By TAP Integrative

The World Health Organization estimates that influenza affects 25 to 50 million people worldwide each year, reliably producing seasonal epidemics and occasionally producing more severe pandemics.

Neuraminidase inhibitors (e.g. oseltamivir) are first-line therapy for influenza symptoms. These antiviral medications have shown superiority to placebo in reducing the duration and intensity of illness, but they are only effective if administered early in the illness and are ineffective against drug-resistant strains. In addition, they can produce nausea, vomiting, psychiatric effects or adverse renal effects.

Botanical medicines provide a potential alternative to prescription antiviral medications. Echinacea purpurea has demonstrated in vitro antiviral activity against numerous strains of the influenza virus with no potential to induce resistance. In addition, Echinacea provides anti-inflammatory and immune modulating effects.

In a 2015 publication of Current Therapeutic Research, Rauš and colleagues compared the efficacy of an Echinacea preparation to oseltamivir in a double-blind, randomized controlled trial in patients with clinically diagnosed influenza. The study randomized 473 patients with early influenza symptoms to receive 5 days of oseltamivir followed by 5 days of placebo or 10 days of an Echinacea-based preparation.

The Echinacea-based preparation contained 240 mg hydroethanolic extract of freshly harvested Echinacea purpurea leaves (95%) and root (5%) combined with 277 mg Sambucus fructus succus recentis (elderberry) to produce 1 ml of the formulation. This drink was dosed at 5 ml taken 5 times per day for the first 3 days and then 3 times per day for the remaining 7 days.

Recovery from illness in the Echinacea formulation group was observed in 2% on day 1, 50% on day 5, and 90% on day 10. These numbers were similar in the oseltamivir group, with rates of 4%, 49%, and 85%, respectively. Fewer patients in the Echinacea formulation group than in the oseltamivir group developed complications of influenza (2.5% vs. 6.5%). Gastrointestinal side effects lead to cessation of treatment in 9 participants in the oseltamivir group but none in the Echinacea formulation group.

The results of this study demonstrated noninferiority of an Echinacea-based preparation to oseltamivir with fewer side effects for patients with early influenza symptoms.


Reference

Rauš K, Pleschka S, Klein P, Schoop R, Fisher P. Effect of an Echinacea-Based Hot Drink Versus Oseltamivir in Influenza Treatment: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Double-Dummy, Multicenter, Noninferiority Clinical Trial. Curr Ther Res Clin Exp. 2015;7766-72.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease