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April 27, 2018  |  Login
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea or angustifolia)
By James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.
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A study conducted by the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, in conjunction with the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, looked at the safety of echinacea during pregnancy. In the study, 206 women who used echinacea during pregnancy for upper respiratory tract infections were analyzed, along with a control group of 198 pregnant women who had upper respiratory tract infections but never used echinacea. The researchers found no association between the use of echinacea and birth defects. There were also no differences in the rates of live births or spontaneous abortions between the two groups.
Another concern parents have is whether echinacea will affect fertility. This question is asked because of a 1999 press release about the topic. A study suggested that common herbal supplements, such as Saint-John's-wort, ginkgo, and echinacea, might adversely affect fertility. Researchers took hamster eggs, removed the outer coating, and exposed the eggs to the herbs. They then mixed in human sperm, which will usually penetrate the egg. At higher dosages, the herbs either impaired or prevented the sperms' ability to penetrate the eggs. High concentrations of Echinacea purpurea interfered with sperm enzymes. Based on this, some researchers have prematurely concluded that echinacea may interfere with fertility. Is this a valid conclusion? No. There are several problems. In the body, any herb is first broken down by the digestive system. In this study, the researchers used the whole herb in relatively high concentrations, which would never contact sperm in real life. Also, the experiment was done in a laboratory petri dish. To be valid, human studies would have to be done. We have no problem recommending echinacea for short-term use in pregnancy or as needed for infections in people trying to conceive.

Medicinal Use: Immune system enhancement, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal

Parts Used: Roots and flowers

Form Used: Tincture, tea, capsule, tablet

Potential Side Effects: Caution for people who are allergic to the daisy family. Do not use on a long-term basis if you have an autoimmune condition.

Comments: It's effective for colds, flu's, sore throats, and respiratory tract infections; Nature's antibiotic.

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