Extracts of Echinacea purpurea have been used traditionally in North America for the treatment of various types of infections and wounds, and they have become very popular herbal medicines globally. Recent studies have revealed that certain standardized preparations contain potent and selective antiviral and antimicrobial activities.
Early studies showed that only certain Echinacea extracts possessed significant antiviral activity. E. purpurea aerial parts and roots contained potent antiviral activities (virucidal) against influenza virus, herpes simplex virus, and coronavirus, and these were distributed among more than one solvent derived fraction, probably reflecting the presence of more than one antiviral compound.
In a study it was capable of killing viruses by direct contact, however in further studies EP was found to be much less effective against intracellular virus.
Several potentially pathogenic bacteria have the capacity to cause respiratory symptoms. A herbal medicine with bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties could provide benefits to individuals suffering from respiratory symptoms, and certain preparations of EP possess these activities, in addition to their antiviral activities described above.
Several reports have demonstrated the anti-oxidant property of EP preparations.(1)
There are nine known species of echinacea, but the most commonly used is Echinacea purpurea. It is believed to be the most potent.
What Echinacea is used for:
-to treat or prevent colds, flu and other upper respiratory tract infections
-to treat bacterial, viral and fungal infections
-to stimulate the immune system
-for wounds and skin problems (acne, boils)
-to reduce inflammation
Echinacea usually does not cause side effects. However, some people experience allergic reactions, including rashes, increased asthma, gastrointestinal side effects, and anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction)
People are more likely to experience allergic reactions to echinacea if they are allergic to related plants in the daisy family, which includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Also, people with asthma or atopy (a genetic tendency toward allergic reactions) may be more likely to have an allergic reaction when taking echinacea.
Source: J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012; 2012: 769896., 2.NCCAM- http://nccam.nih.gov/health/echinacea/ataglance.htm, fotó: H.Zell