Is Echinacea Safe?
Echinacea supplements are popular and commonly used for treating various conditions, but is echinacea safe? The herbal supplement may worsen autoimmune diseases by stimulating the immune system, so it is best to avoid taking it if you have a severe or life-threatening autoimmune disease. In addition, people with other allergies might be at a higher risk for an allergy to echinacea.
Safety Issues With Echinacea: An Overview
Echinacea is a popular dietary supplement used for treating the common cold as well as a variety of other conditions. You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking echinacea if you have:
- An autoimmune disorder, such as:
- Any allergies, including allergies to foods, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Specific Echinacea Safety Warnings and Precautions
Warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of echinacea include the following:
- Echinacea is a plant that is related to daisies, ragweed, chrysanthemums, and marigolds. People allergic to these plants may also be allergic to echinacea products.
- People with a tendency to have allergies (such as hay fever, food allergies, or medication allergies) might be at a higher risk for an allergy to echinacea. Some allergic reactions can be severe and even life-threatening.
- Be sure to look for echinacea supplements from a reputable manufacturer. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are most reputable. There have been reports that some supplements contain less than the labeled amount of echinacea or the wrong species of echinacea, or are contaminated with lead, arsenic, or other contaminants.
- As dietary supplements, echinacea supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription or non-prescription drugs. They can be marketed without any proof that they are either safe or effective. Do not assume that just because a product is sold or advertised in the United States that it is safe or effective, or even that it contains the right ingredients in the right amounts.
- It is possible that echinacea might worsen autoimmune diseases by stimulating the immune system. If your autoimmune disease worsens while you are taking echinacea, you should stop taking it. If you have a severe or life-threatening autoimmune disease, it is probably best to avoid taking echinacea altogether.
- It is not known if echinacea is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women (see Echinacea and Pregnancy and Echinacea and Breastfeeding).