Does Echinacea Work?
Echinacea is one of our most popular herbs, used by countless people throughout the world. Over the past few years there have been a number of clinical studies using Echinacea. Some have shown a negative result. Others, like the study done by Dr Brinkeborn on organic fresh Echinacea purpurea, have been positive. Brinkeborn research clearly showed a 63% reduction in the cold and flu symptoms in those taking Echinacea compared to 29% in the placebo group.
Thus it has become increasingly clear that certain extracts were more effective than others – but, until now, we have not had a clear understanding of the mode of action of the her
However, researchers at the respected Institute of Pharmacy at ETH in Zurich, a leading University, discovered the mode of action of Echinacea. They have found that one class of components found in the herb, the Alkylamides, modulate the action of the immune system, supporting the body’s natural healing process. This discovery is further confirmation that Echinacea works in the body - but it is only preparations with Alkylamides which are likely to show the immune modulating effect.
Earlier research carried out by Dr Martin Tobler has shown that tinctures made from freshly harvested Echinacea purpurea contain up to 2.5 times more Alkylamides than extracts made from dried herbs. Alkylamides are volatile and are lost in the drying process commonly used by other manufacturers.
The conclusion must be that whether Echinacea works greatly depends on the type of extract that is used. It also clearly shows that those with Alkylamides may safely be taken long term and that the first question one must ask when reading about any future clinical trials is… did they use the freshest, purest Echinacea available?
Echinacea alkylamides modulate TNF-alpha gene expression via cannabinoid receptor CB2 and multiple signal transduction pathways, FEBS Letters, 11 November 2004 Gertsch J, Schoop R, Kuenzle U, Suter A vol 577 issue 3 pp 563-569