan patent?
   A. I have not kept up to date on arabinogalactan patent filings but at least one company, Lonza, appears to have a product called Larix.

Q. I was reading an article about glyconutrients and Ambrotose. It said the main ingredient in Ambrotose is arabinogalactan, a substance derived from the wood of the larch pine. The product's other ingredients are Manapol and two other plant extracts, gum tragacanth and gum ghatti. It said Ambrotose and its offshoots are a source of eight sugars missing from modern diets, largely because of processed foods. What is your opinion on these glyconutrients?
   A. See glyconutrients for a full discussion on this topic.

Q. I have been taking 5 grams of arabinogalactan Powder everyday. I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. My doctor said that I do not have to take synthroid any more. My thyroid levels are normal. My mom was hyperthyroid. She now has normal thyroid levels. I believe strongly that it is due to our taking arabinoglactan every morning. The only thing both of us did similar is that we both took it. I asked my mother in law who has hypothyroid to test it too. I will let you know how that goes. If this really is the reason why our thyroid levels are normal, there is a large population that can benefit from this knowledge. I was hoping to peak your interest. Please give it some thought.
   A. Thank you for feedback regarding arabinogalactan and thyroid disorders. We will wait to see if others provide us with similar results. It makes me slightly suspicious that both hyper and hypothyroid states were corrected, but we'll see.

Q. I was wondering if you have read the webpage that sells Activive, they claim it cures fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. I purchased a bottle of 60 capsules. The Activive bottle reads "dietary supplement" and "total fatigue relief". I have full blown FMS and CFS and am desperate so gave this a try. The website boasts a few testimonials, however, after a week of taking the supplements myself, I can only say that I'm not as "sleepy" as I was. I am allergic to sugar cane and am wondering if perhaps this supplement is the cause of my increase of muscle pain? The contents of each capsule reads: Aloe Vera - acemannans - arabinogalacian - beta (1/3 1/6) glucans chain - glucosamine sulfate - anogeissus latifola - cyampopis tetragonolana - xylitol.
   A. We are not familiar with this Activive product. In June 2007 we checked Medline and did not seen any published studies with Activive.

Q. I would ilke to take arabinogalactan supplements just to boost my immune system. However, I take 10mg of enalapril daily for border-line blood pressure. Do they interact? Is arabinogalactan linked with raising blood pressure? I asked my son (who is also a doctor, young resident), and he has no clue, nor does my GP either.
   A. I am not aware of arabinogalactan supplements raising blood pressure. As to interactions between enalapril and arabinogalactans, I am not seen any studies regarding taking them the same day.

Buy Arabinogalactan supplement from Larch Extract
Source Naturals, 60 Tablets
Standardized to 85% Arabinogalactans

Source Naturals Wellness Larch Extract contains arabinogalactans extracted from the Western Larch tree. In vitro studies have shown they stimulate the function of some immune cells.

Supplement Facts:
Larch Tree Extract
(Larix occidentalis) standardized to 85% Arabinogalactans yielding 1.7 g of Arabinogalactans

Suggested Use: Take one larch araginogalactan tablet daily or as recommended by your health care professional.