Echinacea: Herbal Medications, What Works
Echinacea (Echinacea species) was the best-selling herbal medicine in U.S. health food stores from 1995 to 1997.
Widely used by the Plains Indians, especially for infectious diseases and wound healing, echinacea was adopted by Eclectic physicians in the late 1800s. Once very popular, it was largely replaced by antibiotics, but is again gaining popularity.
Echinacea is primarily used to prevent and treat the common cold, flu, and upper respiratory tract infections; to enhance immune system function; and to treat systemic Candida infections. There is good clinical research support for its use in colds, flus, and upper respiratory infections, but research on other applications is more equivocal. Echinacea is inappropriate for HIV and AIDS, since echinacea may promote the replication of T-cells, which is where the HIV virus resides.
When using echinacea to prevent cold and flu or to relieve their symptoms, Dr. Varro Tyler recommends taking it in small doses every few hours, with a maximum length of treatment of six to eight successive weeks.
While more well-designed clinical trials of echinacea extracts are certainly desirable, there seems to be sufficient clinical and pharmacological evidence to suggest that it is safe and effective. However, echinacea preparations on the U.S. market have proven inconsistent in quality. Relying on reputable brands and standardized extracts should help to ensure quality and proper dosage.
BEST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: WHAT WORKS? WHAT DOES NOT? by Dr. Kenneth R.
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Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier. All Rights Reserved.