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Botanical Agents

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

13 years, 11 months ago

2450  0
Posted on Dec 30, 2005, 8 p.m. By Bill Freeman

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: An herb native to North America, Echinacea (purple cone flower) is an important component of Native American medicine, traditionally used as both an anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic, especially for skin problems. Echinacea was introduced into medical practice in the US in 1887 and touted for use in conditions ranging from colds to syphilis.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

An herb native to North America, Echinacea (purple cone flower) is an important component of Native American medicine, traditionally used as both an anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic, especially for skin problems. Echinacea was introduced into medical practice in the US in 1887 and touted for use in conditions ranging from colds to syphilis. Modern research into the plants properties began in Germany in the 1930s. The active ingredients of Echinacea are found in both the root and the aboveground parts of the plant. In recent years, Echinacea has been studied for its antiviral, immune boosting and antibody producing properties. Echinacea increases the production of white blood cells and helps them move into the circulatory system more quickly. Currently, one of the most popular uses for Echinacea is to relieve the symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold. Whether or not Echinacea can prevent colds is a matter of some debate.

ROLE FOR ANTI-AGING:

Echinacea has been shown to boost the immune system, short-circuit colds and flu, fight bacterial and viral infections, lower fever and calm allergic reactions when taken internally. One recent study found that echinacea stimulates alveolar macrophages, this finding gives some support for using the herb for the treatment and prevention of upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. Several constituents of Echinacea have been shown to work together to increase the proliferation and activity of white blood cells. These include alkylamides/ polyacetylenes, caffeic acid derivatives, and polysaccharides. Researchers have also determined that Echinacea increases levels of the antiviral substance interferon as well as an immune-related blood protein known as properdin. In addition, a recent study found that Echinacea contains a number of antioxidant compounds, which suggests that Echinacea extracts would protect the skin from sunlightinduced free-radical damage. Results of a study published in 2002 suggest that echinacea may help to alleviate some of the side effects associated with chemotherapy.

THERAPEUTIC DAILY AMOUNT:

Echinacea products vary widely and often include other ingredients such as zinc and goldenseal. There are three different types of Echinacea (E. purpurea, E. pallida and E. angustifolia), and various formulations contain different parts of the plant (leaves, flowers, roots). Studies indicate that the best results occur in people who use a liquid or tincture form, rather than a pill or capsule.

MAXIMUM SAFE LEVEL: Not established

SIDE EFFECTS/CONTRAINDICATIONS:

Echinacea is one of the least toxic herbs around; it is not known to cause any side effects. Allergic reactions are rare, but one should take only a small dose at first if one is allergic to any other plants in the compositae family (which includes sunflowers, daisies, and dandelions). Echinacea should only be taken on an as-needed basis. German health authorities  recommend that people should not take echinacea if they have an autoimmune illness, such as lupus (SLE), are HIVpositive, or have progressive systemic diseases, such as tuberculosis and multiple sclerosis. They also recommend that no one should take Echinacea either internally or externally for more than 8 weeks in a row. Efficacy may decline if used for an extended period, so holidays (where you do not take in daily) are recommended. Echinacea may also interfere with immuno-suppressive drugs, and its use is not recommended during pregnancy.

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