Echinacea

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Echinacea

Purple Coneflower
E. purpurea;
E. angustifolia; E. pallida

Echinacea has been used for thousands of years by Native Americans who used this pretty plant as a “cure-all”. To them it was known as “elk root” as legend has it that early tribes people started using it to heal themselves after they noted herds of elk chewing the root. Its name, Echinacea comes from the Greek echinos meaning “hedgehog”, referring to the brown spiny centres of these flowers. Early settlers of North America soon learned to use the root of the plant to help treat colds, syphilis, infection, malaria, blood poisoning and diphtheria. It quickly became popular in Switzerland and Germany in the early 20th century for the treatment of the common cold, respiratory tract infections and as an anti-microbial, anti-fungal remedy. To this day, the majority of research about Echinacea comes from Germany. Up until the mid-twentieth century it was also a top-seller North America until the discovery of antibiotics — it then fell into disuse in favor of drugs that had more immediate effects (although it remained popular in Europe).

Echinacea has since become recognized as an immune booster as drug-resistant strains of bacteria are becoming increasingly common and people are wary of side effects of these medicines. Echinacea has a long history of use for conditions such as the common cold, upper respiratory tract infections, ulcers, prevention of recurrent vaginal candidiasis (and is shown to be effective for some people when used in conjunction with a topical antifungal cream), genital herpes, septicemia, allergic rhinitis, pyorrhea, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections, and typhoid fever. Topically it can be used for insect bites and bee stings, boils, abscesses, hemorrhoids, burns, UV radiation, eczema, and psoriasis.

Probably best known for its immune-modulating properties (activating some pathways, suppressing or sedating other responses and simply modifying other conditions), Echinacea is thought to increase lymphocyte and phagocytotic activity via promoting the release of Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), Interleukin-1 (IL-1) and interferon as well as stimulating humoral immunity. It also may elicit more non-specific immune responses. Components of Echinacea that may be responsible for immuneenhancing effects include inulin (a soluble plant fiber that also increases calcium absorption and acts as a prebiotic), echinacoside (protects type 3 collagen from free radical damage, thus useful in healing wounds), alkamides, glycoproteins (induce phagocytosis and macrophage activation of cytokines), polysaccharides (stimulate the mononuclear immune system, B lymphocytes and release of IL-1), chicoric acid (may enhance phagocytosis), caffeine acid derivatives. Echinacea may also affect cytochrome p450 enzymes (inhibiting some, activating others) and thus has been known to alter caffeine clearance in the body.

Despite its traditional uses, there is a quite a bit of controversy as to the effectiveness of Echinacea since many studies are of questionable validity. Given that there are three main variations of the plant (E. purpurea, E. angustifolia and E. pallida), standardization to a specific plant is an issue, the part of the plant used alters its effectiveness, dosage is rarely consistent and the “active” constituents have not been determined. Thus, methodology used in the research of Echinacea plays a role in its acceptance as an useful treatment (even though many case reports, anecdotal evidence and thousands of years of safe usage may point to its efficacy). Another issue in Echinacea’s acceptance is that its use in treating the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections, although common, may take several days to treat – and in that same time, the cold may resolve itself anyways (thus it is difficult to elucidate whether Echinacea was responsible for recovery or if it is worth it if it the cold will go away in roughly the same amount of time without treatment). Some studies, however, have found that taking standardized Echinacea (10 units on the first day, followed by 4 units for the next six days—one unit is defined as 0.25 mg/mL alkamides, 2.5 mg/mL chicoric acid, and 25 mg/mL polysaccharides) significantly reduced the severity of cold symptoms as compared to placebo. Others have found fewer symptoms daily, increased numbers of white blood cells, monocytes, neutrophils, and natural killer (NK) cells in subjects taking a standardized Echinacea formula as compared to the placebo group. Finally, in another randomized, placebo-controlled study of 80 adult volunteers, it was found that cold symptoms lasted for median duration of six days in those assigned to the Echinacea group, while those in the placebo group had symptoms lasting an median duration of nine days—a statistically significant difference.

Different components of Echinacea are water soluble, while others are more polar and fat/alcohol soluble (thus a tea may be effective for some conditions, while a tincture would be more suitable in other cases. Powders can be applied topically or taken orally as a tablet). Many herbal formulations containing Echinacea are available on the market—with few major side effects when compared to placebo for the treatment of the common cold.

