Brauneria Necker ex T.C.Porter & Britton
Echinacea /ˌɛkɪˈneɪʃiə/ is a genus, or group of herbaceous
flowering plants in the daisy family. The
Echinacea genus has nine
species, which are commonly called coneflowers. They are found only in
eastern and central North America, where they grow in moist to dry
prairies and open wooded areas. They have large, showy heads of
composite flowers, blooming from early to late summer. The generic
name is derived from the Greek word ἐχῖνος (ekhinos), meaning
"hedgehog," due to the spiny central disk. These flowering plants and
their parts have different uses. Some species are cultivated in
gardens for their showy flowers.
Echinacea purpurea is used in folk
medicine. Two of the species, E. tennesseensis and E. laevigata,
are listed in the
United States as endangered species.
3.1 Common cold
4 Side effects
4.1 Children under 12 years old
4.4 General precaution
5 Other uses
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
The spiny center of the head showing the paleae, from which the name
A bee on an
Echinacea paradoxa head (inflorescence)
A bee on an
Echinacea purpurea head
Echinacea species are herbaceous, drought-tolerant perennial plants
growing up to 140 cm or 4 feet, in height. They grow from
taproots, except E. purpurea, which grows from a short caudex with
fibrous roots. They have erect stems that in most species are
unbranched. Both the basal and cauline (stem) leaves are arranged
alternately. The leaves are normally hairy with a rough texture,
having uniseriate trichomes (1–4 rings of cells) but sometimes they
lack hairs. The basal leaves and the lower stem leaves have petioles,
and as the leaves progress up the stem the petioles often decrease in
length. The leaf blades in different species may have one, three or
five nerves. Some species have linear to lanceolate leaves, and others
have elliptic- to ovate-shaped leaves; often the leaves decrease in
size as they progress up the stems.
Leaf bases gradually increase in
width away from the petioles or the bases are rounded to heart shaped.
Most species have leaf margins that are entire, but sometimes they are
dentate or serrate.
The flowers are collected together into single rounded heads at the
ends of long peduncles. The inflorescences have crateriform to
hemispheric shaped involucres which are 12–40 mm wide. The
phyllaries, or bracts below the flower head, are persistent and number
15–50. The phyllaries are produced in a 2–4 series. The
receptacles are hemispheric to conic. The paleae (chaffs on the
receptacles of many Asteraceae) have orange to reddish purple ends,
and are longer than the disc corollas. The paleae bases partially
surrounding the cypselae, and are keeled with the apices abruptly
constricted to awn-like tips. The ray florets number 8–21 and the
corollas are dark purple to pale pink, white, or yellow. The tubes of
the corolla are hairless or sparsely hairy, and the laminae are
spreading, reflexed, or drooping in habit and linear to elliptic or
obovate in shape. The abaxial faces of the laminae are glabrous or
moderately hairy. The flower heads have typically 200–300 fertile,
bisexual disc florets but some have more. The corollas are pinkish,
greenish, reddish-purple or yellow and have tubes shorter than the
throats. The pollen is normally yellow in most species, but usually
white in E. pallida. The three or four-angled fruits (cypselae), are
tan or bicolored with a dark brown band distally. The pappi are
persistent and variously crown-shaped with 0 to 4 or more prominent
teeth. x = 11.
Like all members of the sunflower family, the flowering structure is a
composite inflorescence, with rose-colored (rarely yellow or white)
florets arranged in a prominent, somewhat cone-shaped head –
"cone-shaped" because the petals of the outer ray florets tend to
point downward (are reflexed) once the flower head opens, thus forming
a cone. Plants are generally long lived, with distinctive flowers. The
common name "cone flower" comes from the characteristic center "cone"
at the center of the flower head. The generic name
Echinacea is rooted
in the Greek word ἐχῖνος (echinos), meaning hedgehog, it
references the spiky appearance and feel of the flower heads.
DNA analysis is applied to determine the number of
allowing clear distinctions among species based on chemical
differences in root metabolites. The research concluded that of the
40 genetically diverse populations of
Echinacea studied, there were
nine distinct species.
