echinacea

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Part used Root and flower
Use Harvest, processing, manufacturing as well as what part of the plant is used will ultimately determine how it affects the immune system – click here to scroll down this page to key recommendations

Only purchase echinacea products from trusted brands – echinacea products often may not contain what is written on the label. This study found that 10% of echinacea products samples did not contain any echinacea

Echinacea appears most effective when started as soon as symptoms are noticed, taken many times a day, and used for seven to 10 days

Benefits
  • Echinacea is effective against infection and providing proven treatment in:
    • Prevention and therapeutic treatment of viral respiratory tract infections
    • Treatment of temporary immunodeficiency and increased susceptibility to infections – eg adults experiencing immunodeficiency due to advanced age, undue stress or excess sports as well as children in day care or nurseries
    • Adjunct therapy to enhance effectiveness of anti-biotics in bacterial infections, chemotherapy and radiation induced immunosuppression, and Herpes infections
  • Echinacea shortens the duration of illness and speeds recovery
    • increases Natural Killer cells and macrophage activity
    • increases TH1 cell activity to fight colds and viruses
Dangers
  • Should not be taken for long periods of time (ie more than 30 days continually)
  • Should not be taken by people with auto-immune disorders or people taking immunosuppressive drugs due to effects on TH1 as an effective immuno-stimulant (see study)
  • Echinacea products appear to be safe and well-tolerated for short-term use.
  • Side effects are most common among people with allergies to other flowers, such as daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds, ragweed (study1, study2) and these side effects can include:
    • Rashes, Itchy skin, Hives, Swelling
    • Stomach pain, Nausea, Shortness of breath

Additional Research reports:

  • The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service reports that the immune system seems to be strongly influenced by the level of the echinacea dose:  10 milligrams of echinacea per one kilgram of body weight, taken daily over a 10-day period, is effective as an immune system stimulant. (1)
  • The medical journal Hindawi published material suggesting that echinacea stops viral colds. However, the most significant results of echinacea benefits with regards to the immune system were the effects when used on recurring infections. (2)
  • Research shows that echinacea probably reduces cold symptoms, but it seems its effects are more powerful once cold symptoms start. (3)
  • A meta analysis of 14 research studies found that taking echinacea may lower the risk of developing colds by more than 50% and shorten the duration of colds by one and a half days (4).

Other Studies

  • Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2012
    • After a 4-month investigation of the safety and efficacy of Echinacea with 755 subjects either given the supplement or placebo, the researchers concluded that Echinacea inhibited virally confirmed colds and showed maximal effects on recurrent infections. Additionally, the scientists demonstrated that Echinacea use was as safe as placebo use.
    • Read more about the study at Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
  • Placebo Effects and the Common Cold: A Randomized Controlled Trial: Annals of Family Medicine, 2011
    • From the study of 719 randomized study participants, the researchers found that the group of individuals “who believed in Echinacea and received pills, illnesses were substantively shorter and less severe [than the no-pill group], regardless of whether the pills contained Echinacea.”
    • Read more about the study at Annals of Family Medicine.
  • The effectiveness of a standardized Echinacea preparation in preventing colds, flus and other respiratory disorders for air-travellers: Thieme: Planta Medica, 2010
    • After conducting a randomized, double-blind placebo controlled clinical trail with 183 participants, researchers from Griffith University’s School of Pharmacy at Australia found that the group given Echinacea tablets reported a significantly lower number of respiratory illnesses compared to the placebo group.
    • Read more about the study at Annals of Family Medicine.
  • Review Article: The multiple actions of the phytomedicine Echinacea in the treatment of colds and flu: Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 2010
    • In a literature review, the authors concluded that “certain Echinacea extracts could provide multiple benefits to cold and flu sufferers, such as inactivation of the viruses, inactivation of certain pathogenic respiratory bacteria, and reversal of the pro-inflammatory responses induced by cold and flu agents.”
    • Read more about the review article at Journal of Medicinal Plants Research.
  • Echinacea for Treating the Common Cold. A Randomized Trial: Annals of Internal Medicine, 2010
    • After performing a randomized, placebo controlled trial of 719 patients, the researchers concluded that the cold “illness duration and severity were not statistically significant with Echinacea compared with placebo.” The authors of the research article suggested that their results “do not support the ability of this dose of the Echinacea formulation (10.2 g of dried Echinacea root during the first 24 hours and 5.1 g during each of the next 4 days) to substantively change the course of the common cold.”
    • Read more about the study at Annals of Internal Medicine.

Interested in Learning More About Echinacea and How to Use this Herbal Remedy? Visit:

1

    • The current consensus in the field of Echinacea research is that Echinacea preparations can have either immune-stimulatory or anti-inflammatory effects depending on the nature of the preparation used. If there is a negative outcome in a study, it may be because the wrong part of the plant was used.
    • Each part of Echinacea has unique phyto-chemistries that can benefit the immune system in many ways. Harvest, processing, and manufacturing (as well as what part of the plant is used) will ultimately determine how it affects the immune system

As a general rule they conclude

  • The root fraction, naturally rich in alkylamides, is anti-inflammatory and is likely beneficial in the acute stages of a cold or flu. During this time, Echinacea root must be taken in high dose and frequency to be effective as soon as symptoms begin to appear. Extracts made by using ethanol contain higher levels of alkylamides and phenolic compounds: ethanolic extracts of Echinacea roots are most likely to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity likely due to the presence of alkylamides
  • The aerial portion of Echinacea is best taken to stimulate and strengthen the immune system throughout the season. Echinacea in this form is thought to enhance the immune system and should be taken in a lower dose long term
  • Extracts made by using water are more likely to contain compounds such as polysaccharides, lipoproteins, and glycoproteins: polysaccharides and/or lipoproteins present in aerial parts extracts appear to be responsible for their immune-stimulatory activity
  • Echinacea fresh-pressed juice appears to enhance immunity by increasing production of certain cytokines, particularly for people who find themselves getting sick frequently. It is often suggested that this stimulatory effect may aid the body in warding off infection and perhaps be helpful for preventing colds and flu

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