encyclopedia

Echinacea Root

Scientific Names:    

Echinacea angustifolia DC, E. purpurea L. Moench. and E. pallida NUTT. [Fam. Asteraceae]    
 
   
Forms:    

Echinacea root tincture; Echinacea root tea; Echinacea whole root, fresh or dried; Echinacea standardized extracts with polysaccharides and echinacosides (E. angustifolia, E. pallida), chicoric acid (E. pallida) 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, E. purpurea L. Moench. and E. pallida NUTT. [Fam. Asteraceae], are native to North America and are found across the U.S. Midwest. Echinacea roots were chewed or used in teas by many Native American tribes as natural remedies against infections of many different kinds including from colds, flues, insect bites, snakebites and burns, and externally as an ointment for poorly healing wounds and abnormal growths. Various First Nation groups 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. Echinacea root and its preparations are widely used around the world today to boost the immune system. Medical authorities in Germany recommend Echinacea as a supportive measure in the treatment of infections, most commonly of the respiratory as well as the urinary tract. A recent clinical trial of patients with a common cold showed that those who took Echinacea 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 University of Arizona has recently initiated a study of the use of Echinacea in the prevention of recurrent otitis media due to many anecdotal reports of success in using Echinacea against ear infections. In a recent study, root extracts of E. angustifolia, E. pallida, and E. purpurea suppressed the oxidation of human low-density lipoprotein and also effectively scavenged hydroxyl radicals. Another study recently showed that daily dietary administration of Echinacea purpurea root extract to normal mice for as little as 1 week resulted in significant elevations of natural-killer (NK) cells (immune cells that kill virus-containing cells and many other abnormal cells).    
    
     
Active Ingredients:    

Echinacea roots contain: Approximately 0.3-1.3% echinacoside in the roots of E. angustifolia, 0.4-1.7% in E. pallida and almost negligent in other Echinacea species; echinaceine, echinolone, polysaccharides including echinacin, glycoproteins, caffeic acid derivatives especially cichoric acid in E. pallida. There are many different types of alkylamides, mainly isobutylamides, within the plant that cause a “tingling sensation” on the tongue that is an indicator of good quality of the preparation. The roots also contain: inulin; mucilage; essential oil including humulene, caryophylene and pentadeca-enone; 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 root 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 1g of dried, finely chopped or coarsely powdered drug per cup of tea (1 teaspoon of powdered Echinacea root 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 root in the tincture, taken with a dosage corresponding to 1g of dried root taken several times per day. Standardized root extracts containing approximately 4% echinacosides (E. angustifolia, E. pallida), chicoric acid (E. pallida) or 4% 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 in cases of progressive disease 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:    

Currier NL, Miller SC. 2001. Echinacea purpurea and melatonin augment natural-killer
cells in leukemic mice and prolong life span. J Altern Complement Med 2001 Jun; 7(3): 241-51.
 
Hu C, Kitts DD. 2000. Studies on the antioxidant activity of Echinacea root extract. J Agric Food Chem 2000 May; 48(5): 1466-72.
 
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.