Archive for category Echinacea'

The Efficacy of Echinacea Tea

Herbal remedies continue to grow in popularity in the U.S. as demonstrated by expanding sales with seemingly no correlation to scientific research. Echinacea preparations have developed into the best-selling herbal immunostimulants. Nine species of the genus Echinacea are found today in the U.S. and Canada. Native Americans used Echinacea to treat wounds, snakebites and other animal bites, tonsillitis, headache, and cold symptoms. In the early 1900s in the U.S., Echinacea was the most utilized indigenous medicinal plant. After the introduction of antibiotics, its use declined in the U.S., although today it remains popular in Europe. Although Echinacea is processed and sold around the world, Switzerland and Germany have been in the forefront by marketing more than 800 homeopathic products and drugs containing Echinacea (). Analyses of these preparations have shown that three different species of Echinacea are used in medicine and homeopathy: Echinacea angustifolia DC, Echinacea pallida (Nutt.) Nutt., and Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench. (Asteraceae). Even though a number of species of Echinacea have shown an immunostimulating effect, E. purpurea has been the type most often used for relief of symptoms of flu, cold, Read more […]

Diversity of Echinacea

Echinacea diversity will be discussed in terms of its species, varieties, cultivating stage and regions, plant parts, processing of plant and products, methodology, quality, clinical trials, and legislation. The diversity is shown at the level of the following constituents that are thought to show individual or combined biological and pharmacological activity: Lipophilic alkamides (dodecatetraenoic acid isobutylamides and related compounds, also called alkylamides) Moderately hydrophilic phenolic caffeoyl derivatives (cichoric acid, cynarin, echinacoside, caftaric acid, chlorogenic acid, etc.) Lipophilic polyalkynes and polyalkenes High-molecular weight hydrophilic glycoproteins and polysaccharides including heteroxylans, fructofuranoside, and arabinogalactans. The lipophilic alkamides and polar phenolic caffeoyl derivatives are considered to be the main pharmacologically active components in Echinacea alcohol extracts in which the polar polysaccharides are at very low level. The polysaccharides exist in expressed Echinacea juice, aqueous extract, and powdered whole herb. However, their levels in most Echinacea preparations and effects on the immune system after oral intake have been disputed. Species Table Read more […]

Quality Standardization of Echinacea

Although Echinacea products belong to the top best-selling group of herbal products, thus far its cultivation, harvesting, and extraction are realized without profound knowledge of factors that affect its quality. Commercially available preparations of varying quality are the result. The increasing popularity of Echinacea has raised concerns in the herbal medicine community and the media that there is a need to establish standards for Echinacea products. The diversity described above supports the need for greater efforts to provide authentic, safe, stable, and efficacious Echinacea products that are consistent from batch to batch (Bauer, 1999; Grant and Benda, 1999). Standard quality controls with scientific criteria start with a defined species, proper cultivation and harvesting through a defined drying and extraction procedure, and end with a quantitative determination by a defined method for one or more of its active ingredients (Tierra, 1999). Active Markers In order to standardize Echinacea preparations, some suitable active markers must be identified in the products. Although a number of active components have been studied and identified, their mechanisms of action and bioavailability are not yet completely Read more […]

Popularity of Echinacea

Publications So far, over 800 scientific studies on Echinacea have been published including botanical, chemical, analytical, pharmacological, clinical aspects, and so on. Results of searches for publications about Echinacea in the databases Pub-Med, National Library of Medicine (, ISI Web of Science ( et al. Although Echinacea has a long tradition as a folk medicine among Native Americans and is now the most popular herb in North America, research on Echinacea in these countries was rare until the 1990s. Before the 1980s, most research on Echinacea was pioneered and conducted in Germany and published in German. More recently, studies on Echinacea have been carried out worldwide and are published mostly in English. Scientific publications about Echinacea are increasing rapidly. The annual number of publications on this herb found in Pub-Med in 2002 is 50 to 80 times greater than during the 1970s and 1980s. Searching the database CAplus ( also showed that studies on Echinacea are increasing rapidly. During the 30 years between 1967 and 1997, 131 publications related to Echinacea were found (4.4/year), while in the 4 years between 1997 and 2001, Read more […]

Adverse Reactions Associated with Echinacea and Other Asteraceae

Fifty percent of Australians report using some form of complementary alternative medicines (CAM) apart from vitamins in any 12-month period, with similar patterns of use in British and North American subjects. Despite the common perception that “natural therapy” is safe, toxic and hypersensitivity reactions to complementary and alternative medicine have been described. Given that these products are rarely packaged in childproof containers, accidental exposure also occurs. Allergic reactions are most common in atopic subjects. This is not surprising when one considers that up to 20% of atopic subjects use CAM. Furthermore, these patients are more likely than others to become sensitized to cross-reactive allergens and some use (or are advised to use) products such as Echinacea for treatment of allergic disease. When interpreting reports of immediate hypersensitivity to Asteraceae-derived CAM, it is helpful to bear in mind a number of important concepts: (1) exposure to Asteraceae is common; (2) sensitization is more common in subjects with preexistent allergic disease; (3) there is allergenic cross-reactivity between different Asteraceae, and between Asteraceae and some foods; and (4) patients sensitized by inhalation Read more […]

