Echinacea is an herb. Several species of the echinacea plant are used to make medicine from its leaves, flower, and root.
Echinacea is widely used to fight infections, especially the common cold and
other upper respiratory infections. Some people take echinacea at the first
sign of a cold, hoping they will be able to keep the cold from developing.
Other people take echinacea after cold symptoms have started, hoping they can
make symptoms less severe. The people who use echinacea to treat symptoms have
the right idea. Research to date shows that echinacea probably modestly reduces
cold symptoms, but it’s not clear whether it helps prevent colds from
Echinacea is also used against many other infections including the flu, urinary
tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, genital herpes, bloodstream
infections (septicemia), gum disease, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections,
syphilis, typhoid, malaria, and diphtheria.
Other uses not related to infection include chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS),
rheumatism, migraines, acid indigestion, pain, dizziness, rattlesnake bites,
and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Sometimes people apply echinacea to their skin to treat boils, abscesses, skin
wounds, ulcers, burns, eczema, psoriasis, UV radiation skin damage, herpes
simplex, bee stings, and hemorrhoids.
Echinacea species are native to North America and were used as traditional
herbal remedies by the Great Plains Indian tribes. Later, settlers followed the
Indians’ example and began using echinacea for medicinal purposes as well. For
a time, echinacea enjoyed official status as a result of being listed in the US
National Formulary from 1916-1950. However, use of echinacea fell out of favor
in the United States with the discovery of antibiotics and due to the lack of
scientific evidence supporting its use. But now, people are becoming interested
in echinacea again because some antibiotics don’t work as well as they used to
against certain bacteria.
Commercially available echinacea products come in many forms including tablets,
juice, and tea.
There are concerns about the quality of some echinacea products on the market.
Echinacea products are frequently mislabeled, and some may not even contain
echinacea, despite label claims. Don’t be fooled by the term “standardized.” It
doesn’t necessarily indicate accurate labeling. Also, some echinacea products
have been contaminated with selenium, arsenic, and lead.
Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for ECHINACEA are as follows:
More evidence is needed to rate echinacea for these uses.
Echinacea seems to activate chemicals in the body that decrease inflammation, which might reduce cold and flu symptoms.
Laboratory research suggests that echinacea can stimulate the body’s immune system, but there is no evidence that this occurs in people.
Echinacea also seems to contain some chemicals that can attack yeast and other kinds of fungi directly.
Echinacea is LIKELY SAFE for most people when used short-term. There is not enough information to know if echinacea is safe for long-term use. Some side effects have been reported such as fever, nausea, vomiting, unpleasant taste, stomach pain, diarrhea, sore throat, dry mouth, headache, numbness of the tongue, dizziness, insomnia, disorientation, and joint and muscle aches.
Echinacea is POSSIBLY SAFE in children. It seems to be safe in most children ages 2-11 years. However, about 7% of these children may experience a rash that could be due to an allergic reaction. There is some concern that allergic reactions to echinacea could be more severe in some children. For this reason, some regulatory organizations have recommended against giving echinacea to children under 12 years of age.
Echinacea is most likely to cause allergic reactions in children and adults who are allergic to ragweed, mums, marigolds, or daisies. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking echinacea.
Applying echinacea to the skin can cause redness, itchiness, or a rash.
Pregnancy or breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of echinacea during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
“Auto-immune disorders” such as such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a skin disorder called pemphigus vulgaris, or others: Echinacea might have an effect on the immune system that could make these conditions worse. Don’t take echinacea if you have an auto-immune disorder.
An inherited tendency toward allergies (atopy): People with this condition are more likely to develop an allergic reaction to echinacea. It’s best to avoid exposure to echinacea if you have this condition.
Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.
The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Echinacea might decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking echinacea along with caffeine might cause too much caffeine in the bloodstream and increase the risk of side effects. Common side effects include jitteriness, headache, and fast heartbeat.
Etoposide is changed and broken down by the body. Echinacea might change how the body breaks down some medications. Taking echinacea along with etoposide might increase the side effects of etoposide. Before taking echinacea, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the body.
Some medications are changed and broken down by the body. Echinacea might change how the body breaks down some medications. Taking echinacea along with some medications might increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking echinacea, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the body.
Some medications changed by the body include lovastatin (Mevacor), clarithromycin (Biaxin), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), diltiazem (Cardizem), estrogens, indinavir (Crixivan), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.
Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Talk with your health provider.
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Echinacea might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking echinacea along with some medications might increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking echinacea, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some of the medications that are changed by the liver include clozapine (Clozaril), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), fluvoxamine (Luvox), haloperidol (Haldol), imipramine (Tofranil), mexiletine (Mexitil), olanzapine (Zyprexa), pentazocine (Talwin), propranolol (Inderal), tacrine (Cognex), theophylline, zileuton (Zyflo), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and others.
Echinacea can increase the activity of the immune system. Taking echinacea along with some medications that decrease the immune system might decrease these medications' effectiveness.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
Interaction Rating = Minor Be watchful with this combination. Talk with your health provider.
Taking midazolam (Versed) with echinacea increases how much midazolam (Versed) the body absorbs. This might increase the effects and side effects of midazolam (Versed), but more information is needed.
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. The body breaks down warfarin (Coumadin) to get rid of it. Echinacea might increase the breakdown and decrease the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin). Decreasing the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin) might increase the risk of clotting. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.
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