- Apigenin is an anti-inflammatory compound in certain herbs and supplements.
- Research suggests apigenin can boost testosterone, improve sleep and mood, and support healthy aging.
Ever slathered parsley butter on a rib-eye, eaten an orange, or tossed cilantro on a burrito? Then you’ve consumed apigenin. This natural polyphenol has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. And it’s found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. In fact, one study found, on average, people consumed about .45 to 1.17 milligrams of apigenin a day without trying (1).
And that’s a good thing.
Apigenin is a part of a class of plant chemicals called flavonoids, which have many functions including helping protect plants from UV rays and insects. Consuming it won’t help you avoid a blistering sunburn or swarm of mosquitos, but the health perks can still be pretty impressive.
Here’s 10 of the most promising.
1. Reduces Cancer Risk
Researchers have been studying apigenin’s anti-cancer properties since the 1980s. One study published in 1986 found that the compound inhibited the mutations in cancer cells in a petri dish by as much as 62 percent (1).
Among research done on humans, in one study where subjects were women, a reduced risk of breast cancer was found in participants who increased their intake of a type of flavonoid called a flavone of which apigenin is one (2).
In a small study where 36 of the patients enrolled had resected colon cancer, researchers found that participants with resected colon cancer did not experience a resurgence of the disease after taking a supplement for 3-4 years that contained 20 milligrams of apigenin combined with another compound (3).
2. Promotes healthy aging
Apigenin may protect tissues throughout the body from premature aging, thanks to two different mechanisms: Apigenin is a natural polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties as well as an antioxidant, explains Jim Staheli, DO, medical director of Broad Health.
Inflammation is one of the greatest causes of age-related diseases, says Staheli. “By reducing the inflammatory process, apigenin may assist in healthy aging.”
3. Increases testosterone
About 10 percent of the testosterone in your body converts to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a super-potent form of T linked to prostate enlargement and male pattern baldness, says Staheli.
“Apigenin seems to decrease that conversion,” he says. As a result, the testosterone in your body is more likely to keep your libido humming and help you build muscle.
Apigenin may also help to boost overall testosterone levels (4). That’s an important outcome for men with testosterone deficiency, which can lead to reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, and other issues, says Staheli.
KNOW YOUR T
4. Helps antibiotics work more effectively
Some types of germs, like bacteria, have developed the ability to outsmart today’s antibiotics, leading to more than 35,000 deaths from anti-microbial-resistant infections each year in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control (5).
Though most of the research has been done in petri dishes and in rodents, research suggests that apigenin may have what’s known as “reverse antibiotic” activity against some bacteria.
In other words, reverse antibiotics, like apigenin, can help stop the accumulation of antibiotic resistance by bacteria, because treatment with reverse antibiotics kill the bacteria that have acquired the antibiotic resistance and leave only the bacteria that are susceptible to the antibiotic.
Studies continue to test apigenin to determine which bacteria it is capable of inhibiting. Some research has found apigenin is able to inhibit some viruses, including the ones that lead to herpes, Hepatitis C, Influenza, and African swine fever (6).
5. Reduces anxiety
One reason chamomile may chill people out: It’s one of the richest sources of apigenin around.
There is some evidence that apigenin may reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In one study, 26 participants ate chocolate that contained 500 milligrams of flavonoids (including apigenin) for four weeks. Researchers then measured how much cortisol the study participants produced in their salivary glands. There was a significant reduction in cortisol secretion when people had the flavonoid-rich chocolate compared to when they consumed a low-flavonoid alternative (7).
Another possible calming mechanism: Apigenin may bind to brain receptors that help to produce feelings of calm, says Staheli.
6. Promotes sleep
Apigenin’s calming effects may help you drift off to sleep more easily, says Staheli.
In a study of 1,936 adults, researchers determined that people who consumed foods rich in certain polyphenols reported improved sleep quality compared to people who consumed diets low in polyphenols. Among the polyphenols they consumed, apigenin and another polyphenol called naringenin seemed to work the most powerfully (8).
7. Reduces diabetes risk
Consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables helps improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes for many reasons—and apigenin just might be one of them.
In studies, flavonoids show promise for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy, a diabetes-related complication (9). And apigenin may help to make cells more sensitive to the hormone insulin, though, so far, research has mostly been done in petri dishes and mice (10, 11).
“If apigenin or any other substance can stimulate the power of insulin allowing glucose into the cell, that’s what we want to improve outcomes for diabetics,” says Staheli.
8. Numbs pain
Thanks to its reported anti-inflammatory effects, apigenin may help to soothe joint pain.
In a randomized controlled clinical trial, people with osteoarthritis who applied a topical oil made from apigenin-rich chamomile three times a day for three weeks reduced their need for acetaminophen (a common pain killer), compared to patients who didn’t use the oil (12).
9. Lifts mood
So far, the research here has only been done in animals. That said, some studies have found that apigenin may lift mood by protecting brain cells as well as the connections between them. Its potential for natural anti-inflammatory and calming effects may also play a mood-boosting role (13).
10. Protects kidneys
If you’re taking medications such as ibuprofen or certain antibiotics, stock up on foods high in apigenin, says Staheli. The antioxidant seems to protect sensitive kidney tissues from oxidative stress and inflammation (14).
Food Sources of Apigenin
Drinking a hot mug of chamomile tea and adding dried parsley to recipes are two of the best ways to consume the flavonoid, Staheli says. If neither of those sound tempting, load on this other grub that’s rich in the flavonoid:
So, Should You Start Taking Apigenin?
The research on this supplement remains in its infancy, but given how prevalent apigenin is in fruits, vegetables, and herbs, its safety is well documented.
Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to it, “It’s really considered safe,” says Staheli. One exception: If you’re taking blood thinners; apigenin may interact with them. In that case, you’ll want to talk to your health care provider before proceeding.
“We still don’t know if it will have the same effects in humans as it does in animals, but there’s substantial evidence that it should,” says Staheli.
You may see doses as high as 1500 milligrams a day, but that’s quite high, says Staheli. A more conservative dose is around 5 to 50 milligrams.