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Echinacea Safety Confirmed

This review of published and unpublished research conducted on the squeezed sap of Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench., Asteraceae (Echinacin®) concluded that the herb is well-tolerated and appropriate for long-term oral use. The reviewer considered "all articles in which the presence or absence of adverse events of the extract of the flowering coneflower or its constituents was reported." Research included oral use of Echinacin® for up to 12 weeks. The reviewer detected no safety concerns, stating that "no adverse reactions other than aversion to the taste have been reported." The review confirms that echinacea is safe when given orally and even by injection to subjects of all ages, "from infants to adults." Significantly, the rare side effects of injection therapy--which can include shivering, headache, vomiting and fever--are not seen with oral use.

The effectiveness of echinacea "requires further evaluation," but showed a trend toward improvement in those with "slight to moderate depression" of immunity. Little or no effect was observed in healthy subjects.

Some of the reviewed studies demonstrated improvements in health among those using echinacea, including reductions in the incidence and duration of colds. For example, one eight week double-blind study in 109 subjects showed a decrease in the incidence of colds, with the placebo group reporting twice as many "pronounced respiratory infections requiring absence from work or bed rest" (Schöneberger, 1992). In another clinical trial, however, echinacea lozenges (Echinacin®) produced no significant effect in 47 marathon runners. The reviewer comments: "Since the marathon runners were extremely fit physically... all of the subjects [were] equally insensitive to colds."  -- Rob McCaleb, HRF

Full article $20 - Review Order
[Parnham, M.J., 1996. Benefit-risk assessment of the squeezed sap of the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) for long-term oral immunostimulation. Phytomedicine Vol. 3, No. 1, 95-102.]

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