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 (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed), ISI Web of Science (www.isinet.com) 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 (stneasy.fiz-karlsruhe.de) 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, more than 200 publications were found (50/year), even though a number of publications were not included in this database. This increasing frequency is just a beginning, and it can be predicted that more studies will be published as the exciting results of new research work are revealed.

While searching the Internet with three of the most popular search engines, we encountered duplicated Web pages and advertising. However, by carefully setting the search terms, it is possible to find a large quantity of useful and scientific information. Among these search engines, Google is a satisfactory one in obtaining valuable information on Echinacea. The number of Web pages related to Echinacea found when using some search engines has reached 100,000 to 450,000 per year (August`2001- August`2002). It can be seen that the popularity of Echinacea is dramatically increasing along with the rising popularity of complementary and alternative medicine worldwide.

Cultivation

The current areas of cultivation of Echinacea now extend beyond North America and Europe, into South America, Australia, and other areas of the world. Even in North Africa, Echinacea purpurea has been cultivated successfully in Egypt. In China, E. purpurea has been introduced in the areas of Beijing, Nangjing, and Shanghai, and high-quality plants have been harvested in the Beijing area. In 2001, the global cultivation area of Echinacea was roughly estimated at several thousand hectares (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2001).

Consumers

In Canada, an investigation into the use of herbal products showed that the most popular herbal product recommended by both medical doctors and naturopaths was Echinacea (). According to a national consumer survey conducted in 1999 by Gallup Canada, 33% of the persons surveyed believed that Echinacea was a good way to treat the common cold. The Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association of Canada published a survey in 1999 to evaluate the consumption patterns and healthcare behavior of 8,000 consumers. Survey results indicated that consumption of herbal products rose from 15% to 35% (from 1996 through 1998). Garlic and Echinacea were the most popular self-care herbs (Saskatchewan Nutraceutical Network, 2001).

An estimated 83 million U.S. consumers use complementary and alternative medicine. Of all complementary and alternative medicine treatments, herbal medicine has grown the fastest and Echinacea is one of the six top-selling herbal medicinal products. Surveys in the U.S. have shown that more than 7.3 million Americans are using Echinacea, and that herbal medicine usage increased from nearly 3% of the population in 1991 to over 37% in 1998. A dietary supplement survey of 70 pharmacists in the U.S. showed that a majority (53%) of pharmacists reported taking dietary supplements in which Echinacea is the top item for colds and influenza. In another survey determining the frequency of complementary and alternative medicine use in surgical patients, results showed that 1,003 of 2,560 patients used CAM, of which herbal medicine (Echinacea among the most frequently used) was the most common, primarily for general health maintenance.

In Germany, physicians prescribed Echinacea over 2.5 million times in 1994 and more than 2 million prescriptions for Echinacea were filled each year. In Australia, it is reported that 50% of the population use CAM, of which Echinacea-containing products are increasingly popular. Annual Australian consumption of E. purpurea is approximately 80 MT; dried E. angustifolia root, 15 to 20 MT; and E. pallida, 1 MT.

Market

In 1998, Echinacea was the tenth most important medicinal plant sold in Europe with annual sales of about $120 million (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2001). The largest Echinacea market in Europe is in Germany where scientists led research on Echinacea research throughout the 20th century.

In North America, Echinacea is listed as the first among 11 top-selling herbal extracts and among the 12 top-selling bulk herbs (Manitoba Agriculture and Food, 2001). Echinacea ranked as one of the best-selling herbal remedies sold in the United States, accounting for 12% of all herbal sales in 1997. The annual sales of Echinacea in the U.S. are estimated to range from more than $200 million to more than $300 million (American Herbal Products Association, 1999).

However, the sales of Echinacea in 2000 and 2001 declined about 20% in the U.S.. The recent “Product Profile: Medicinal Plants” (International Trade Centre, 2001) indicated that the current trend is oversupply. International markets are overstocked with raw materials, leading to consistently falling prices over the past 2 years. This is particularly true of the main medicinal herbs such as Echinacea, which have been greatly overproduced mainly in the developed countries (International Trade Centre, 2001).

Selections from the book: “Echinacea: The genus Echinacea / Medicinal and Aromatic Plants — Industrial Profiles, v 39” (2004)