encyclopedia

Echinacea Herb and Flowers

Scientific Names:    

Echinacea angustifolia DC and E. purpurea L. Moench. [Fam. Asteraceae]    
     

Forms:    

Echinacea herb and flower tincture; Echinacea herb and flower tea; Echinacea herb and flowers, fresh or dried; Echinacea standardized extracts with polysaccharides and echinacosides (E. angustifolia), chicoric acid (E. purpurea) or sesquiterpene esters (E. purpurea)    
     

Traditional Usage:    

– Anti-inflammatory
– Antioxidant
– Breathing Disorders
– Cellular Regeneration
– Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
– Cleansing
– Colds
– Detoxification
– Ear Infections
– Fatigue
– Flu
– Immune Stimulation
– Insect Bites
– Infections
– Influenza
– Poultice
– Recurrent otitis media
– Respiratory Infections
– Skin Disorders
– Sore Throat
– Spider Bites
– Throat Infections
– Toothaches
– Tonsillitis
– Urinary Tract Infections
– Wounds
 
    
Overview:    

Echinacea species, Echinacea angustifolia DC and E. purpurea L. Moench. [Fam. Asteraceae], are native to North America and are found across the U.S. Midwest. Echinacea herb and flowers, like Echinacea roots, were used in teas by many Native Americans as natural remedies against infections of many different kinds including against colds, flues, insect bites, snakebites and burns, and externally in ointments for poorly healing wounds and abnormal growths. Various First Nation tribes also used Echinacea traditionally to sooth sore throats and tonsillitis and poured the tea over hot coals in the steam house to treat respiratory ailments. Twelve clinical studies published from 1961-1997 concluded that Echinacea was efficacious for treating the common cold, but the results are considered by many scientists to be unclear due to inherent flaws in study design. Five trials were published since 1997; three concluded that it was effective in reducing the frequency, duration, and severity of common cold symptoms and two showed that Echinacea lacked efficacy for treating and preventing upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms. A recent clinical trial of patients with a common cold showed that those who took an Echinacea purpurea herb product had a median time of illness of 6.0 days compared to 9.0 days in the placebo group – a significant reduction. The Echinacea preparation was deemed well tolerated and clinically effective in alleviating symptoms of the common cold more rapidly than placebo. The antiviral action of Echinacea has also been shown to be beneficial for preventing the growth of abnormal cells linked to viruses. Treatment of leukemic mice with an Echinacea purpurea herb preparation significantly prolonged life and suppressed enlargement of abnormal cells compared with controls; normal mice were also protected compared with untreated controls against the proliferation of recombinant murine leukemia viruses (MuLV) in the thymus.    
     
    
Active Ingredients:    

Echinacea herb and flowers contain: Approximately 0.1-1.0% echinacoside in the flowers of E. angustifolia, and traces in E. purpurea; echinaceine; echinolone; polysaccharides including echinacin especially in E. pallida and E. purpurea; glycoproteins; caffeic acid derivatives especially cichoric acid in E. purpurea and E. pallida. There are many different types of alkylamides, mainly isobutylamides, within Echinacea plants that cause a “tingling sensation” on the tongue that is an indicator of a good quality preparation. The herb and flowers of Echinacea also contain: anthocyanins; proanthocyanidins; essential oils containing humulene, caryophylene and pentadeca-enone; mucilage; resin; betain; bitter substances (i.e. lactones); sesquiterpene esters (echinadiole, epoxy-echinadiole, echinaxanthole and dihydro-xynardole); antibacterial polyacetylenes; polyphenols including chlorogenic acid and other powerful flavonoid-type antioxidants; sitosterol and stigmasterol.    
   
     
Suggested Amount:    

Echinacea herb and flowers taken as an herbal tea is recommended with the dosage of a cup of freshly prepared infusion taken several times throughout the day between meals. German authorities recommend using 2 grams of dried, finely chopped or coarsely powdered drug per cup of tea (1 teaspoon of powdered Echinacea herb and flowers weighs approximately 2 grams). It is recommended that hot water (ca. 150ml) be poured over the powdered Echinacea and infused for ten minutes first and then passed through a tea strainer. Echinacea tincture is recommended at the dosage of 5ml taken three to five times throughout the day or, depending upon the concentration of Echinacea in the tincture, taken with a dosage corresponding to 2 grams of dried herb and flower taken several times per day. Standardized extracts containing isobutylamides together with echinacosides (E. angustifolia), chicoric acid (E. purpurea, E. pallida) or sesquiterpene esters (E. purpurea) are recommended at the dosage of 1000mg daily during the flu season or at first signs of a cold and 250mg daily otherwise. Echinacea should be taken prophylactically at the first sign of a cold and should only be used periodically for a few weeks at a time – for not more than eight weeks at a time.    
   
     
Drug Interactions:    

None known    
   
     
Contraindications:    

Echinacea is not recommended for people suffering from progressive diseases such as tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, HIV infection or other autoimmune diseases. The safety of Echinacea for pregnant and lactating women has not yet been established, however, preliminary studies indicate that Echinacea use during the first trimester of pregnancy is not associated with an increased risk of abnormalities.    
     
    
Side Effects:    

None known    
 
     
References:    

Giles JT, Palat CT 3rd, Chien SH, Chang ZG, Kennedy DT. 2000. Evaluation of echinacea for treatment of the common cold. Pharmacotherapy 2000 Jun; 20(6): 690-7.
 
Hayashi I, Ohotsuki M, Suzuki I, Watanabe T. 2001. Effects of oral administration of Echinacea purpurea (American herb) on incidence of spontaneous leukemia caused by recombinant leukemia viruses in AKR/J mice. Nihon Rinsho Meneki Gakkai Kaishi 2001
Feb; 24(1): 10-20.
 
Sloley BD, Urichuk LJ, Tywin C, Coutts RT, Pang PK, Shan JJ. 2001. Comparison of chemical components and antioxidants capacity of different Echinacea species. J Pharm Pharmacol 2001 Jun; 53(6): 849-57.
 
Schulten B, Bulitta M, Ballering-Bruhl B, Koster U, Schafer M. 2001. Efficacy of Echinacea purpurea in patients with a common cold. A placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Arzneimittelforschung. 2001; 51(7): 563-8.
 
Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Echinacea herba/radix – Echinacea herb/root (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 182-184.