Echinacea works best for the common cold

Echinacea plants are perennials that are native to most parts of Eastern North America. For decades, extracts of these plants have been used to treat infections, cancers and health disorders. Proponents of Echinacea claim that the roots have excellent immune stimulating properties. Echinacea is widely available in most health food stores both in Europe and North America. Most people buy these plant products to treat upper respiratory infections and current estimates indicate that Echinacea is probably the most commonly sold supplement on market.

There is some clinical evidence that Echinacea may be able to reduce intensity of symptoms of the common cold when it is taken at the earliest sign or symptoms. However, not all studies agree with these findings primarily because Echinacea preparations vary widely in quality and quantity from store to store. Three large trials did reveal that compared to placebo, Echinacea was slightly better at relieving symptoms of the common cold. While the herb can reduce symptoms of the common cold, it does not prevent the common cold virus. The summation of the current clinical evidence for other disorders is at odds and further well-planned studies are needed before an ultimate conclusion can be drawn. Echinacea is of little benefit in children ages 2-11

There is little or no medical evidence that Echinacea can help individuals who have cancer, eye infections, vaginal yeast infections or in people with genital herpes. In children there is not enough evidence to support the use of Echinacea because in most cases the early symptoms are usually missed. When the treatment is started later the benefits of Echinacea are often missed. In addition, children usually develop viral infections and there is no evidence that

Echinacea has anti viral properties. Moreover, development of skin rash and allergies is common with Echinacea and this should another reason to avoid its use in children. In adults over the age of 18, there is no set dose. Every health food store has a different formulation and different quality of the same product. However, some experts recommend that 500-1000 mg taken three times a day may help reduce symptoms of the common cold. Treatment of skin wounds and ulcers can be done with the gel formulation but Echinacea should never be injected inside a vein.

Since the FDA does not strictly regulate herbs, the side effects and complications of Echinacea are not fully known. However, the most commonly reported side effects are allergy and skin rash. Many reports of itching, rash, facial swelling and wheezing exist after having consumed Echinacea. Since the herb is associated with a rash in children its risks outweigh any possible benefit.

Other side effects reported with Echinacea include muscle aches, sore throat, nausea and headache. Women who are pregnant or those who are breast feeding should not take Echinacea since there are no studies which have looked at this herb and its effects on the fetus.

For the majority of people who are inclined to take Echinacea, it is best recommended only to reduce symptoms of the common cold.

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