||Echinacea Angustifolia Herb-Root/Echinacea
Purpurea Herb-Root (English)|
Asteraceae (Plant Family)
herba-radix/Echinacea pallidae herba-radix/Echinacea
purpureae herba-radix (Pharmacopeial)
Echinacea may reduce the symptoms and duration of colds, flu, chronic
infections of the respiratory tract, or infections of the lower urinary tract.
Topically, it may speed the healing of chronic or slow-healing wounds. Its
nonspecific, immune-stimulant activity is currently under investigation, yet it
is believed to particularly activate phagocytosis and stimulate fibroblasts.
The species is named for the sharp, spiny pales of its large conical seed
head, which resemble the spines of an angry hedgehog (echinos is Greek
for hedgehog). Of nine species, the three noted above are used medicinally.
An archeological dig in the region of the Lakota Sioux unearthed echinacea
dating to the 1600s. Native Americans used echinacea for snakebites, oral
lesions and pain, sepsis, coughs, sore throat, colic, and stomachaches. It was
also historically used for scarlet fever, syphilis, malaria, blood poisoning,
and diphtheria. Through the 1800s, it was the most widely used plant drug in the
United States, dispensed by both eclectic physicians and more traditional
doctors. It remained on the national list of official plant drugs in the United
States until the 1940s, most likely taken off this list because the conditions
it had been used for were then being treated with antibiotics.
Native to North America, echinacea consists of erect stems and alternate or
opposite leaves that vary from appearing oval shaped, to oval-shaped ending in
points, with varying degrees of teeth along the edges. Flowers grow singly on
stem ends. Blooms are large, bear both ray and disk flowers, and have a
characteristic cone-shaped receptacle. Roots grow either vertically or
E. angustifolia has purplish-red ray flower with darker disk flowers;
E. purpurea bears deep rose-purple ray flowers, and pales in the seed
head may be tipped with orange. E. pallida's flowers are pale rose,
Polysaccharides, flavonoids, caffeic acid derivatives (echinoside, cichoric
acid, chlorogenic acid, and isochlorogenic acids), essential oils,
polyacetylenes, alkylamides, alkaloids
Many dozens of preparations are available as urological, wound, and flu
remedies, but preparations standardized to 1:2 tincture, with 50% alcohol, 3 to
5 ml qid, made from fresh root or fresh root and cone are preferred. Extracts,
tinctures, tablets, capsules, ointments, and stabilized fresh extracts are
available. In Europe, intraperitoneal and intravenous forms are sometimes used.
Traditional herbal actions: antimicrobial, immunostimulant, anti-infective,
Clinical applications: Furunculosis and boils, septicemia, nasopharyngeal
inflammation, pyorrhea, tonsillitis, carbuncles, abscesses, viral, fungal, and
bacterial illness, chronic respiratory infection, colds and flu. Used topically
for wounds and dermal ulceration.
Echinacea is an immune stimulant with anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and
antibacterial effects. These effects are largely due to nonspecific immune
system activation. Carbon clearance tests have measured significant
echinacea-induced macrophage activation. Echinacea's polysaccharides are
immunostimulatory; its polyacetylenes are anti-inflammatory.
Echinacea increases phagocytosis; activates T lymphocytes; stimulates tumor
necrosis factor, properdin, and interferon; inhibits hyaluronidase; and
stimulates the adrenal cortex.
One in vitro study showed that when mouse cells were injected with echinacea
extracts and incubated, a 24-hour period of resistance to influenza, herpes, and
vesicular viruses resulted, likely due to nonspecific T-cell activation.
In animal studies, echinacea's polysaccharides induce tissue regeneration;
polyacetylenes are anti-inflammatory when injected. Echinacea also exerts
spasmolytic effects to acetylcholine-induced spasm.
A lipid-soluble alkene, Z-1,8-pentadecadiene exerts significant anticancer
effects in vivo against Walker tumors in rats and P388 leukemia in mice.
In studies in humans, a respected double-blind trial using 100 patients and
an initial 2-day dose of 30 ml of echinacea followed by 15 ml for 4 more days
demonstrated that echinacea could reduce the duration of a cold from 10 days to
7. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 180 patients, 450 mg doses of
E. purpurea herb extract was as effective as placebo in providing flu
relief, but patients receiving 900 mg doses reported significant relief.
Prophylaxis was demonstrated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study: of 108
cold-prone patients, those receiving 4 ml of a proprietary echinacea formula bid
significantly reduced cold recurrence. Fifteen drops of E. purpurea tid
reduced rheumatoid inflammation up to 21.8% in an uncontrolled study; effects
were almost half those exerted by cortisone and prednisone and did not cause
additional adverse effects.
