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Echinacea Information


Disclaimer:

        The following information is published with the intent to provide general information on Echinacea angustifolia, which is sold in many forms for its medicinal qualities.  This information is in no way to be interpreted as an endorsement to use E. angustifolia herb, root or any product on the market.  We are in no way using the following information to encourage you to purchase from us, rather, this is an open disclosure of the information that we know exists, so anyone researching this area may find a reference for making informed decisions when purchasing Echinacea.  This information is not all inclusive.  Use wisdom, research all available information to form your own conclusion.  

        None of the following information is to be taken as medical advice.  This information may not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, and should not be used for medical diagnoses or treatment, on yourself or anyone else, without the consent of a qualified medical professional.  We discourage the use or purchase of any herbs or herb products without the consent or advice of qualified health care professionals.  

        If you choose to buy and use Echinacea, by doing so you agree to release us from liability for any injuries or damages.    

Copy Rights:

            The information that follows is an accumulation from all sorts of resources, many of which, reference each other.  When we began collecting a majority of this information, it was for personal education, for this we are sure it was fine to copy most of it.  However, copy rights attach to most of this information, so it may be a different story for any other type of use.  

            In any event, we have attempted to provide all the credits we could for each piece of information used here.  Others, we have merely made links to the web pages holding the information.  This should give each author their due, and allow browsers greater reference points for deeper research on this broad subject.  If you want to use any of this information, we would suggest checking with the proper authors first; mainly, the Institute for Health Products Research.  

Market:

    Echinacea angustifolia products include fresh herb and root, dried herb, root, flower and seed, as well as, living plants.  Market size is currently at 16,000 hectares internationally, 4,000 hectares being sold in North America alone.  Prospects show markets are down, acreage is up, and the market for E. purpurea is weak.   

Description:

    Echinacea angustifolia is a genus of the native American wildflowers, and is commonly referred to by many names, such as; Kansas Snakeroot, Black Sampson, Narrow-leaved or Purple coneflower, to name a few.  E. angustifolia is a medicinal plant related to calendula, chamomile and feverfew, all of which are from the same botanical family known as Asteraceae (Compositae). 

    E. angustifolia develops five to eight feet long, snake-like tap roots, and rarely reaches a height greater than 24 inches.  The leaves grow near the ground, and are stiff with a forest green color, narrow and oblong in shape, and covered with tiny, fine hairs.  The flowers are purple with yellow pollen, and grow on single stems or stalks, which rarely exceed 24 inches in height.   

    Only nine varieties are grown in the United States.  Of these, Echinacea purpurea is the most commonly farmed, while Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pillida are the most sought after wild crafted varieties.  

        Of the above three varieties, wild crafted E. angustifolia is the primary variety native to western Kansas.  This variety contains the highest percentage of active chemical constituents, which is very evident by chewing on a piece of the root for a few minutes  -- a sharp, tingly, numbing sensation will result on the tongue and throat areas.  If your Echinacea does not give you this same experience, then you do not have the true medicinal variety commonly referred to as  Kansas Snakeroot.

    Other varieties such as Echinacea Tennesseensis (Tennessee purple coneflower) and Echinacea Laevigatta (smooth coneflower) are often passed off, or sold to unsuspecting buyers, by unethical money seekers as the real Kansas Snakeroot.  Sadly, these varieties are endangered of becoming extinct, and are not even the real Kansas Snakeroot that has gained so much popularity over the years.  

    The real Kansas Snakeroot has been "commercially" wild crafted for over a century now, and has adapted to the extensive harvesting pressures placed upon it.  Varieties from other regions; however, have not had to endure such stresses, so they are unable to adapt to the growing market's demands for them. 

Culture: 

    Echinacea angustifolia requires full sun; however, tends to grow thickest on the south-western slopes of hills consisting of high limestone deposits creating a near neutral alkaline of 7 - 7.5 pH, and where ever the most precipitation has fallen.  Soils need not be fertile; however, must be well draining, as E. angustifolia will not tolerate any amount of standing water.  Plants should be given a minimum of 4 - 5 years to mature, if "wild managed" within their natural drought stricken environment.

    When "wild managing" E. angustifolia within it's native environment, sow one pound of seed (approx. 128,000) per acre, and plant seedlings 12 - 18 inches apart in all directions.  At this consistency, E. angustifolia should yield upward to If planting seedlings, germinate seeds 150 days prior to planting.  It is not uncommon to suffer as much as a 50% fatality rate by the end of the second year.  These plants are replanted the following year, along with inter spacing seedlings within six to eight inches the following years.  This will allow the plants to produce a canopy that will block out more and more weeds with each new year.

