Echinacea - the jury is still out
Published: 17/10/2012 by Mario M Anders
A variety of studies in Milan in Italy and another in Czech Republic indicate that the herb is about as dangerous as a glass of water, that is, if you consider a glass of water safe !.
“Extremely high doses of Echinacea extract have been given to laboratory animals, with little evidence of tumour induction or toxicity.”
Yet another site recently researched claims -
“Echinacea supplements are popular and commonly used for treating various conditions”
And goes on to say – “The herbal supplement may worsen autoimmune diseases by stimulating the immune system. It is best to avoid taking it if you have a severe or life-threatening autoimmune disease. In addition, people with other allergies might be at a higher risk for an allergy to Echinacea”.
And now it is being said that Echinacea alone is not as efficient as when combined with Andrographis not a common place herb though there are claims it has been around for many years.
Lets look at the two in combination.
Echinacea - (Echinacea purpurea.)
Echinacea is an immune stimulant which is recommended to be taken along with Andrographis to improve its effectiveness. This duo of herbs is highly indicated for the immune system and also specifically targets and destroys viral infected cells.
Andrographis - (Andrographis paniculata)
Andrographis is a bitter herb that is renowned in Asia as an effective remedy for strengthening the Immune System against viruses and fighting infections. It is actually a commonly prescribed herb in Asia for a strong and healthy immune system.
Andrographis and Echinacea complement each other with the following actions:
- Potently enhance the body's immune function
- Strengthen resistance and provide relief to mucous membranes
- Help the body to counteract the effects of stress which is a common outbreak trigger
Granted that echinacea is one of the most well known herbs in the world and is said to be used by the Native American Indians to treat more illnesses than any other plant.
Echinacea is also one of the most researched herbs, with hundreds of research papers about Echinacea having appeared in scientific literature . Prevention is always better than a cure or a drug which simply masks the symptoms.
Echinacea said to have strong antiviraland anti-inflammatoryproperties. As a home remedy for herpes, and when taken consistently, some case studies have shown promising results with Echinacea reducing the frequency and intensity of herpes outbreaks. In one report, Echinacea was able to completely stop an outbreak from developing when the herb was taken repeatedly during the prodromal stage - which is when warning symptoms such as itching and tingling just begin.
Echinacea appears to prevent infection and assists the body in repairing tissue that has damaged by infection. This is said to be due to the herb's ability to inhibit the activity of the enzyme called hyaluronidase. Through this action, Echinacea helps to repair connective tissue that has been destroyed by infection, as well as assists in eliminating the pathogenic organisms which create the infection (i.e. the virus or bacteria).
In a 1990’s clinical trial, a blend containing Echinacea purpurea with benzalkonium chloride (which is a common antiseptic) demonstrated that the extract produced good anti-viral activity against both Acyclovir resistant and Acyclovir susceptible strains of HSV-1 (coldsores) and HSV-2 (genital herpes).
Echinacea's antiviral response to the Herpes simplex virus has been said to be related to the following functions:
- A virus-inhibiting action caused by the inhibition of the enzyme hyaluronidase, which strengthens connective tissue and helps make the body less susceptible to viruses
- Powerful immune-stimulatory properties, such as the increase of white blood cells which then engulf viral matter
- Certain components may block virus receptors on the cell surface
- Enhances cytotoxic T-cell killing of virus infected cells
- Promotes the release of interferon, and other important immune functions which help fight off viruses
- Inhibits the reverse transcription of viral RNA
Echinacea, particularly when combined with Andrographis, is a powerful antiviral immune stimulant and may be an effective herb in helping to prevent HSV-1(coldsores) and HSV-2 (genital herpes) recurrences. Due to Echinacea's response to restoring the skin after infection and reducing inflammation, it may also assist healing during active outbreaks a well as prevent an outbreak from developing.
Can echinacea considered a very safe herb ? It is often prescribed by some midwifes and practitioners during pregnancy.
Contrary to a popular belief in the 1990s, Echinacea is generally a safe and effective herb for use in people who have auto-immune diseases, such as HIV, Lupus and Crohn’s Disease.
The previous theory lacked scientifically relevant data to support it and as a result this assumption was officially lifted towards the end of the 1990s. Echinacea has continued to show promising and effective results in auto-immune patients.
For more information about taking Echinacea for extended periods further research is available in articles by such The Truth about Echinacea by Kerry Bone though a word of caution. Because echinacea can enhance immune function, echinacea possible should not be taken by individuals who have had an organ transplant and are taking immunosuppressant medication.