As part of a proprietary microbicide, E. purpurea demonstrated
possible applications against both acyclovir-resistant and acyclovir-susceptible
herpes simplex virus. In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover
trial, E. angustifolia significantly enhanced natural-killer-cell
activity against HIV transfected cells. Echinacea's therapeutic potential in
these diseases deserves further study.
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
For immune stimulation during viral or bacterial infection, choose equivalent
form of the following and take three times daily.
- 1 to 2 g dried root, as tea
- 2 to 3 ml of 22% ethanol extract standardized to contain 2.4%
- 200 mg of powdered extract containing 6.5:1, or 3.5%, echinacoside
- Fluid extract (1:1): 0.5 ml to 1 ml tid
- Tincture (1:5): 1 to 3 ml tid
- Stabilized fresh extract: 0.75 ml tid
Commission E advises to discontinue use of internal E. purpurea and
E. pallida after eight weeks, and parenteral E. purpurea after
The American Herbal Products Association safety rating is class 1 (safe with
Echinacea is a member of the Compositae family and as such may rarely
cause allergic reaction.
Isobutylamides, found only in E. angustifolia roots and E.
purpurea seed heads, are responsible for the characteristic numbing and
burning sensations when echinacea herb and root extracts are placed on the
tongue. Sensation dissipates quickly.
Rare reports of dermatitis. Not recommended for use in systemic diseases
(tuberculosis, leukoses, diabetes, collagenosis, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, HIV
infection, other autoimmune diseases) or during immunosuppressant therapy.
Safety during pregancy has not been studied.
In a study with five outpatients undergoing treatment for inoperable
hepatocellular carcinomas, administration of echinacea extract (60
mg/m2 IM) with a regimen of low-dose cyclophosphamide and
thymostimulin resulted in an increase in the number and activity of natural
killer cells (Lersch et al. 1990). In another study involving 15 outpatients
with advanced metastatic colorectal cancer, treatment with echinacea extract in
addition to cyclophosphamide and thymostimulin decreased tumor markers CA 19-9
and CA 15-3 (Lersch et al. 1992). Echinacea may be a useful adjunct to help
re-establish the immune response and counter the immunosuppressive effects
associated with chemotherapy.
The recurrence rate of vaginal Candida infections treated with
econazole nitrate cream for 6 days was greatly reduced when E. purpurea
plant juice was taken concurrently and for an additional 9 weeks, whether
intravenously, subcutaneously, intramuscularly, or orally (Coeugniet and Kuhnast
1986). This effect was attributed to echinacea's ability to stimulate the immune
|Regulatory and Compendial
Dietary supplement in the United States. E. pallida root approved by
Germany's Commission E for relief during flu-like infections; E. purpurea
approved topically for chronic ulcers and slow healing wounds, internally
for flu-like infections. On the General Sale List in England.
Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic
Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine
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Coeugniet E, Kuhnast R. [Adjuvant immunotherapy with different formulations
of echinacin.] Therapiwoche.1986;36:3352-3358.
Dorn M, Knick E, Lewith G. Placebo-controlled, double-blind study of
Echinacea pallidae radix in upper respiratory tract infections.
Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 1997;5:40-42.
Hobbs C. Echinacea: a literature review. Herbalgram.
Hoheisel O, Sandberg M, Bertram S, Bulitta M, Schäfer M. Echinagard treatment
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Lersch C, Zeuner M, Bauer A, et al. Nonspecific immunostimulation with low
doses of cyclophosphamide (LDCY), thymostimulin, and Echinacea purpurea
extracts (Echinacin) in patients with far advanced colorectal cancers:
preliminary results. Cancer Invest. 1992;10(5):343-348.
Lersch C, Zeuner M, Bauer A, et al. Stimulation of the immune response in
outpatients with hepatocellular carcinomas by low doses of cyclophosphamide
(LDCY), thymostimulin, and Echinacea purpurea extracts (Echinacin) and
thymostimulin. Arch Geschwulstforsch. 1990;60(5):379-383.
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Melchart D, Walther E, Linde K, Brandmaier R, Lersch C. Echinacea root
extracts for the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections: a
double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial. Arch Fam Med.
Melchart D, Linde IK, Worku F, Sarkady L, Holzmann M, Jurcic K, et al.
Results of five randomized studies on the immunomodulatory activity of
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Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs: The Enlightened Person's Guide to
the Wonders of Medicinal Plants. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1995.
Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for
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Snow JM. Echinacea. Protocol J Botan Med. 1997;2:18-24.
Thompson KD. Antiviral activity of Viracea against acyclovir susceptible and
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