Echinacea angustifolia or purpurea
HABITAT: Native to North America, it is now also extensively cultivated in temperate Europe in sunny locations.
PART USED: the flowering tops and roots.
RECOMMENDED PHARMACEUTICAL PREPARATIONS: the best preparation is the dry extract titrated in echinacoside min. 0.6% (Pharm. French X), whose daily dose ranges from 600 to 900 mg, divided into two doses to be taken preferably between meals.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION: it is rich in organic acids, alkylamides and isobutylamides. It also contains long-chain fatty acids, complex polysaccharides, many fructans, glycoproteins, alkaloids, polyins and numerous flavonoids. It also contains essential oil in the range of 0.1-0.2%.
Immunostimulant action possesses a good non-specific immunostimulating action confirmed by experimental evidence such as increased phagocytosis (ability to engulf bacteria, viruses and foreign bodies) of total white blood cells and neutrophils in particular, differentiation of immature white blood cells into mature white blood cells, production and activity of macrophages, and production of interferon and interleukins, all very important substances for immune processes. This plant has also been shown to counteract the depressive action on the immune system typical of many antibiotics.
Forty-seven controlled clinical studies have been done to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of Echinacea both as a preventive and as a curative for infections of the first airways. In total, about 5000 patients were involved.
Twenty studies were conducted to investigate the curative aspect, most of which did not find echinacea to be more effective than placebo. Four studies, on the other hand, found this plant to be superior to placebo.
To evaluate the preventive aspect, 27 studies were carried out, the average results of which were as follows: in the groups treated with echinacea the incidence of respiratory tract infections was 29.3% and in those receiving placebo 36.7%. Furthermore, the recovery time of subjects taking echinacea was significantly shorter (4 days) than that observed in the placebo group (6 days). These studies have indicated that the most advisable treatment with Echinacea is as follows: 30-day cure, 15-day interval, 30-day cure, 15-day interval and 30-day cure. This treatment should be started between late October and early November to provide protection during the winter months.
SIDE EFFECTS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS: may give allergy in patients with intolerance to Asteraceae. If administered in high doses over long periods of time, it can disturb the liver, and should be used with caution and under medical supervision in individuals with liver problems. It is contraindicated in patients with autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, etc.) who take immunosuppressive drugs.
DRUG INTERACTIONS: enhances the negative action on the liver of the following drugs: anabolic steroids, amiodarone, methotrexate and ketoconazole.
It can be taken during pregnancy but not during lactation. It can be used in children from the age of 1 year.