Health and Nutrition Articles

Echinacea

Natural Cold & Flu Relief

This indigenous perennial comes from the daisy family and is also known as the American coneflower. Used by Native American tribes for hundreds of years, Echinacea is most commonly recognized for the treatment of colds and flu. Up until the 1930s, Echinacea was the treatment of choice for infections.

With the introduction of antibiotics, Echinacea's popularity in the medical community declined considerably, but it has seen a resurgence in use and new research is validating the efficacy of this herb for a variety of health concerns.

There are nine species of Echinacea - three that are used for medicinal value:

  • Echinacea angustifolia - Narrow-leaf Coneflower
  • Echinacea purpurea - Pale Purple Coneflower
  • Echinacea pallida - Purple Coneflower, Eastern Purple Coneflower

Echinacea may be taken in the following forms: extracts, tinctures, tablets, capsules, teas and ointpements.

It is important to understand the following before using Echinacea to address a health concern:

a. The differences in the three Echinacea species
b. Their medicinal properties
c. Correct dosing for the specific health concern
d. Make sure the product you purchase is from a reputable, established company and contains the appropriate level of active ingredients

Echinacea purpurea (Pale Purple coneflower) is the form used to support immune health. It is commonly given to treat colds, upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and even slow healing wounds. Recent research has shown that use of Echinacea not only helped to reduce the duration of cold symptoms from 1.4 to 4 days. It also helped reduce the cumulative total of cold episodes and the need for pain-killers during a cold.

The Echinacea pallida (purple coneflower) has been approved for flu-like infections.

There is strong clinical evidence to support the use of Echinacea angustifolia (narrow leaf coneflower) in the treatment of anxiety and tension, even after one day of use. A study published in March 2012 in Phytotherapy Research revealed the angustfolia Echinacea extract relieved anxiety significantly after only three days of use. This shows promise for anyone who may experience adverse reactions to prescription anti-anxiety medications.

Dosing:

Children - Echinacea is safe for children aged 2-11, but should be administered under the supervision of a licensed practitioner or an herbal practitioner trained in pediatric care. Some children (approx. 7%) may experience a rash due to an allergic reaction.Any formula for children should be alcohol free.

For Anxiety - According to natural health expert Terry Lemerond, less is best. Dosing for Echinacea angustifolia for anxiety must occur at low doses. If the dosage is increased the anxiety relief is compromised. 20 mg (occasionally up to 40 mg) is needed for significant stress, tension and anxiety relief. It may be taken several times a day if needed.

It may be taken before occasional periods of anxiety, such as an upcoming stressful event.

From the University of Maryland Medical Center: Dosing for colds, flu, upper respiratory infections, etc.

From the University of Maryland Medical Center: Echinacea | University of Maryland Medical Center

For general immune system stimulation, during colds, flu, upper respiratory tract infections, or bladder infections, choose from the following forms and take 3 times a day until you feel better, but not for more than 7 - 10 days:

  • 1 - 2 grams dried root or herb, as tea
  • 2 - 3 mL of standardized tincture extract
  • 6 - 9 mL of expressed juice (succus)
  • 300 mg of standardized, powdered extract containing 4% phenolics
  • Tincture (1:5): 1 - 3 mL (20 - 90 drops)
  • Stabilized fresh extract: 0.75 mL (15 - 23 drops)

Apply creams or ointments for slow-healing wounds as needed.

Not enough is known about the use of Echinacea during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Echinacea may heighten the effects of caffeine and cause it break down too quickly. This may cause headache, rapid heartbeat and jitteriness.

Talk with your healthcare provider before taking any of the following types of medications:

Medications that are changed and broken down by the body (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP34A4) substrates) might increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Some medications changed by the body include lovastatin (mevacor), diltiazem (Cardizem), estrogens, triazolam (Halcion), clarithromycin (Biaxin), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), and more.

Medications that decrease the immume system (Immunosuppressants) should not be taken with Echinacea as it might decrease the efficacy of these drugs. These drugs include, but are not limited to: cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), sirolimus (Rapamune), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), tacrolimus(FK506, Prograf), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone, basiliximab (Simulect), and others.

Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates) Since some medications are changed and broken down by the liver, Echinacea may slow down the rate at which this process occurs.

Medications that are changed by the liver include Tacrine (Cognex), theophylline, zileuton (Zyflo), mexiletine (Mexitil) olanzapine (Zyprexa) propranolol ((nderal), zolmitriptan (Zomig), pentazocine (Talwin) and others.

Anyone allergice to ragweek, marigolds, mums or daisies should talk with their healthcare provider before taking Echinacea

Quick Facts

  • Echinacea is one of the most popular herbs in the US today
  • It is a wild herb that grows mainly in the Great Plains and eastern regions of North America
  • It is mainly used to ease symptoms of the common cold, including nasal congestion and sore throat
  • Echinacea has been described as an immune-boosting botanical for generations
  • Three forms are used for medicinal purposes: Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea
  • Echinacea may have the most benefit on people who begin taking it at the first sign of a cold or flu
  • Extracts of Echinacea may help increase antibody production, together with resistance to various infections