(Echinacea purpurea)

This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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Echinacea Articles

What is Echinacea?
A nice review by students from the University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy

Echinacea vs. the Common Cold
It happens every year—the pre-cold season rush for something—anything—that might fend off the sniffles and sneezes. Today more people are reaching for echinacea but, despite its reputation as an immune stimulant, some controversy remains regarding the herb's effectiveness. The German Commission E Monographs concluded that while Echinacea purpurea herb and E. pallida root are effective, evidence for other forms of echinacea remains inconclusive.

Echinacea and Influenza
People can't avoid coming in contact with influenza, but if they treat symptoms promptly with the following antiviral and immune-boosting herbs, they might have an easier time of it.

Echinacea Gold Rush
When the cold winds of winter are barely a memory for the Native Americans who live in Poplar, Montana, a flourish of the Yah’pehu, or Echinacea angustifolia, plant emerges from the new prairie grass. The arrival of this long-cherished herb should be a welcome sight, but Curley Youpee, a Sioux tribal leader at the nearby Fort Peck Reservation, knows that once the flower blooms, this lonely corner of the state will be overrun by herbal company employees and root diggers hoarding Montana’s purple gold.


Echinacea Research

Echinacea purpurea: A Proprietary Extract of Echinacea purpurea
Is Shown to be Safe and Effective in the Prevention of the Common Cold

Holist Nurs Pract. 2016 (Jan);   30 (1):   54–57

This study showed that Echinacea’s long-term prevention was associated with a reduction in the total number of cold episodes, a reduction in the number of days with colds, and a reduction in cold episodes requiring additional medication. Furthermore, the Echinacea test agent inhibited virally confirmed colds, exhibited maximal effects on recurrent infections, and demonstrated that its preventive effects increased relative to therapy compliance and adherence to the protocol.

Use of a Standardized Extract from Echinacea angustifolia for
the Prevention of Respiratory Tract Infections

Alternative Medicine Review 2012 (Mar);   17 (1):   36–41 ~ FULL TEXT

Preparations from Echinacea are used for the prevention and the treatment of the common cold; however, research on efficacy has produced mixed results. [1] In contrast to a large number of positive studies conducted according to a non-controlled design or on a limited population, controlled and wider-ranging studies have frequently yielded negative results, or, at best, have only suggested a positive trend for efficacy. 1] These mixed findings are not surprising, since the term “Echinacea-based preparations” encompasses extracts (1) obtained using varying extraction methods and solvents, (2) from different Echinacea species, and (3) from different parts of these plants (e.g., aerial versus underground parts), with therefore marked differences in terms of constituent profiles.

A Comparison of the Immunostimulatory Effects of the Medicinal Herbs
Echinacea, Ashwagandha and Brahmi

J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 (Sep 1);   137 (1):   231–235

Herbal remedies based on Echinacea, Brahmi, or Ashwagandha can enhance immune function by increasing immunoglobulin production. Furthermore, these herbal medicines might regulate antibody production by augmenting both Th1 and Th2 cytokine production.

Echinacea Trial Results and the Flawed JAMA Study
JAMA 2003 (Dec 3);   290 (21):   2824–2830

This study demonstrates how the structure of a clinical trial can mask significant results. Although echinacea did not reduce the length of already-established colds in children, it did reduce the frequency of recurrences. This is a very significant finding! Sadly, the abstract does not mention this fact. See the original NIH announcement for this trial below.

Echinacea and Truth in Labeling
Arch Intern Med 2003 (Mar 24);   163 (6):   699–704

Echinacea from retail stores often does not contain the labeled species. A claim of "standardization" does not mean the preparation is accurately labeled, nor does it indicate less variability in concentration of constituents of the herb.

Immunological Activity of Larch Arabinogalactan and Echinacea:
A Preliminary, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial

Alternative Medicine Review 2002 (Apr);   7 (2):   138–149 ~ FULL TEXT

Volunteers in the EPA and EPALA groups had increased production of complement properdin after four weeks of intervention. The increased complement properdin may be an indication of one aspect of immune system stimulation in patients treated with either E. purpurea/E. angustifolia or E. purpurea/E. angustifolia plus larch arabinogalactan.

Echinacea Monograph
Alternative Medicine Review 2001 (Aug);   6 (4):   411–414 ~ FULL TEXT

Echinacea's immune-stimulating properties are quite complex and are attributed to the combined effect of several of its constituents.13 The Eclectic physicians discovered alcohol extracts of Echinacea directly stimulated white blood cell production and phagocytic activity.6 Modern clinical and in vitro research has confirmed the Eclectics' observations regarding increased phagocytosis,14 NK cell activity, and increased antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, mediated by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a).

