How It Works
Echinacea is thought to support the immune system by activating white blood cells.33 Three major groups of constituents may work together to increase the production and activity of white blood cells (lymphocytes and macrophages), including alkylamides/polyacetylenes, caffeic acid derivatives, and polysaccharides. More studies are needed to determine if and how echinacea stimulates the immune system in humans.
Echinacea may also increase production of interferon, an important part of the body’s response to viral infections.34 Several double-blind studies have confirmed the benefit of echinacea for treating colds and flu.35, 36, 37, 38, 39 Recent studies have suggested that echinacea may not be effective for the prevention of colds and flu and should be reserved for use at the onset of these conditions.40, 41 In terms of other types of infections, research in Germany using injectable forms or an oral preparation of the herb along with a medicated cream (econazole nitrate) reduced the recurrence of vaginal yeast infections as compared to women given the cream alone.42
How to Use It
At the onset of a cold or flu, 3–4 ml of echinacea in a liquid preparation or 300 mg of a powdered form in capsule or tablet, can be taken every two hours for the first day of illness, then three times per day for a total of 7 to 10 days.43
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.