    Yields vary depending upon annual precipitation.  While E. angustifolia is a drought tolerant plant, rainfall at the right times can be conducive to the plant's overall growth and chemical production.  On the other hand, too much rain can cause the roots to fill up with water, diluting the active constituents.  With "wild managing" practices, each acre should begin yielding 1100 kg. of roots annually, by the fourth or fifth years.

    Pests, such as the leafhoppers and their larva, as well as, diseases, like aster yellows, which is spread by leafhoppers, and root rot, commonly work to reduce annual yields.  Birds are your best friend here, as they love nothing better than to eat on these pests all day.  

History of Uses:

    Echinacea was used by American Indian tribes; including, Cheyenne (sore mouth and gums), Choctaw (coughs, dyspepsia), Comanche (toothache, sore throat), Crow (colds, toothache, colic), Dakota (inflammation, bowel complaints, sepsis, tonsillitis, hydrophobia, toothache, snakebite; headache and distemper of horses), Delaware (gonorrhea), Hidatsa (stimulant), Kiowa (coughs, sore throat), Meskwaki (stomach cramps, fits), Omaha (septic diseases, stings), Omaha-Ponca (eyewash, hair comb), Pawnee (rattlesnake bites) and Winnebago (anesthetic) (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Hobbs, 1989).

    Echinacea was first used in mainstream medicine in 1870, when H.C.F. Meyer, a German lay healer, first introduced "Meyer's Blood Purifier."  Wide spread reports of its efficiency in treating snakebites, typhus, diphtheria, and other infections, soon caught the attention of 19th century physicians, John King, author of the American Dispensatory, as well as, John Uri Lloyd, a pharmacist and medical writer. (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000)

    Echinacea was introduced into traditional practices of medicine in 1887, and remained a popular remedy used by Eclectic physicians for the next 50 years.  In the 1920s, Echinacea was sold to medical practitioners in the United States more extensively than any other herb, where Echinacea became a popular anti-infective agent, and remained " official" until 1950, by which time it was replaced by sulfonamides and penicillin.

Published Studies:

    Echinacea has since been under extensive research in Europe, where it is approved by the German Institute for Drug and Medical Devices, to treat colds, influenza, and poor healing topical wounds; the simultaneous use of antibiotics is not excluded.   From 1950 to 1991, over 200 studies were published on its chemistry, pharmacology and clinical applications of Echinacea (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, (Foster 1991).  It is estimated, that at least another 150 studies remain unpublished (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Hobbs 1989). 

Inflamation & Infectious Diseases

     Echinacea has some mild antimicrobial activity, which is attributed primarily to echinacoside, a caffeic acid derivative (Stoll et al., 1950).  Echinacoside occurs in the roots (0.03% - 1.3% mg/g dry weight) and flowers (0.1% - 1% mg/g dry weight) of Echinacea angustifolia, and the roots (0.4% - 1.4% mg/g dry weight) of Echinacea pillida, but not in Echinacea purpurea (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Bauer & Wagner, 1991).

Microbial Infections

    Echinacoside has shown activity against the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, which a concentration of 6 mg. was found about as potent as one unit of penicillin (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Stoll et al., 1950).  Poly acetylene compounds from the roots of E. angustifolia and E. purpurea have shown strong inhibitory activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Schulte et al., 1967).

Inflammatory Response

    Anti-inflammatory activities of Echinacea extracts have been attributed to direct inhibition of hyaluronidase (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Bauer & Wagner, 1991).  An n-hexane extract of E. angustifolia roots inhibited 5-lipoxygenase by 81.8%, and cyclooxygenase by 62.4%.  The inhibitory activities could be partly attributed to a mixture of alkamides isolated from the dried root; however, they showed less potency that the whole extract of the root (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Muller-Jakic et al., 1994).  Topically applied polysaccharide fractions and alkamide fractions have displayed anti-inflammatory activity in the rat paw edema model, and the alkylamides strongly inhibited arachidoneic acid metabolism in vitro (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Bauer & Wagner, 1991).

Tubaro et al. (1987), administered the polysaccharide fraction of E. angustifolia roots (i.v.) to rats one hour before carrageenan-induced paw edema.  A dosage of 50 mg/kg inhibited edema by 64.6%, and 89.7% with double the dose.  In the Croton oil-induced edema model, swelling of the rat ear was significantly reduced by the polysaccharide fraction applied topically.  In this model, the polysaccharide fraction (450 mg/ear, 96.3% inhibition) was approximately 50% as potent as indomethicin.  Tragni et al., determined that in the Croton oil ear test, high molecular weight polysaccharides in the fraction were more active than lower weight polysaccharides (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000).