To make a tea of Echinacea pour two cups of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried Echinacea root or leaves. Let steep 10-15 minutes covered. Honey or lemon juice can be added for sweetness prior to drinking. Powdered Echinacea root can be added to oil, mixed with milk or added to smoothies containing oil or animal fats. Most research suggests that Echinacea is safe to use short-term (10-20 days concurrently with at least a one week holiday before using again).

SINCE ECHINACEA CAN INTERACT WITH SOME CYTOCHROME P450 ENZYMES, PEOPLE TAKING CYP1A2 DRUGS SUCH WARFARIN, TYLENOL, AMITRIPTYLINE, VERAPAMIL, DIAZEPAMS ETC OR IMMUNOSUPRESSANT DRUGS SHOULD EXERCISE CAUTION, THERE IS REASONABLE EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST THAT ECHINACEA IS SAFE TO USE DURING THE FIRST TRIMESTER OF PREGNANCY AND DURING BREASTFEEDING WITHOUT ADVERSE EFFECTS TO EITHER MOTHER OR BABY. IT IS ALSO CONSIDERED SAFE FOR MOST CHILDREN. SINCE ECHINACEA APPEARS TO HAVE IMMUNO-MODULATING EFFECTS, IT SHOULD BE USED WITH CAUTION IN CASES OF AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES SUCH AS MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS, RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS ETC. PEOPLE WITH ASTHMA OR ALLERGIES TO THE ASTERACEA FAMILY SHOULD EXERCISE CAUTION. ATOPIC INDIVIDUALS MAY DEVELOP AN ALLERGY TO ECHINACEA. ALTHOUGH GENERALLY RECOGNIZED AS SAFE, SIDE EFFECTS OF USE MAY INCLUDE TINGLING AND NUMBNESS OF THE MOUTH AND TONGUE (MOST COMMON WHEN TAKEN AS A TINCTURE), RASHES, HEADACHE, DIZZINESS, INSOMNIA, GASTSROINTESTINAL UPSET, FEVER, HEARTBURN, CONSTIPATION OR AN ALLERGIC REACTION.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Canadian Food & Drug Administration.

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. www.distinctlytea.com 519-578-2010 [email protected]

Research compiled and summarized by Keila McCullough BHSc, ND (cand.) Distinctly Tea Inc.

Sources:
“A proprietary extract from the Echinacea plant (Echinacea purpurea) enhances systemic immune response during a common cold”. Goel V, Lovlin R, Chang C, et al. Phytother Res. 2005;19:689-694.

“Colds and influenza: a review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations”. Roxas M, Jurenka J. Altern Med Rev. 2007 Mar;12(1):25-48.

“Does treatment with Echinacea purpurea effectively shorten the course of upper respiratory tract infections in children?”. Koenig K, Roehr CC. Arch Dis Child. 2006 Jun;91(6):535-7.

“Echinacea”. University of Maryland. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/article /echinacea-000239.htm

“Echinaforce and other Echinacea fresh plant preparations in the treatment of the common cold. A randomized, placebo controlled, double-blind clinical trial”. Brinkeborn RM, Shah DV, Degenring FH. Phytomedicine. 1999 Mar;6(1):1-6.

“Echinacea – Echinacea angustifolia”.Wild Rose College of Natural Healing Herbal Resources. http://www.wrc.net/wrcnet_content/herbalresources/materiamedic /materiamedica.aspx?mmid=8

“Echinacea” Monograph. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com

“Efficacy of Echinacea purpurea in patients with a common cold. A placebo controlled, randomised, double-blind clinical trial”. Schulten B, Bulitta M, Ballering-Bruhl B, et al. Arzneimittelforschung. 2001;51:563-568.

“Efficacy of a standardized Echinacea preparation (Echinilin) for the treatment of the common cold: a randomized, doubleblind, placebo-controlled trial”. Goel V, Lovlin R, Barton R, et al. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2004;29:75-83.

“New knowledge regarding the effect and effectiveness of Echinacea purpurea extracts”. Bauer R.Wien MedWochenschr. 2002;152(15-16):407-11.

“Safety and efficacy of echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, e. purpurea and e. pallida) during pregnancy and lactation”. Perri D., Dugoua JJ., Mills E., Koren G. Can J Clin Pharmacol. 2006 Fall;13(3):e262-7.

“Use of Echinacea in upper respiratory tract infection”. Islam J, Carter R. South Med J. 2005 Mar;98(3):311-8.

Research compiled and summarized by Keila McCullough BHSc, ND (cand.)


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