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Clinician’s Corner: Echinacea

Echinacea is one of the top five herbs that our patients have questions about.  Like all products we sell it does come with a few warnings that might not make it appropriate therapy for a select group of patients.  Efficacy seems to be another issue. Ecinacea  is commonly known as American cone flower or Kansas snake root).  It’s found widely throughout North America and was used by the Native Americans both topically and orally for the treatment of burns, snakebites, pain, cough, and sore throat.  All nine species are native to North America.  The fresh or dried roots or above-ground parts that are collected at the time of flowering of the Echinacea angustifolia, is what is used in medicinal preparations.

USE

Echinacea is used today in the prevention and treatment of the common cold to decrease both the duration and severity.  According to most current literature, prevention and treatment of common cold is modest at best.  Well-designed clinical trials have not proven its benefit in treatment/prevention of upper respiratory infections, including the common cold.

PRECAUTIONS

  • Allergy to related plants in the daisy family: ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies.
  • The immune stimulating effects of Echinacea have led to concerns regarding the use of Echinacea in patients with autoimmune disorders. It isn’t known whether Echinacea may make autoimmune disorders worse such as Lupus, Sjogrens syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis. I wouldn’t recommend Echinacea in any of these patients.  Patients that have atopic dermatitis have increase likelihood of allergic reactions and should also avoid echinacea.
  • According to one study the authors noted that there were small trends in the direction of a benefit from echinacea—an average half-day reduction in duration, or an approximate 10 percent decrease in severity—the researchers concluded that echinacea, at this dose formulation, does not significantly change the course of the common cold.
  • A 2001 study of 80 adult male and female subjects showed a reduction of duration of cold symptoms from 9 days for the placebo group versus 6 days for the echinacea group.
  • Most common strength available at our pharmacy is 400mg capsules.

YOUR PHARMACIST’S PERSPECTIVE:

So it seems like Echinacea doesn’t have the evidence that supports our recommendation for treatment or prevention of the common cold.  As we with Vitamin C, patients need to be on it continuously to reduce the duration or intensity of the common cold. Drug resistance is becoming more of a problem in our area, and antibiotics have no value treating the cold or flu.

Remember if you treat the common cold it lasts 7 days; if untreated it lasts one week!  Your Thompson Pharmacist will help you feel better when you catch a cold.  Go ahead and ASK, at Thompson Pharmacy it’s all for YOU!