Viral Infections

    Alcoholic and water extracts of Echinacea inhibit some viruses in cell culture; including, influenza, herpes, and vesicular stomatitis viruses (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Wacker & Hilbig, 1978; May & Willuhn, 1978).  The use of water to extract constituents from the roots of E. angustifolia, showed no activity against poliovirus type 1, influenza A2, or Herpes simplex type 2 (HSV2) (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, May & Willuhn, 1978).

    Some components, such as caffeic acid derivatives, may block viral receptors on the cell surface (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Bauer & Wagner, 1991).  From the flowers and leaves of E. pallida, besides caffeic acid, the caffeic acid derivative echinacoside, and chicoric acid, a tartaris acid derivative, we reported to show virustatic and antiviral activity against vesticular stomatitis virus (VSV) (Cheminat et al., 1988).  In other cases, the inhibition of hyaluronidase is the likely antiviral mechanism; the viral inhibitory actions of Echinacea extracts are diminished when hyaluronidase is added to the cell cultures (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Bauer & Wagner, 1991).  Antihyaluronidase activity was shown from caffeoyl conjugates caftaric and chicoric acids isolated from E. angustifolia roots (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Maffei Facino et al., 1993).

Immune Functions

    Echinacea polysaccharides activate macrophages, a type of white blood cells that engulfs foreign particles, inluding bacteria and cellular debris.  The polysaccharides enhance phagocytosis and induce macrophages to produce immune-potentiating compounds, such as TNF and ILs.  Although polysaccharides are primarily found in E. Pallida and E. purpurea, the alkylamides and caffeic acid derivatives found highest in E. angustifolia roots, contribute to the most potent macrophage-stimulating action.  It is likely that these compounds are responsible for the activity of alcohol extracts, which contain little or no polysaccharides (Bauer & Wagner, 1991). 

    Rehman et al. (1999), examined the effect of an E. angustifolia root extract (Eclectic Institute, Sandy, OR), on antigen-specific immunity in rats.  Compared to the control group, Echinacea-treated rats showed significantly higher production levels of IgG antibodies, which showed rapid increase in the first seven days, reaching significance on day seven.  IgG makes up about 75% of the immunoglobulin in the serum of normal adults and can cross the placenta.  IgG protects new borns in the first months out of the womb, and patients with a selective IgG deficiency suffer from recurrent infections of the respiratory tract (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Stites et al., 1994).

    While there is controversy about which of the constituents in Echinacea contribute to the immunostimulatory activity, there is a contention that the lipophilic alkylamides, the polar caffeic acid derivative and chicoric acid, probably make up the primary contribution to the activity of alcohol extracts.  In addition to these, polysaccharides are named in the activity of the pressed juice of the above-ground portions of the plant, water extracts and powdered whole drug.  However, only low concentrations of polysaccharides are found in the pressed juice, and the composition of chemicals of the roots compared to the aerial parts of the plant (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Bauer & Wagner, 1991).

Anticancer - Antitumor Activity

    The anticancer and antitumor effects of Echinacea are related to its general immunopotentiating actions and specifically to its activation of macrophages (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Bauer & Wagner, 1991).  However, (Z)-1,8-pentadecadiene, a component of E. angustifolia and E. pallida roots, possess significant antitumor effects (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Voaden and Jacobson, 1972)

Current Uses:

    Echinacea is the most widely used herb in the United States, Germany and Japan.  Taken internally, it is used to increase resistance to illness, by stimulating the immune system.  Echinacea has been successful in treating many types of infectious diseases and conditions.  Infections of the upper respiratory and urogenital tracts respond well to treatment with Echinacea.  Treatment of the upper respiratory; includes, colds, influenza, tonsillitis, otitis media, sore throat and whooping cough.

       In Germany, the use of Echinacea has been approved as a supportive therapy to standard antimicrobial agents in the treatment of respiratory and urinary tract infections.  Echinacea is also used to reduce the growth of Trichomonas vaginalis and to lower recurrent rates of Candida albicans infections.  

    Externally, Echinacea ointments and poultices are used for treating poor healing skin wounds resulting from snakebites and brown recluse spider bites; additionally, Echinacea is beneficial to treat all sorts of skin conditions such as, abscesses, eczema, burns, yeast infection, rheumatoid arthritis, varicose veins in the legs and cancer.  

Chemical & Nutrient Contents (E. angustifolia):

    Echinacoside:     0.3% - 1.3% mg/g dry weight (roots)
    Echinacein:         0.01% 
    Isobutylamides:   0.009 - 0.15%+ 

    The older or more mature a root becomes, the higher the concentration of chemistry becomes. (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000).  Irrigation or excessive rain has been reducing echinacoside percentages in organic roots.

Medicinal Chemicals

    Targeted chemicals in Echinacea angustifolia herb and roots are volitile oil, flavonoids, volatile oil flavonoids, alkamides, and polyynes.  While both the herb and root contain these chemicals, the root contains the majority of the medicinal properties during the plant's dormancy.  Some of these active properties are not water-soluble, and require the use alcohol or another agent for extraction of all the active constituents.  While the active constituents have not been positively singled out, it is believed by researchers that the combined effects of high-molecular-weight ploysaccharides, and alkamide fraction, and caffeic acid derivitives are responsible for the wide range of immune modulation Echinacea possesses.

Caffeic Acid Derivatives

Cichoric Acid: A compound found in three species of Echinacea (angustifolia, pallida, and purpurea) that has been shown to induce phagocytosis and inhibit hyaluronidase, and enzyme necessary in bacterial invasion.
Echinacoside: A compound that is found in only two species of Echinacea (angustifolia and pallida).  Although it has no immune stimulating properties itself other than a weak antibiotic (6g = one unit penicillin), it is often used to standardize commercial extracts of Echinacea.  

Lipophilic Compounds

Alkamides (isobutylamides): Has been shown to increase phagocytosis and inhibit cyclooxygenase, a compound necessary in inflammation.

Other Nutrients

    Arabinose, betaine, copper, echinacen, echinacin B, echinachside, echinolone, enzymes, fructose, fatty acids, galactose, glucose, glucuronic acid, inulin, inuloid, iron, pentadecadine, polyacetylene compounds, polysaccharides, potassium, protein, resin, rhamnose, sucrose, sulfur, tannins, xylose, with vitamins A, C and E.

Recommended Forms and Dosages:

Oral Administration

     The best response is obtained from allopathically prepared alcoholic tinctures or homeopathic mother tinctures, up to a dilution of D2.  Tinctures are taken in doses of at least 30 to 40 drops, 3 - 4 times daily, for at least 5 - 6 days from the onset of acute infections.  For prophylaxis, longer treatment times (4 -6 weeks), including short intervals (4 - 5 days) of non-treatment, provide better results than continuous use.  (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Wagner, 1997).

    The British Herbal Compendium, recommends a dosage of one gram of dried root (Echinacea angustifolia), or 2-5 mL of a 1:5, 45% ethanol tincture, 3 times daily (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000; citing, Bradley, 1992).

    Murray (1995) suggests the following doses: dried root or tea, 1 - 2 g., 3 times daily.  Freeze-dried plant, 365 - 650 mg., 3 times daily.  Juice of aerial portion of E. purpurea, stabilized in 22% alcohol (preferably standardized with E. angustifolia roots to contain a minimum of 2.4% b-1,2-fructofuranosides), 2 -3 mL (=0.5 - 0.75 tsp.), 3 times daily; tincture (1:5), 3 - 4 mL (=0.75 - 1.0 tsp.), 3 times daily; fluid extract (1:1), 1 -2 mL (=0.20 - 0.25 tsp.), 3 times daily; solid dry extract (6.5:1 or 3.5% echonacoside), 100 - 250 mg., 3 times daily. (Institute of Natural Products Research, 2000).

Topical Administration

     Ointments and poultices made from the herb or roots, which contain at least 15% Echinacea.

Period of Use  

    Generally, the period of use should not exceed 8 weeks, as the herb's effectiveness begins to diminish within this period of time.  However, intervals of use for 4 - 6 weeks, followed by 1 - 2 weeks non-use, have shown better results than continuous treatment.  For common infections, it is suggested to use Echinacea for 10 days.

Other Forms & Effectiveness:

    While injection seems to be an effective treatment for colds, it is unlawful in the United States.  Instead, Echinacea is only available in capsules, extracts or tea forms.  Effectiveness is dependent upon the form of the herb taken.  In Germany, for example, capsules have been found to be least effective.  Herbal tea forms are not entirely effective, because not all of the active properties are water-soluble.

Potential Other Uses:

    Echinacea has been proving itself effective in the use of preventing horses from contracting various foreign pathogens.

    Because Echinacea contains strong antiviral properties, it may be possible to inhibit the incubation of West Nile Virus in horses, as well as, humans.

Precautions & Warnings:

Contraindications

    When taken at recommended dosages, there is no toxicity associated with the use of Echinacea.  However, because Echinacea has antibiotic/antiviral properties, overuse or consistent use for eights weeks or more may cause immunity to these beneficial factors. Echinacea should be used in cycles (e.g., six weeks daily use, four weeks no use).  

    Infrequent allergic reactions appear to be the only side effect.  Persons with allergic reactions to members of the daisy family should not use Echinacea. 

    The German Institute for Drug and Medical Devices warns against using Echinacea if you have a systemic illness like tuberculosis, leucosis, collagen disease, diabetes, AIDS or HIV disease, multiple sclerosis or an auto-immune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosus.   

    Echinacea should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, or children under two years of age.

    Echinacea should not be taken during a fever or high temperature, because it activates the immune system, which raises the body temperature and ultimately may increase the risks associated with fevers and high body temperatures.  

    Drug Interactions

    None known at this time.

Research Publications:

Kansas State University - Echinacea
Kansas State University - Economic
Kansas State University - E. angustifolia
Kansas State University - E. pallida 
Kansas State University - Echinacea

Institute for Health Products Research - Complete Data

Key Reference:

Institute for Natural Products Research for their exceptional report (copy righted 2000) referencing most research studies published on Echinacea's healing properties.  We could not have compiled a majority of the information here without them.  Thanks.

Bauer, R. and Wagner, H. (1991). Echinacea species as potential immunostimulatory drugs, in: Farnsworth, N.R. and Wagner, H. (eds.), Economic and Medicinal Plant Research, 5. New York, NY: Academic Press, pp 253-321.

Bradley, P. (ed) (1992). British Herbal Compendium, l.  Bournemouth, Dorset, England: British Herbal Medicine Association.

Cheminat, A. Zawatzky, R. Becker, H. et al. (1988). Caffeoyl conjugates from Echinacea species: structures and biological activity. Phytochemistry 27: 2787-2794.

Foster, S. (1991). Echinacea: Nature's Immune Enhancer. Rochester, VT: Healing Press.

Hobbs, C. (1989). The Echinacea Handbook. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications.

Maffei Fancino, R., Carni, M. Aldini, G. et al. (1993). Direct characterization of caffeoyl esters with antihyaluronidase activity in crude extracts from Echinacea angustifolia roots by fast atom bombardment tandem mass spectrmetry.  Il Farmaco 48: 1447 - 1461.

May, G. and Willuhn, G. (1978).  Antiviral activity of aqueous extracts from medicinal plants in tissue cultures.  Arzneimittel-Forschung/Drug Research 28: 1-7.

Muller-Jakic, B. Breu, W. Prostle, A. et al. (1994). In vitro inhibition of cyclooxygenase and 5-lipoxygenase by alkamides from Echinacea and Achillea species. Plant Medica 60: 37-40.

Murray, M.T. (1995). Echinacea: pharmacology and clinical applications. American Journal of Natural Medicine 2: 18-24.

Rehman, J., Dillow, J.M., Carter, S.M. et al. (1999). Increased . in vitro treatment with medicinal plants Echinacea angustifolia and Hydrastis canadensis. Immunology Letters 68: 391-395.

Schulte, K.E., Ruecker, G., Perlick, J. (1967). The presence of polyacetylene compounds in Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia. Arzneimittel-Forschung/Drug Research 17: 825-829.

Stites, D.P., Terr, A.I., Parslow, T.G. (eds.) (1994). Basic and Clinical Immunology. Eight edition. Norwalk, CT: Appleton and Lange.

Stoll, A., Renz, J., Brack, A. (1950). Isolierung und konstitution des echinacosides, eines glykosids aus den wurzeln von Echinacea angustifolia DC. Helvetica Chimica Acta 33: 1877-1893.

Tragni, E., Galli, C.L., Tubaro, A. et al. (1988). Anti-inflammatory activity of Echinacea angustifolia fractions separates on the basis of molecular weight.  Pharmacological Research Communications 20 (Suppl. 5): 87-90.

Tubaro, A., Tragni, E., Del Negro, P. et al. (1987). Anti-inflammatory activity of a polysaccharide fraction of Echinacea angustifolia. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 39: 567-569.

Voaden, D.J., Jacobson, M. (1972). Tumor inhibitors. 3. Identification and synthesis of an oncolytic hydrocarbon from American coneflower roots. Journal of Medicine Chemistry 15: 619-623.

Wacker, A., Hilbig, W. (1978). Virus inhibition by Echinacea Purpurea. Plant Medica 33: 89-102.