Echinacea angustifolia – Narrow-leaf coneflower
Echinacea atrorubens – Topeka purple coneflower
Echinacea laevigata – Smooth coneflower, smooth purple coneflower
Echinacea pallida – Pale purple coneflower
Echinacea paradoxa – Yellow coneflower, Bush's purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea – Purple coneflower, eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea sanguinea – Sanguine purple coneflower
Echinacea serotina – Narrow-leaved purple coneflower
Echinacea simulata – Wavyleaf purple coneflower
Echinacea tennesseensis – Tennessee coneflower
Echinacea products vary widely in composition. They contain
different species (E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, E. pallida),
different plant segments (roots, flowers, extracts), different
preparations (extracts and expressed juice), and different chemical
compositions which complicate understanding of a potential
Well-controlled clinical trials are limited and low in
quality. Although there are multiple scientific reviews and
meta-analyses published on the supposed immunological effects of
Echinacea, significant variability of products used among studies has
limited conclusions about effects and safety, consequently leading to
non-approval by regulatory authorities like the
United States Food and
Drug Administration of any health benefit or anti-disease
While one 2014 systematic review found that
Echinacea products are not
effective to treat or prevent the common cold, a 2016
meta-analysis found tentative evidence that use of
reduced the risk of repeated respiratory infections. A 2015
monograph by the
European Medicines Agency
European Medicines Agency stated that oral
consumption of "expressed juice" or dried expressed juice of Echinacea
could prevent or reduce symptoms of a common cold at its onset. As
of 2017, the benefit, if any, appears to be small and thus of little
According to Cancer Research UK: "There is no scientific evidence to
show that echinacea can help treat, prevent or cure cancer in any way.
Some therapists have claimed that echinacea can help relieve side
effects from cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy,
but this has not been proven either."
When taken by mouth,
Echinacea does not usually cause side effects,
but may have undesirable interactions with various drugs prescribed
for diseases, such as heart disease, bleeding, and autoimmune
diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or psoriasis.
Although there are no specific case reports of drug interactions with
Echinacea, safety about taking
Echinacea supplements is not
well-understood, with possibilities that it may cause side effects,
such as nausea, stomach upset or diarrhea, and that it may have
adverse reactions with other medications. One of the most
extensive and systematic studies to review the safety of Echinacea
products concluded that overall, "adverse events are rare, mild and
reversible," with the most common symptoms being "gastrointestinal and
skin-related." Such side effects include nausea, abdominal pain,
diarrhea, itch, and rash.
Echinacea has also been linked to
allergic reactions, including asthma, shortness of breath, and one
case of anaphylaxis. Muscle and joint pain has been
associated with Echinacea, but it may have been caused by cold or flu
symptoms for which the
Echinacea products were administered. There
are isolated case reports of rare and idiosyncratic reactions
including thrombocytopenic purpura, leucopenia, hepatitis, kidney
failure, and atrial fibrillation, although it is not clear that these
were due to
Echinacea itself. Up to 58 drugs or supplements may
interact with Echinacea.
As a matter of manufacturing safety, one investigation by an
independent-consumer testing laboratory found that five of eleven
Echinacea products failed quality testing. Four of the
failing products contained levels of phenols below the potency level
stated on the labels. One failing product was contaminated with
Children under 12 years old
The European Herbal Medicinal Products Committee (HMPC) and the UK
Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee (HMAC) recommended against the use
of Echinacea-containing products in children under the age of 12.
Manufacturers re-labelled all oral
Echinacea products that had product
licenses for children with a warning that they should not be given to
children under 12 as a precautionary measure.
Although research has not found increased risk of birth defects
associated with use of
Echinacea during the first trimester, it is
recommended that pregnant women should avoid
Echinacea products until
stronger safety supporting evidence becomes available.
It is recommended that women breastfeeding should use caution with
Echinacea products due to insufficient safety information
Food and Drug Administration
Food and Drug Administration recommends precaution about
using dietary supplements because some products may not be risk free
under certain circumstances or may interact with prescription and
As with any herbal preparation, individual doses of
Echinacea may vary
significantly in chemical composition. Inconsistent process control
in manufactured echinacea products may involve poor inter- and
intra-batch homogeneity, species or plant part differences, variable
extraction methods, and contamination or adulteration with other
products, leading to potential for substantial product
Some species of Echinacea, notably E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and
E. pallida, are grown as ornamental plants in gardens. Many
cultivars exist, and many of them are asexually propagated to keep
them true to type.
Echinacea extracts inhibited growth of three species of
trypanosomatids: Leishmania donovani, Leishmania major, and
Echinacea angustifolia was widely used by the North American Plains
Indians for its supposed medicinal qualities. According to Wallace
Sampson, its modern use for the common cold began when a Swiss herbal
supplement maker was "erroneously told" that
Echinacea was used for
cold prevention by
Native American tribes who lived in the area of
South Dakota. Although
Native American tribes did not use
Echinacea for the common cold, some Plains tribes did use echinacea
for cold symptoms. The
Kiowa used it for coughs and sore throats, the
Cheyenne for sore throats, the Pawnee for headaches, and many tribes
including the Lakotah used it as a pain medication.
List of ineffective cancer treatments
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