Report on Echinacea Side Effects and Usage


Natural health supplements sometimes have unexpected side effects or interactions with medication that can lead to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening. The following is a list of cautions that you should be aware of before using Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, E. purpurea, purple coneflower). These are referred to as drug/herb interactions.

Warning 1 – Contraindications: Tuberculosis, leucosis, collagenosis, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, HIV, other autoimmune disease, and those who are allergic to plants in the daisy family. This includes daisies, ragweed, chrysanthemums and marigolds. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult with their doctor before using echinacea.

Warning 2 – Econazole vaginal cream: Echinacea may decrease the action of this cream.

Warning 3 – Immunosuppressants: May decrease the effects of immunomodulators. Experts recommend avoiding use immediately before, during, or after transplant surgery.

Warning 4 – Long-term use: The use of echinacea short-term can promote T-cell activation and increase the number of white blood cells, which boosts the immune system. However, echinacea lose its effectiveness over time and may ultimately damage your immune system by inhibiting the production of T-cells. Using echinacea for more than 8 weeks at a time can cause immune system suppression.

Warning 5 – Heart problems: If you take medication for heart problems, especially Cordarone and Pacerone, check with your doctor before using echinacea.

Warning 6 – Drug testing: There is a concern about using products containing echinacea being used to defeat urine tests. There is one report of an employee accused of putting something in urine in an attempt to mask something illegal. If you are subject to urine drug testing you may want to avoid using echinacea so that you don’t “appear” guilty, even when you are not.

Used as a natural health remedy: Echinacea is commonly used both internally and externally for a verity of conditions and diseases:

  • bronchitis
  • cancer
  • canker sores
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • colds
  • diphtheria
  • ear infections
  • eczema
  • enlarged lymph glands
  • enlarged prostate
  • flu
  • genital herpes
  • gingivitis, gum disease
  • hay fever
  • help prevent sickness
  • hemorrhoids
  • indigestion or heartburn
  • malaria
  • migraines
  • psoriasis
  • sinusitis
  • sore throat pain
  • speed wound healing
  • sunburn
  • syphilis
  • tonsillitis
  • typhoid
  • upper respiratory infection
  • urinary tract infection
  • vaginal yeast infections

In some parts of Europe, echinacea is injected intravenously as a supplemental treatment for those with certain forms of cancer as well as urinary tract infections.

Side Effects of Echinacea

The known side effects of echinacea include the following:

  1. constipation
  2. diarrhea
  3. dizziness
  4. local tingling
  5. numbing sensation
  6. skin rash
  7. allergic reaction in those who have allergies
  8. upset stomach

Other side effects may also occur when using echinacea. (See form below)

Echinacea is used as a spray, liquid, tablet, capsule, and in cream form.

As with any herb, a serious allergic reaction is possible. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. These may include a rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.

Return to the Herb List.

For questions and answers about the side effects of herbs see the Herb Forum

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