Unique Natural Prebiotic for Immune Support
Carolyn Perrini, CLS, CNC
Larch arabinogalactan is a well known
source of dietary fiber that offers powerful therapeutic benefit
as a prebiotic and as a modulator of the immune system. Of
particular interest is its potential as an adjunctive supplement
in the treatment of chronic diseases, including cancer. (1)
Arabinogalactan (AG) is a polysaccharide found in the cell walls
of a wide variety of edible and non-edible, woody plants. The
wood of the western larch tree (Larix occidentalis) provides a
rich harvest of free arabinogalactan from its inner bark. This
complex carbohydrate helps the tree recover from injury from
lightning strikes, and protects against the freeze-thaw cycles
experienced in the high altitudes of the Pacific and Inland
Northwest where it grows. (2)
Polysaccharides are often found in many medicinal herbs used for
immune enhancement, including Echinacea and Astragalus. (3) AG
is a fine, dry, off-white powder with a mildly sweet taste that
mixes well with liquids. This safe and effective phytochemical
is FDA approved for use as a dietary fiber and as a food
additive. There are no known
reports of toxicity. Credit for introducing larch AG into
clinical practice goes to the distinguished naturopathic
physician, Dr. Peter DAdamo.
AG Supports Digestion
Larch AG acts as a food supply to friendly intestinal bacteria.
Like the well-known fructooligosaccharides (FOS), AG is
considered a prebiotic. The non-absorbed fiber is eagerly
fermented by the distal gut microflora, resulting in an elevated
production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)?primarily
butyrate, but also propionate. SCFAs are critically important to
the health of the colon and are the principal energy source
(butyrate) for the colonic epithelial cells. (8,9) Many
clinicians use prebiotics to prevent and treat intestinal
conditions like diverticulosis, leaky-gut, irritable bowel
syndrome (IBS) as well as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like
Crohns and ulcerative colitis.
Studies have shown that larch AG consumption reduces intestinal
ammonia generation. (5) Reducing ammonia is significant because
even low ammonia levels can have damaging effects on intestinal
colonic cells. (6) AG may especially benefit patients with liver
disease who are unable to detoxify ammonia, resulting in hepatic
AG Enhances Immunity
While larch AG is important for digestive health it has received
even more attention for its ability to promote the health of the
immune system. Larch AG seems to enhance immune response and may
be termed a biological response modifier. (10)
Larch AG may be important in cancer treatment protocols due to
its ability to block the metastasis of tumor cells to the liver,
and to stimulate NK cell cytotoxicity. (3) Tumor metastasis to
the liver is more common than to other organ sites. AG has been
shown to reduce tumor cell colonization and increase survival
time of subjects with various cancers. (12,13,14) Incidentally,
modified citrus pectin has the same anti-metastatic mechanism of
action as larch AG, but does not provide the immune-modulating
NK cell activity is a functional marker for health. In one
well-designed study, larch AG induced an increased release of
interferon gamma (IFN gamma), tumor necrosis factor alpha,
interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). This
resulted in activating two powerful cells of the immune system:
macrophages and NK cells. It was found that the IFN gamma was
most responsible for the observed enhancement of NK cytotoxicity.
Reports in the medical literature link decreased NK cell
activity to a variety of chronic diseases including chronic
fatigue syndrome, (15) viral hepatitis, (16,17) HIV/AIDS, (3)
and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. (18) The
ability of larch arabinogalactans to stimulate NK activity might
be the reason for the significantly improved clinical outcome of
Larch AG has also been shown to decrease the frequency and
severity of pediatric otitis media caused by gram negative rods
(especially, Escherichia coli and Klebsiella sp.) (3) (Note:
Xylitol consumption also reduces the incidence of otitis media.)
Larch arabinogalactan in powder form is typically dosed in
teaspoons or tablespoons at a concentration of approximately 3
grams per teaspoon. The adult dosage is one to three teaspoons
per day in divided doses. Because of its mild taste and
excellent solubility in water or juice, it is easy to use with
children. Clinical feedback suggests an occasional reaction of
bloating and flatulence in less than three percent of
individuals (mostly women). This side effect is probably due to
the effect AG has on beneficially altering intestinal microflora
and will often disappear after several days to one week. (10)
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2. Chemstone. Theoretical Basis for Process Improvement with
Chemstone OAE Technology.
3. DAdamo P. Larch arabinogalactan is a novel immune modulator.
Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients 1996, July; 156: 42-46.
4. Vince AJ, McNeil NI, Wager JD, Wrong OM. The effect of
lactulose, pectin, arabinogalactan, and cellulose on the
production of organic acids and metabolism of ammonia by
intestinal bacteria in a faecal incubation system. Br J Nutr
5. Englyst HN, Hay S, Macfarlane GT. Polysaccharide breakdown by
mixed populations of human faecal bacteria. FEMS Microbiol
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arabinogalactan on gastrointestinal and blood parameters in
healthy human subjects. J Amer College of Nutrition 2001; 20:
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of complex carbohydrates by Bifidobacterium spp. Int J Food
Microbiol 1994; 24:199-210.
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cells of the rat colon. Gastroenterology 1989; 83:424-429.
9.Tsao D, Shi Z, Wong A, Kim YS. Effect of sodium butyrate on
carcinoembryonic antigen production by human colonic
adenocarcinoma cells in culture. Cancer Res 1983;43:1217-1222.
10. Kelly GS. Larch arabinogalactan: Clinical relevance of a
novel immune-enhancing polysaccharide. Alternative Med Rev 1994;
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natural killer cytotoxicity by arabinogalactan from Larix
occidentalis. Cancer Immunol Immunother 1993;36:237-244.
12. Hagmar B, Ryd W, Skomedal H. Arabinogalactan blockade of
experimental metastases to liver by murine hepatoma. Invasion
13. Beuth J, Ko HL, Schirrmacher V,et al. Inhibition of liver
tumor cell colonization in two animal tumor models by lectin
blocking with D-galactose or arabinogalactan. Clin Exp
14. Beuth J, Ko HL, Oette K, et al. Inhibition of liver
metastasis in mice by blocking hepatocyte lectins with
arabinogalactan infusions and D-galactose. J Cancer Res Clin
15.Levine PH, Whiteside TL,Friberg D, et al. Dysfunction of
natural killer cell activity in a family with chronic fatigue
syndrome. Clin Immunol Immunopathol 1998;88:96-104.
16. Machado IV, Deibis L, Risquez E, et al. Immunoclinical,
molecular, and immunopathologic approach to chronic viral
hepatitis.Therapeutic considerations. GEN 1994;48:124-132.
[article in spanish].
17. Corado J, Toro F, Rivera H, et al. Impairment of natural
killer (NK) cytotoxicity activity in hepatitis C virus (HCV)
infection. Clin Exp Immunol 1997;109:451-457.
18. Kastrukoff LF, Morgan NG, Zecchini D, et al. A role for
natural killer cells in the immunopathogenesis of multiple
sclerosis. J Neuroimmunol 1998;86:123-133.
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