Pregnancy Use

Although safety in pregnancy has not been categorically established, results from a prospective study of 206 women who had inadvertently taken echinacea during their pregnancy found that gestational use is not associated with an increased risk for major malformations (Gallo et al 2000). Oral use of echinacea is considered safe in pregnancy when used in recommended doses (Mills & Bone 2005).

PRACTICE POINTS/PATIENT COUNSELLING

• Different types of echinacea have demonstrated immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral and antioxidant activity. > 2007 Elsevier Australia

• Overall, clinical studies support the use of echinacea in URTIs, such as bacterial sinusitis, common cold, influenza-like viral infections and streptococcal throat. Current evidence is strongest for supporting its use as acute treatment in URTIs rather than as prophylactic treatment.

• Several uncontrolled clinical studies support the topical use of echinacea to enhance wound healing.

• Echinacea is also used to treat UTI, allergies, acne and abscesses, as adjunctive therapy in cancer, herpes virus infections and candidiasis.

• Although controversy still exists over which part of the plant and which particular plant has the strongest pharmacological activity, it appears that the cold-pressed juice of E. purpurea is the most studied preparation for URTIs.

ANSWERS TO PATIENTS' FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What will this herb do for me?

Echinacea stimulates immune function and may also have antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity. Scientific research generally supports its use as an acute treatment for URTIs in adults. Applied to the skin, it may also enhance wound healing and be useful for chronic wounds. It also has anti-inflammatory actions.

When will it start to work?

As an acute treatment for URTI, it has effects within the first week of treatment.

Are there any safety issues?

Echinacea is well tolerated, although allergic reactions are possible in rare cases.

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