table of contents
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
You’ve probably heard that some plants have “healing properties.” While that term doesn’t mean much on its own, there’s no denying that certain plant compounds may be associated with positive health benefits. In particular, there’s a group of plants with naturally occurring chemicals, called flavonoids, that have shown promising effects on preventing a wide range of chronic illnesses (Salehi, 2019).
One of the most well-studied of these plant flavonoids is called apigenin. It’s available from many plant sources and as a dietary supplement.
Here’s what you should know about apigenin, its uses, and its potential health benefits.
What is apigenin?
Apigenin is a type of flavonoid, which are compounds that certain plants produce to defend themselves against ultraviolet light and infection. Plants containing apigenin and other flavonoids (like quercetin and kaempferol) have been used to battle diseases in many cultures. Apigenin has been shown to possess antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic activities. Although it can’t stop all types of bacteria on its own, it can be combined with other antibiotics to increase their effects (Wang, 2019).
Our knowledge about how apigenin works in the body is still limited, but it’s gaining favorable attention among researchers. There’s still a lot we need to learn about this particular flavonoid, but it appears to have low toxicity and multiple potential benefits (Wang, 2019).
What are the benefits of apigenin supplements?
Many studies have looked at the potential health benefits of apigenin over the years. Its antioxidant properties are well known, but it may also help with conditions caused by inflammation, autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, and many others (Salehi, 2019).
Apigenin for sleep
Insomnia can profoundly affect your health and well-being. Chamomile flower extract, a plant high in apigenin, has been studied for its ability to improve sleep at night in participants with insomnia not caused by a medication or medical condition. While the chamomile only had minimal effects on sleep at night, the participants reported a modest improvement in their ability to function effectively the next day (Salehi, 2019).
Apigenin for testosterone
Testosterone is an important hormone for male fertility. It plays a critical role in male development and the production of sperm. During aging, your testosterone levels can decrease, often resulting in fatigue, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle mass, and other undesirable symptoms (Martin, 2020).
Flavonoids such as apigenin have been shown to delay the falling testosterone levels caused by aging in males. It may even increase how much testosterone the testicles can produce. A high-quality diet full of fruits and vegetables can generally give you enough flavonoids to achieve these benefits (Martin, 2020).
How to naturally increase testosterone: 8 testosterone boosters
Apigenin for anxiety
Apigenin can cross the barrier that separates the blood in your body from the blood in your brain (called the “blood-brain barrier”). This means that it’s able to act on your central nervous system. Researchers aren’t totally sure how much of an effect apigenin can have, but studies using chamomile extract (which is high in apigenin), have been shown to have a calming effect (Salehi, 2019; Ali, 2017).
Some studies suggest that chamomile supplements may be helpful for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Researchers found that participants reported lower scores on anxiety scales than those who took a placebo (Wang, 2019).
Apigenin for blood sugar
Researchers think that apigenin might have the ability to help you regulate your blood glucose levels by increasing the amount of insulin you release. This is the hormone that lowers your blood sugar (Salehi, 2019).
It can also help prevent some of the health complications of diabetes. Apigenin can help increase the levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the cells that make up the walls of your vascular system. This, in turn, may protect against the damage that happens to your blood vessels when you have diabetes (Salehi, 2019).
Apigenin for cancer
Cancer is caused by the abnormal multiplying of cells in the body. Currently, chemotherapy is typically the best way to treat cancer, but it has significant side effects, and it’s possible to develop resistance to the drugs. So, researchers have looked towards other types of molecules, including flavonoids like apigenin, to treat conditions such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, and other types of carcinoma (Yan, 2017).
Trials are ongoing to test the anti-cancer abilities of apigenin. Researchers think that apigenin stops cancer from multiplying by triggering cancer cell death (apoptosis). It may also stimulate your immune system to help fight the cancer cells and has anti-inflammatory properties (Yan, 2017).
Apigenin is likely only moderately effective against cancer at the doses commonly used in humans, so researchers will likely recommend a combination of apigenin and chemotherapy drugs if apigenin is eventually recommended at all (Yan, 2017). At this time, chemotherapy, radiation, and other well-researched therapies are the best treatments against most cancers.
Quercetin: what is it, benefits, side effects, dosage
What foods contain apigenin?
Apigenin is widely distributed in the plant kingdom. It has been found in various vegetables, herbs, and fruit. Dried parsley and chamomile, both high in apigenin content, are some of the most common sources (Wang, 2019).
Common foods that have been shown to be high in apigenin include (Wang, 2019; Salehi, 2019; Ali, 2017):
- Chamomile tea
- Wheat sprouts
- Beer and wine
Are there any side effects from apigenin?
In general, consuming plants that contain dietary flavonoids, such as apigenin, is considered safe and may even have health benefits. There’s a low risk of toxicity. The amount you eat in your diet is highly unlikely to reach an amount that can cause harm (Wang, 2019).
There is a slightly higher risk of side effects when you intentionally take higher doses from a dietary supplement. The potential side effects of apigenin are usually mild but can include (Salehi, 2019; Wang, 2019):
- Possible allergy to apigenin containing foods
- Upset stomach
- Muscle relaxation
Make sure to speak with your healthcare provider before taking apigenin supplements if you take any prescription medications. There is a significant chance of drug interactions with apigenin, particularly if you take cyclosporine, warfarin, or some types of chemotherapy drugs (Salehi, 2019; Wang, 2019).
Diabetes diet: improving blood sugar with food
Apigenin supplement: how much to take?
Apigenin treatment is reported to be safe, even at high dosages. No toxicity has been reported, but you are at risk of being more likely to experience side effects if a high dose is used (Salehi, 2019).
Since apigenin is a supplement, there are no officially recommended dosages. The studies conducted have used many different doses depending on the condition they were looking at.
Apigenin most commonly comes in 50 mg pills.
If you decide to try apigenin to improve your health, make sure that you speak with your healthcare provider.
- Ali, F., Rahul, Naz, F., Jyot, S.i & Hasan Siddique, Y. (2017) Health functionality of apigenin: A review. International Journal of Food Properties, 20(6), 1197-1238, doi: 10.1080/10942912.2016.1207188. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942912.2016.1207188
- Martin, L. J. & Touaibia, M. (2020). Improvement of testicular steroidogenesis using flavonoids and isoflavonoids for prevention of late-onset male hypogonadism. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 9(3), 237. doi: 10.3390/antiox9030237. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7139932/
- Salehi, B., Venditti, A., Sharifi-Rad, M., Kręgiel, D., Sharifi-Rad, J., Durazzo, A., et al. (2019). The therapeutic potential of apigenin. International Journal Of Molecular Sciences, 20(6), 1305. doi: 10.3390/ijms20061305. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6472148/
- Wang, M., Firrman, J., Liu, L., & Yam, K. (2019). A review on flavonoid apigenin: dietary intake, adme, antimicrobial effects, and interactions with human gut microbiota. BioMed Research International, 7010467. doi: 10.1155/2019/7010467. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6817918/
- Yan, X., Qi, M., Li, P., Zhan, Y., & Shao, H. (2017). Apigenin in cancer therapy: anti-cancer effects and mechanisms of action. Cell & Bioscience, 7, 50. doi: 10.1186/s13578-017-0179-x. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5629766/
Dr. Steve Silvestro is a board-certified pediatrician and Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.