Asteraceae: Drug Interactions, Contraindications, And Precautions

Patient survey data from Canada, the U.S., and Australia show that one in five patients use prescription drugs concurrently with CAM. The inherent polypharmaceutical nature of complementary and alternative medicine increases the risk of adverse events if these complementary and alternative medicine either have pharmacological activity or interfere with drug metabolism. Since confirmed interactions are sporadic and based largely on case reports, advice to avoid certain drug-CAM combinations is based on known pharmacological and in vitro properties. Known Hypersensitivity to Asteraceae Cross-reactive sesquiterpene lactones are present in many, if not all, Asteraceae. Patients with known CAD from one plant may develop similar type IV reactions following contact with others. Affected patients are often advised to avoid contact with all Asteraceae, yet this advice is based on limited knowledge of cross-reactivity between relatively few members of this large family. Some authorities recommend avoiding Asteraceae-derived complementary and alternative medicine if, for example, the patient is known to have IgE-mediated inhalant allergy to ragweed. While a reasonable approach, this ignores a number of important facts: (1) Read more […]

The Use of Echinacea in Pregnancy and Lactation

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is an umbrella term that covers a number of healthcare modalities that generally fall outside the realm of the conventional medical model. Herbal medicine is considered to be a primary complementary and alternative therapy. In recent years, the use of herbal products has increased dramatically, particularly in developed countries, by people who wish to maintain good health and reduce the need for conventional drug therapy. Echinacea products are among the most popular phytomedicines. While these remedies have a long history of use in pregnancy, during delivery, and for lactation, clinically relevant sources of information on the safety and risk of such products are lacking. Given the great variation in product composition and constituent concentration, the actual safety of Echinacea has not been easy to study in pregnancy and lactation. To date, there is only one published study that has examined the safety of Echinacea use during pregnancy for upper respiratory tract ailments. Pregnancy Facts There is an underlying baseline risk for malformations associated with every pregnancy, regardless of the mother’s exposure to a substance of concern. As a result, the primary Read more […]

Cultivation in Europe

Echinacea (Asteraceae), a North American genus of 11 recognized taxa, is of great contemporary economic and scientific interest. Three species — Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pallida — show potential pharmacological activity and have economical value all over the world. Echinacea is a relatively new genus in Europe. First, these species were introduced as decorative plants and later, from about 1930 to 1960, they became very popular as medicinal plants. As evidence of their medicinal value became clear, supplies derived from wild native American plants did not meet the increased demand. Thus, research efforts today are directed at establishing the best methods for cultivating Echinacea species in Europe and North America. More than 15 countries now have cultivation and production facilities. From the several Echinacea species, the most studied and well known is the purple coneflower (E. purpurea), the species that has been most fully domesticated thus far. Several articles and books have been written on the biological activity, chemistry, and medicinal effects and uses of Echinacea (), but the literature is sparse concerning cultivation and agrotechnical issues for the genus. Information Read more […]

Cultivation in Europe: Agrotechnical Research of Echinacea

Germany Research on Echinacea in Freising focused on the detailed cultivation technology of E. purpurea and E. angustifolia. The first basic production technology for these two species was published by Bomme in 1986. Fertilization studies were completed by Bomme-Wurzinger (1990), and Bomme-Nast (1998). Between 1986 and 1988, 10 E. purpurea cultivars were compared. In 1999, one paper was published dealing with the seed treatments of three Echinacea species, and focused on direct drilling in the field. Another research team led by Franke has been working on the technology for growing E. pallida since 1993. E. pallida was also the object of the third research team in Thyringia, where the main agronomic elements have been studied. Switzerland To meet the demand for industrial raw material, agronomic research started in the first half of the 1980s. Seed biology and basic agronomic procedures were studied by Smith-Jochum and Albrecht. The studies focused on all three species. Optimization of the harvest in conjunction with the growth and plant phenology was studied by Heinzer et al. (1988). Identification of the three species, seed biology, and seed chemical profiles were reported by Schulthess et al. (1991). Italy Field Read more […]

Europe: Different Cultivation and Production Forms of Echinacea

Decorative Perennial Echinacea was introduced in Europe and cultivated first as a decorative perennial. Among the Echinacea species, E. purpurea is by far the best-known species. E. pallida and E. angustifolia have less ornamental value in Europe because their ligules have drooping characteristics. As a perennial plant, its ornamental use is based on the large decorative and long-lasting inflorescens. Each plant has 10 to 30 flower stems and the large flowers are 6 to 18 cm in diameter, with 4- to 6-cm long ligules. Their color ranges from white to rose pink to red violet. After the flowering period, the dried elevated cones with ripened seeds have decorative value in the autumn garden as well. Echinacea species are also used in perennial plant borders. Cut Flower In our Finnish cut-flower study, the longevity of the flowers in the field was 31 to 50 days and their full aesthetic flowering lasted indoors at room temperature for 10 to 12 days. The flower stems after cutting must be placed immediately, and remain continuously, in water to preserve longevity. Nectar Production According to a study carried out in Ukraine, one E. purpurea plant, in years 2 and 3, developed 17 and 30 flowers, respectively. During Read more […]