Echinacea safe to use?

Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
Is echinacea safe for use when treating colds and flus?

A: Echinacea appears to be very safe. Even when taken in very high doses, it does not appear to cause any toxic effects. Also, side effects are rare and usually limited to minor gastrointestinal symptoms, increased urination, and allergic reactions. However, severe allergic reactions have occurred occasionally, some of them life threatening.

If you have an autoimmune disorder such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, as well as tuberculosis or leukocytosis, it is advised that you avoid echinacea. Rumors say that echinacea should not be used if you have AIDS. These warnings are purely theoretical, being based on fears that echinacea might actually activate immunity in the wrong way. While no evidence shows that echinacea use has actually harmed anyone with these diseases, caution is advisable.

It is also recommended that one not use echinacea for more than 8 weeks. Since there is no evidence that echinacea is effective when taken long term, this is probably sensible. The safety of echinacea in pregnant or nursing women and those with severe kidney or liver disease has not been established. In German studies from the 1950s and 60s, more than 1,000 children were given injected forms of echinacea, with no apparent harm. Given these findings, it seems likely that oral echinacea is safe in children, but we don’t know this for sure.

You may also find these specially formulated Traditions of Tao products helpful for cold and flu treatment: “Cold & Flu”, “Immunity”, “Perpetual Shield”, and “Chest Congestion”. Of course, discuss with your physician before beginning any new health regime.

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This entry was posted in Cold and Flu, Q&A.