Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea augustifolia
- Indications with possible efficacy:
- Indications with possible, but poorly documented efficacy:
Supportive treatment for chronic respiratory tract infections - stimulation of the immune system (popular use)
Supportive treatment for the common cold - stimulation of the immune system (popular use)
Vaginal candidasis - stimulation of the immune system
- Indications with no proof of efficacy:
Common cold prevention - stimulation of the immune system
Eczema - topical use
Poorly healing wounds and ulcers - topical use
Recurrent genital herpes - stimulation of the immune system
Supportive treatment for lower urinary tract infections - stimulation of the immune system
Typhoid, malaria, diphtheria
- Risk of Drug Interactions: Low
- Adverse Effects: Not Frequent
Part of the plant used: aboveground parts (echinacea purpurea) and roots and rhizome (echinacea augustifolia)
Echinacea is a perennial plant indigenous to North America. It is widely found growing wild in fields. Today, most of the echinacea used comes from cultivated plants.
Echinacea's chemistry is very complex. Its positive effects are due to all of its active principles, and cannot be attributed to one specific constituent. Polysaccharides, flavonoids, cafeic acid derivatives and essential oils are among its active principles. Echinacea is used orally (capsules, liquid) or topically (liquid).
Direction of use
Echinacea stimulates the immune system. Several of its active principles enhance the production and activity of white blood cells (lymphocyte and macrophage). Echinacea also promotes the production of interferons.
- Recurrence of vaginal yeast infection:
Oral echinacea purpurea could be effective if combined to antifungal cream.
- Supportive treatment for chronic respiratory tract infections and cold:
Echinacea appears to shorten the duration and severity of a cold if started when symptoms are first notice. Start echinacea early as possible and take it for 7 to 10 days. A wide variety of doses have been used depending on the formulation (species, parts of plant, extractions). Do not continue treatment beyond 8 weeks, since prolonged use may weaken the immune system, possibly because of excess stimulation.
Powder extract (tablet or capsule): 250 to 500 mg 3 times a day (srandardized to contain 3.5 to 4% of echinacosides if augustifolia or 4% of sesquiterpene if purpurea.
Liquid extract (1:1 in alcohol 45%): 0.25 to 1.25 ml 3 times a day
Tincture (1:5 in alcohol 45%): 1 to 2 ml 3 times a day
There is insufficient reliable information to conclude that echinacea is effective in any other indication.
- Side effects
Echinacea is not associated with any specific toxicity. It may occasionally cause fever, nausea, and vomiting, dry mouth and bad taste. It may cause an allergic reaction.
It would be prudent to avoid echinacea in people with tuberculosis, collagenosis, multiple sclerosis or autoimmune diseases. Use with caution if you have renal diseases or insufficiency. Avoid if you are known to be allergic to ragweed and chrysanthemums.
In theory, echinacea could interfere with immunosuppressive drugs because its immunostimulating properties. If you are already taking medication, check with your pharmacist to see if it is compatible before using this product.
- Pregnancy and lactation
It is not recommended to pregnant and lactating women to use echinacea but there is preliminary evidence that echinacea could be used safely during pregnancy.
- Echinacea is a widely popular natural product. When used according to recommendations, it may be useful to shorten the duration of the common cold. However, it does not appear to prevent its onset. Unfortunately, it is unclear which of the many echinacea preparations should be recommended because of a lack of standardization of echinacea products and a lack of consistency in the study of these products.
In 2004, Canada adopted new regulations that control the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and importing of natural health products. The new regulations also include an adverse reaction reporting system. Products that conform to the regulation's criteria are identified with a natural product number (NPN) and can be legally sold in Canada. This number indicates that the product meets specific criteria for safety and purity, not that it is effective for any indication.
Medicinal plant contents vary naturally from plant to plant - just as fruits from the same package may vary in taste and texture. There is no standard to measure the active content of each plant. Thus, efficacy of natural products should be expected to vary from brand to brand as well as from bottle to bottle of the same brand.
For more information about the Natural Health Products Regulations, or to check if a product has been assessed, visit the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/index-eng.php.
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