Echinacea is an excellent anti-infection agent. It is most effective when taken at the onset of symptoms. The herb stimulates the formation of leukocytes and enhances phagocytosis. It inhibits the enzyme hyaluronidase, which aids the infection process by thinning cellular matrix, thereby making cells more permeable to infection. Echinacea also stimulates wound healing and has cortisone-like activity. One of its constituents, echinacin, exhibits interferon-like activity. Another component, properdin, helps neutralise bacterial and viral blood toxins and increases the total number of immune cells developing in the bone marrow. Echinacea also exhibits some antitumor activity.
purple coneflower, black Sampson, rudbeckia, Missouri coneflower.
The Plains Indians used various species for treatment of sore throats, toothaches, infections, wounds, snakebites, and skin problems as well as mumps, measles, smallpox, and cancer. When these illnesses occurred, they would suck on the root. They
also applied root poultices to all manner of wounds, used Echinacea mouthwash for sensitive teeth and gums and drank the tea to treat ailments. Samples of Echinacea were uncovered in campsites from the 1600s, but its use probably goes back much further. Since the 1930s, over 300 scientific articles have been written about it. It was included in King’s American Dispensatory after the eclectic doctor, John King, test the herb and successfully used it to treat bee stings, chronic nasal congestion, leg ulcers and infant cholera.
Chemoprotective, antidiarrhoeal, alterative, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic (GIT), antiseptic (respiratory tract), antiseptic (topically), antiseptic (urinary), antiviral (systemically), diaphoretic, immunomodulator, lymphatic, sialogogue, vasodilator, wound-healing.
All infections including viral, bacterial and parasitic, skin disorders including abscess, acne, boils (furunculosis), wounds. May also be used topically. Respiratory conditions including bronchitis, nasopharyngeal inflammation, common cold, fever, influenza, pertussis, sinusitis, tonsillitis, gastrointestinal conditions including gingivitis, candidiasis, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea and dysentery. Urinary infections including cystitis and urethritis, chemotherapy to minimise the side-effects of immune deficiency and post-viral syndromes, inflammation, connective tissue.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and yeast infection.
E. purpurea acts against Candida albicans, the microorganism that can cause yeast infections. In German studies, echinacea acted by stimulating the immune system cells known as macrophages to engulf and consume yeast cells by 30 to 45 percent but did not increase the numbers of immune cells overall. The advantage of keeping the number of macrophages constant is that it helps to avoid inflammatory reactions that can accompany infection. These studies were on animals, and human studies do not exist. Echinacea could be useful for people with CFS because yeast infections may accompany symptoms of this disorder. E. purpurea has been shown to stimulate the cellular immune function of immune cells in patients with CFS.
Colds, cough, influenza, and upper respiratory infections.
In 2006, a Cochrane Collaboration review was conducted that compared the effectiveness of echinacea with a placebo, no treatment, or another treatment. This is a system often used in medicine to compare different studies on the same thing, such as a particular herb or drug. Of the sixteen studies identified, most looked at whether echinacea was effective for preventing and treating a cold. Nine out of the sixteen studies showed that echinacea was beneficial for treating a cold, but not one showed echinacea to be effective at reducing the chances of catching a cold. Because of the lack of standardisation of the herb, another comprehensive review of eleven studies found echinacea not to be beneficial for treating the common cold. Even when standardized echinacea was used in a well-controlled study, where 437 participants were given a cold virus, there was no difference from the placebo group in length of sickness, the amount of virus measured in the blood, volume of nasal secretions, or nasal-lavage specimen measurement of key immune-system cells. This study used E. angustifolia root.
E. angustifolia, mainly when used with goldenseal, stops drainage and speeds healing. This combination of herbs increases the body’s production of immune globulins that attack both bacteria and viruses, such as those that commonly cause an ear infection.
- One placebo-controlled clinical study of 160 patients with infections of the upper respiratory tract has been performed. Significant improvement was observed after patients were treated with an aqueous-alcoholic tincture (1:5) at 90 drops/day (900mg roots). The duration of the illness decreased from 13 to 9.8 days for bacterial infections, and from 12.9 to 9.1 days for viral infections.
- Recently 26 controlled clinical trials (18 randomised, 11 double-blind) were systematically reviewed in Germany, Nineteen trials studied the prophylaxis or curative treatment of infections, four trials studied the reduction of side- effects of chemotherapy, and three investigated the modulation of specific immune parameters. The review concluded that Echinacea-containing preparations are efficacious immunomodulators. However, it also found that there was insufficient evidence for clear therapeutic recommendations as to which preparation or dosage to use for a specific indication.
- A large-scale longitudinal trial (4598 patients) studied the effects of an ointment containing a lyophylisate of the expressed juice of Herba Echinaceae Purpureae. The ointment was used to treat inflammatory skin conditions, wounds, eczema, burns, herpes simplex, and varicose ulcerations of the legs. Therapeutic benefit from the ointment was observed in 85.5% of the cases. The treatment periods ranged from 7.1 to 15.5 days.
Dosage (Divided Daily)
• Dried Powder: 1,000 – 3,000mg (10,000 – 15,000mg for acute conditions)
• Tincture: 2 – 6 mL (1:2) – (20 – 30mL for acute conditions)
Contraindicated in transplant patients taking immunosuppressant medication and those with known hypersensitivity to plants of the Compositae (Asteraceae) family.
None Echinacea has been shown to modulate cytokines, which may provoke the inflammatory response in asthmatics. However, echinacea may reduce the frequency of respiratory viral infections, which can aggravate asthma. Use with caution, and within recommended dosage guidelines. Use with caution during lactation, or for children. Adverse effects include digestive upset, skin reactions, unpleasant taste sensation; leucopenia and erythema have been reported.
Interactions with other drugs
Use with caution with cyclosporin and other immunosuppressive medication (Neoral, Cicloral, Cyclosporin) due to possible antagonistic pharmacodynamic interactions.
- Balch, P. A., & Bell, S. J. (2012). Prescription for Herbal Healing (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Avery.
- Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: herbal formulations for the individual patient. St. Louis, MI: Churchill Livingstone.
- Herbalpedia (2013)
- Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine: the ultimate multidisciplinary reference to the amazing realm of healing plants, in a quick-study, one-stop guide. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pub.
- Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh; London: Churchill Livingstone.
World Health Organization., & Ebrary. (1999). WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants (pp. electronic text.). Retrieved from https://virtual.anu.edu.au/login/?url=http://site.ebrary.com/lib/anuau/Top?id=10040306
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