Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
Echinacea is a perennial herb that grows in the prairies of western America and is cultivated in Europe. This herb is traditionally used as an immunostimulant and anti-inflammatory.
Echinacea has been shown to possess antiseptic and antiviral properties and also widens blood vessels. Traditionally, this herb is used in the management of Boils, septicaemia, Abscesses and carbuncles (inflamed hair follicles).
Part of the plant used: ROOT OR RHIZOME.
Herb powder, 1g three times daily.
Echinacea has been used for Infections, Wound healing, Skin health, stimulating immune function and as an antiseptic.
Colds and flus:
Echinacea is a popular treatment in the United States for colds and flus. Controlled studies confirm its effectiveness in speeding up recovery from colds or flu (1). Echinacea also helps significantly reduce cold and flu symptoms (2,3,4). Echinacea can also prevent a cold that is just starting (5). However, it is not recommended for use for long-term cold prevention.
Echinacea has been shown to stimulate white blood cell activity and their secretion of tumour necrosis factor (TNF) (6,7) which causes the death of cells and microbes. The polysaccharide and polyacetylene fractions of the herb stimulate B-lymphocyte (white blood cell) production (8). Further scientific evidence is needed to confirm echinacea?s immunostimulant properties.
Echinacea extracts have been hailed for their potent antiviral properties. Extracts of the herb have been shown to increase resistance to Influenza, Herpes and the pox viruses (9). These properties are thought to be due to binding of certain factors to carbohydrate receptors on T-lymphocytes (white blood cells) leading to their activation (10,11).
Activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Proteus mirabilis has been associated with echinacea (12).
Spasms caused by abnormally high levels of acetylcholine (a chemical involved in the functioning of the nervous system) have been shown to be controlled to some degree by echinacea (12).
Hyaluronic acid stimulates the growth of the cells responsible for the formation of collagen and connective tissue. The polysaccharide extract of echinacea has been shown to help the formation of a stable complex involving hyaluronic acid (13).
Echinacea has a favourable effect on the symptoms of irritable bladder and bacterial Bladder Infections (12).
SAFETY AND PRECAUTIONS
Echinacea is reported to produce a positive patch test reaction in a few individuals with a history of plant Dermatitis.
Trace amounts of echinacin (polysaccharide extract) are stated to cause excessive salivation and intense burning when placed on the lips or tongue. The root may have a similar, but milder effect.
Certain alkaloids found in echinacea are reported to be hepatotoxic (may cause injury to the cells of the liver) in both animals and humans following long-term ingestion at extremely high intakes.
Tumour necrosis factor may cause cachexia (a condition involving general ill health and malnutrition) and the manifestations of endotoxic Shock (caused by a bacterial toxin).
Pregnant and lactating women should consult with a qualified medical health professional before taking echinacea due to a lack of safety data during these times.
Echinacea is not suitable for use by children.
INTERACTIONS AND CONTRA-INDICATIONS
Echinacea should not be taken with immunosuppressants as it may interfere with existing medication. Such drugs include Prednisolone, Prednisone, Azathioprine, Chlorambucil, Cyclophosphamide and Methatrexate.
1. Dorn M, et al. Placebo-controlled double-blind study of Echinacea pallidae radix in upper respiratory infections. Complement Ther Med 3: 40-42, 1997.
2. Dorn M. Milderung grippaler Effekte durch ein pflanzliches Immunstimulans. Natur und Ganzheitsmedizin 2: 314-319, 1989. As cited in Schulz V, et al. Rational phytotherapy. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998: 277.
3. Braunig B, et al. Echinacea purpurea root for strengthening the immune response in flu-like infections. Z Phytother 13: 7-13, 1992.
4. Brinkeborn R, Shah D, Geissbuhler S, et al. Echinaforce in the treatment of acute colds. Schweiz Zschr Gunsheits Medizin 10: 26-29, 1998.
5. Hoheisel O, et al. Echinagard treatment shortens the course of the common cold: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur J Clin Res 9: 261-268, 1997.
6. Wagner H et al. Immunostimulating polysaccharides (heteroglycans) of higher plants. Arzneim Forsch, 35:1069-1075, 1985.
7. V?mel T. Der einfluss eines pflanzelischen Immunostimulans auf die Phagozytose von Erythozyten durch das retikulohistozyt?re System der isoliert perfundierten Rattenleber. Arzneim Forsch, 35:1437-1439, 1985.
8. Stimpel M et al. Macrophage activation and induction of macrophage cytotoxicity by purified polysaccharide faractions from the plant Echinacea purpurea. Ifection Immunity ,46:845-849, 1984.
9. Wacker A and Hilbig W. Virus inhibition by Echinacea purpurea. Planta Med, ,33:89-102, 1978.
10. Mose J. Effect of echinacin on phagocytosis and natural killer cells. Med Welt, 34:1463-1467, 1983.
11. Wagner H et al. Immunostimulating polysaccharides (heteroglycans) of higher plants - preliminary communications. Arzneim Forsch, 34:659-660, 1984.
12. Westendorf J Carito ? - in-vitro Untersuchungen zum Nachweiss spasmolytischer und kontraktiler Einfl?sse. Therapiewoche, 32:6291-6297, 1982.
13. "Herbal Medicines", C A Newall, L A Anderson, J D Phillipson, The Pharmaceutical Press,1996.