Echinacea Revelations

January 20, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Echinacea is widely known as an immune boosting herb that is used at the onset of cold and influenza infections. But, if you’re only using it when your nose starts to “run” and throat gets scratchy, you’re missing out. According to a new publication in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, in addition to Echinacea’s immune-modulating activity, this traditional Native American treasure also possesses antioxidant and antimicrobial properties which may address conditions ranging from fungal and parasitic infections to poor wound healing.

A current study in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine indicates that Echinacea is, in fact, useful in protecting against upper respiratory infections. In the trial, 175 adult travelers were asked to take an Echinacea root extract (standardized to 4.4 mg alkylamides/day) or a placebo for up to 9 weeks. The study participants were given the respective treatments beginning two-weeks prior to travel and continuing until the end of their flight exposure. They were then surveyed before, immediately after and 4 weeks after their airplane travel. Those receiving the Echinacea extract demonstrated “lower respiratory symptom scores” than the placebo group. The specific findings reveal that, the Echicacea users were approximately 50% less likely to experience severe respiratory symptoms that would necessitate medical treatment. The authors of this double blind, randomized trial concluded that, “Supplementation with standardized Echinacea tablets, if taken before and during travel, may have preventive effects against the development of respiratory symptoms during travel involving long-haul flights”.

Colds and flus aside, the next chapter in the book of echinacea may well focus on a decidedly unexpected bodily organ: the skin. Scientists are particularly interested in the potential of Echinacea for: a) controlling the growth of bacteria associated with acne; b) protecting against nerve damage induced by excessive sun exposure; c) use as an adjunct to the conventional treatment of viral warts. In practical terms, this may mean that you’ll see more products on the market that include Echinacea in creams, lotions and oral supplements directed at consumers with viral conditions such as cutaneous warts.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Applications of the Phytomedicine Echinacea Purpurea (link)

Study 2 - Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Echinacea (link)

Study 3 - The Potential Use of Echinacea in Acne: Control of Propionibacterium (link)

Study 4 - Neuroprotective Effects of a New Skin Care Formulation Following (link)

Study 5 - Oral Supplementation with a Nutraceutical Containing Echinacea (link)

Standardized Echinacea Extract May Reduce Travel-Related Illness

Source: Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:417267. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, General Health, Nutritional Supplements

3 Comments & Updates to “Echinacea Revelations”

  1. Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP,

    Do you think that Echinacea lozenges, used in advance of an air trip and during it might offer an adequate immune system boost?

    Thank you!

  2. JP Says:

    Hi Paul.

    Lozenges that include Echinacea usually don’t contain adequate quantities of the root and its therapeutic components. Simply put, the Echinacea in such products is primarily there as “window dressing”, IMO. That’s not to say they aren’t of potential value. Other ingredients sometimes contained in said lozenges such as elderberry, Vitamin C, xylitol and zinc may confer some benefit.

    Be well!

    JP

  3. JP Says:

    Updated 08/27/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4528044/

    Curr Ther Res Clin Exp. 2015 Apr 20;77:66-72.

    Effect of an Echinacea-Based Hot Drink Versus Oseltamivir in Influenza Treatment: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Double-Dummy, Multicenter, Noninferiority Clinical Trial.

    BACKGROUND: Echinacea has antiviral activity against influenza viruses in vitro and has traditionally been used for treatment of colds and flu.

    OBJECTIVES: This randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, multicenter, controlled clinical trial compared a new echinacea formulation with the neuraminidase inhibitor oseltamivir, the gold standard treatment for influenza.

    METHODS: Following informed consent, 473 patients with early influenza symptoms (≤48 hours) were recruited in primary care in the Czech Republic and randomized to either 5 days of oseltamivir followed by 5 days of placebo, or 10 days of an Echinacea purpurea-based formulation called Echinaforce Hotdrink (A. Vogel Bioforce AG, Roggwil, Switzerland). The proportion of recovered patients (influenza symptoms rated as absent or mild in the evening) was analyzed for noninferiority between treatment groups using a generalized Wilcoxon test with significance level α = 0.05 (2-sided) and using a CI approach in the per-protocol sample.

    RESULTS: Recovery from illness was comparable in the 2 treatment groups at 1.5% versus 4.1% after 1 day, 50.2% versus 48.8% after 5 days, and 90.1% versus 84.8% after 10 days of treatment with Echinaforce Hotdrink and oseltamivir, respectively. Noninferiority was demonstrated for each day and overall (95% CI, 0.487-0.5265 by generalized Wilcoxon test). Very similar results were obtained in the group with virologically confirmed influenza virus infections and in a retrospective analysis during the peak influenza period. The incidence of complications was lower with Echinaforce Hotdrink than with oseltamivir (2.46% vs 6.45%; P = 0.076) and fewer adverse events (particularly nausea and vomiting) were observed with Echinaforce Hotdrink.

    CONCLUSIONS: Echinaforce Hotdrink is as effective as oseltamivir in the early treatment of clinically diagnosed and virologically confirmed influenza virus infections with a reduced risk of complications and adverse events. It appears to be an attractive treatment option, particularly suitable for self-care.

    Be well!

    JP

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