Pregnancy Outcome Following Gestational Exposure to Echinacea:
A Prospective Controlled Study

Arch Intern Med 2000 (Nov 13);   160:   3141–3143

Echinacea products are among the most popular phytomedicines on the North American market. Since at least half of all pregnancies are unplanned, many women inadvertently use echinacea in their first trimester. This first prospective study suggests that gestational use of echinacea during organogenesis is not associated with an increased risk for major malformations.
You will enjoy this review article: First Study on Safety of Echinacea During Pregnancy

A Phase I Study on the Safety of Echinacea angustifolia and its Effect
on Viral Load in HIV Infected Individuals

JANA 1998;   1 (1):   14–17

EA did not demonstrate any direct anti-HIV killing activity in vitro and there was no change in NK activity. Thus, EA was safe and associated with a significant reduction in viral load in HIV (+) individuals in this pilot study. The mechanism is presumably immunologic although NK killing activity against K562 cells was unchanged.

In Vitro Effects of Echinacea and Ginseng on Natural Killer
and Antibody-dependent Cell Cytotoxicity in Healthy Subjects
and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome Patients

Immunopharmacology 1997;   35:   229–235

Both echinacea and ginseng, at concentrations greater than or equal to 0.1 or 10 g/kg, respectively, significantly enhanced NK-function of all groups. Similarly, the addition of either herb significantly increased ADCC of PBMC from all subject groups. Thus, extracts of Echinacea purpurea and Panax ginseng enhance cellular immune function of PBMC both from normal individuals and patients with depressed cellular immunity.

Echinacea-Induced Cytokine Production by Human Macrophages
Int. J. Immunopharmac 1997 (Jul);   19 (7):   371–379

Echinacea induced lower levels of IL-6 in comparison to the other cytokines measured. These results demonstrate the immune stimulatorv ability of the unpurified fresh pressed juice of Echinacea purpurea and offer some insight into the nature of the resulting, immune response as compared to endotoxin.

Benefit-Risk Assessment of the Squeezed Sap of the Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) for Long-Term Oral Immunostimulation
Phytomedicine 1996;   3 (1):   95–102

All articles in which the presence or absence of adverse events of the extract of the flowering coneflower or its constituents was reported were considered, provided that the dose and route of administration as well as the patient population were defined. Case reports and reports of practical experience with the extract of E. purpurea were not considered in detail.

Results of Five Randomized Studies on the Immunomodulatory Activity
of Preparations of Echinacea

J Altern Complement Med 1995;   1 (2):   145–160

Our studies provide evidence for immunomodulatory activity of the homeopathic combination tested in study 1 and the E. purpureae radix extract tested in study 2. The negative results of the other three studies are difficult to interpret due to the different methods for measuring phagocytosis, the relevant changes in phagocytic activity within most placebo and treatment groups during the observation period, and the small sample sizes.

Efficacy in the Treatment of the Common Cold of a Preparation
Containing an Echinacea Extract

Int. J. Immunotherapy 1995;   21 (4):   163–166

The evaluation parameter was the duration of the illness based on the rhinorrea and the number of paper tissues used daily by each subject. The length of the common cold was 3.37 days in the verum-treated patients and 4.37 days in the placebo-treated patients (p < 0.01). Also the number of tissues used was different between the two groups (882 treated; 1168 placebo). The preparation (Cold-X) including Echinacea was found to be useful and safe for the treatment of the common cold.

Immune Modulating Properties of Root Extracts
of Different Echinacea Species

Zeitschrift Phytotherapie 1995;   16:   157–166

All three plants exhibited different activity on immunological parameters, such as mitogenic stimulation, production of immunoglobulin IgM and of certain cytokines. An antiviral activity versus herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and influenza virus (A2) was observed. The extracts under investigation also showed an indirect antiviral effect via stimulation of the interferon alpha, beta-production.

Immunomodulation with Echinacea - A Systematic Review
of Controlled Clinical Trials

Phytomedicine 1994;   1:   245–254

Existing controlled clinical trials indicate that preparations containing extracts of Echinacea can be efficacious immunomodulators. However, the evidence is still insufficient for clear therapeutic recommendations as to which preparation to use and which dose to employ for a specific indication. Further methodologically sound, randomized clinical trials should be conducted.

Virus-Inhibition by Echinacea purpurea
Planta Med 1992;   58:   163–165

After treatment with juice of Herba recens Echinaceae purpureae and with methanolic and aqueous extracts from the roots of this plant, respectively, mouse L 929 cells are 50-80% resistant to Influenza, Herpes and Vesicular stomatitis viruses. This resistance remains for at least 24 hours. 48 hours later the cells are virus-sensitive again.

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