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Larch Arabinogalactan

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated January 11, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Larch arabinogalactan is a natural substance sourced from the wood of the larch tree (Larix occidentalis). A type of fiber, arabinogalactans are found in many plants but occur in particularly high concentrations in the larch tree. Widely available in dietary supplement form, larch arabinogalactan is thought to offer a number of health benefits.

Uses for Larch Arabinogalactan

Proponents claim that larch arabinogalactan can boost the immune system and, in turn, protect against the common cold, influenza, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, and other types of viral and bacterial infections.

Larch arabinogalactan is thought to stimulate the immune system in part by increasing intestinal levels of probiotics, a type of beneficial bacteria found naturally in the gut and known to play a key role in immune function.

In addition, larch arabinogalactan is said to treat and/or prevent the following health conditions:

Larch arabinogalactan is also said to treat certain types of cancer, such as liver cancer.

Benefits of Larch Arabinogalactan

Although research on the health effects of larch arabinogalactan is fairly limited, there's some evidence that it may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available studies on larch arabinogalactan:

1) Immune System

Preliminary research shows that larch arabinogalactan may provide immune-enhancing benefits. In a 1999 report published in Alternative Medicine Review, for example, investigators note that larch arabinogalactan has been found to increase probiotic levels and stimulate immune-cell activity in experimental studies.

In addition, a preliminary study published in Alternative Medicine Review in 2002 found that taking larch arabinogalactan in combination with echinacea may benefit the immune system. In tests on 48 women, researchers found that four weeks of treatment with a combination of larch arabinogalactan and echinacea helped increase production of complement properdin (a protein known to play a key role in immune function).

There's also some evidence that larch arabinogalactan may help improve response to the pneumonia vaccine. In a 2010 study published in Nutrition Journal, scientists found that participants treated with larch arabinogalactan experienced a significantly greater antibody response than those treated with a placebo. The study involved 45 healthy adults, each of whom received treatment for a total of 72 days (starting 30 days prior receiving the pneumonia vaccine).

2) Dry Eye Syndrome

Animal-based research indicates that larch arabinogalactan shows promise in the treatment of dry eye. In a 2007 study from the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, tests on rabbits revealed that larch arabinogalactan helped the eye surface to retain liquid. Larch arabinogalactan also appeared to promote the healing of wounds in the cornea.

3) High Cholesterol

Larch arabinogalactan may not help keep cholesterol in check, according to a small study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2004. For the study, 54 healthy adults consumed either larch arabinogalactan, tamarack arabinogalactan (a type of arabinogalactan sourced from another species of larch tree), or a placebo every day for six month. Study results showed that neither type of arabinogalactan was superior to the placebo in reducing cholesterol levels.

Safety

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of larch arabinogalactan. However, larch arabinogalactan is known to trigger a number of side effects, including bloating and flatulence.

There's also some concern that use of larch arabinogalactan could worsen symptoms in people with autoimmune disorders. Therefore, individuals with autoimmune disorders (such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis) should consult a physician prior to using larch arabinogalactan.

Alternatives to Larch Arabinogalactan

A number of natural remedies have been found to enhance immune function and protect against certain types of infection. For example, research suggests that echinacea and astragalus may help stimulate your immune system and shorten the duration and severity of colds.

Exercising regularly, getting sufficient sleep, and following a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants may also help bolster your immune system.

Where To Find Larch Arabinogalactan

Widely available for purchase online, larch arabinogalactan is sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Sources

Authors not listed. "Larch arabinogalactan." Altern Med Rev. 2000 Oct;5(5):463-6.

Burgalassi S, Nicosia N, Monti D, Falcone G, Boldrini E, Chetoni P. "Larch arabinogalactan for dry eye protection and treatment of corneal lesions: investigations in rabbits." J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Dec;23(6):541-50.

Kelly GS. "Larch arabinogalactan: clinical relevance of a novel immune-enhancing polysaccharide." Altern Med Rev. 1999 Apr;4(2):96-103.

Kim LS, Waters RF, Burkholder PM. "Immunological activity of larch arabinogalactan and Echinacea: a preliminary, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Altern Med Rev. 2002 Apr;7(2):138-49.

Marett R, Slavin JL. "No long-term benefits of supplementation with arabinogalactan on serum lipids and glucose." J Am Diet Assoc. 2004 Apr;104(4):636-9.

Udani JK, Singh BB, Barrett ML, Singh VJ. "Proprietary arabinogalactan extract increases antibody response to the pneumonia vaccine: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, pilot study in healthy volunteers." Nutr J. 2010 Aug 26;9:32.

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