Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is a Medicinal Herb Used in Traditional Herbal Medicine.

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Botanicals: Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

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Introduction

Echinacea is a medicinal herb native to North America that is used by modern herbalists as an immune system stimulant. It was used by native Americans as a multi-purpose curative agent centuries before the arrival of European settlers. By the 19th century, the European settlers had recognised the benefits of echinacea and it was incorporated into the pharmacology of western medicine (Stuart et al, 2004).

Botanicals: Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

 


 

Echinacea


Biological Name:
Echinacea purpurea

Family:
Asteraceae/Compositae

Other Names: 
Narrow-leaved purple coneflower, Sampson root, Black Sampson, Red sunflower, Echinacea

Parts Used:
Whole plant

Description:

Coarse perennial reaching 45 cm. Leaves sparse, lanceolate to linear; 7.5-20 cm long, entire with slender petioles. Flowerhead solitary on stout terminal peduncle, consisting of spreading ray florets 3 cm long, purple or rarely white, and 3 cm long conical erect disc florets, also purple. Appearing mid-summer to early autumn (Stuart, 1979).

Active Compounds: 
Echinacea purpurea contains the following constituents: caffeoyl phenols, alkylamides and polysaccharides (Stuart, et al., 2004).

Traditional Indications:

Antiseptic, Digestive, Anti-microbial - used as an effecive remedy for boils, acne, phryngitis, tonsilitis, abscesses and septicaemia (Stuart, 1979). Bacterial and viral infections especially of the upper respiratory tract. Immune stimmulant (Stuart, et al., 2004). Also a primary medicine to treat tooth abscess (Hall, 1988)

Pharmacology/Indications:

The immune-stimulating properties of Echinacea have not been attributed to any single compound. Echinacea increases the proliferation of phagocytes in spleen and bone marrow, stimulates monocytes to produce cytokines (IL-1, IL-6, TNF), increases the number of PMN, activates macrophages, and promotes the adherence of PMN to endothelial cells.
Echinacea has anti -viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Echinacea was shown to inhibit the influenza virus and the herpes simplex virus (I and II). Topically, Echinacea has anti-inflammatory properties where it inhibits edema. Echinacea may interfere with cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 (CYP3A4) enzyme (Perri, et al., 2006).

According to Perri, et al., (2006) traditionally E. purpurea was use to treat conditions including wounds, insect bites, infections, toothache, joint pain, and as an antidote for rattlesnake bites.

Research

Main claims for pharmacological activity of echinacea (internally) include an increase in granulocytes in the blood, increase of phagocytic performance by granulocytes and macrophages, inhibition of virus production, activation of cytokins, such as interleukin, an increase of T-lymphocytes, and a shifting of the T4/T8-cell ratio in favor of T4 cells (Schoneberger, 1992).

The influence of the immune-stimulating effect of freshly pressed juice from Echinacea purpurea (dosage: 2-4 ml daily) on the course and severity of colds in patients with increased susceptibility were studied over a period of 8 weeks in a placebo-controlled, double-blind, mono-centric clinical test. Furthermore, the effect of immunological parameters was appraised. A total of 108 patients (54 medication, 54 placebo) were evaluated in regard of effectiveness on the basis of this test system.

The study showed that prophylactic treatment with Echinacin Liquidum resulted in a decreased frequency of infections. This was evident in the number of patients remaining healthy (medication 35.2%, placebo 25.9%) as well as in the length of time interval between infections (medication 40 days, placebo 25 days). Occuring infections were less severe in 78.6% of the medicated group as compared to 68% of the placebo group. Patients showing evidence of a weakened defence system, who before treatment had a T4/T8-ratio of less than 1.5, profited most from prophylactic treatment. These patients attained an additional notable reduction in the average duration of the infection (medicated group 5.34 days, placebo 7.54 days) (Schoneberger, 1992).

 

References:

Stuart, D.L. Wills, R.B.H. and Dickeson, T.M. (2004) Optimisation of Polysaccharides in Processed Processed Echinacea purpurea. Centre for the Advancement of Food Technology and Nutrition, University of Newcastle.

Stuart, M. (1979) The encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism. Orbis Publishing Limited, London.

Daniel Perri, Jean-Jacques Dugoua, Edward Mills, Gideon Koren (2006) Safety and efficacy of Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea and E. pallida during pregnancy and lactation. Can J Clin Pharmacol Vol 13(3) e262-e267.

Schoneberger, D. (1992). The Influence of Immune-Stimulating Effects of Pressed Juice from Echinacea purpurea on the Course and Severity of Colds. Forum Immunologie 8:2-12. (In German, translated by Sigrid M. Klein).

Hall, D. (1988) Dorothy Hall's Herbal Medicine. Lothian Publishing, Melourne, Australia.

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