echinacea (generic name)

It is promoted to help support the body's natural defense systems
(EK e nay sha)
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What is this medicine?

ECHINACEA (EK e nay sha) is an herbal product or dietary supplement. It is promoted to help support the body's natural defense systems. It is commonly promoted for colds or sore throats caused by cold viruses. Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea pallida are the types most studied. However, there is limited evidence that echinacea helps colds or similar illnesses. There is no evidence that it is helpful for other types of infections or medical problems. It should not be used long-term to prevent infections. The FDA has not approved this herb for any medical use.

What should I tell my health care provider before I take this medicine?

They need to know if you have any of these conditions:
  • cancer
  • lung disease like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema
  • diabetes or high blood sugar
  • immune system problems
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • multiple sclerosis or other neurologic disease
  • organ transplant
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • tuberculosis
  • an unusual or allergic reaction to echinacea, other herbs or plants, other medicines, foods, dyes, or preservatives
  • pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • breast-feeding

How should I use this medicine?

Take by mouth with a glass of water. Follow the directions on the package labeling or ask your health care professional. If this supplement upsets your stomach, take it with food. Do not take this supplement more often than directed.

Talk to your pediatrician regarding the use of this supplement in children. Special care may be needed.

What if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, take only that dose. Do not take double or extra doses.

What may interact with this medicine?

Check with your doctor or healthcare professional if you are taking any of the following medications:
  • medicines for cancer
  • medicines for HIV
  • medicines for lupus
  • medicines for multiple sclerosis
  • medicines for rheumatoid arthritis like methotrexate
  • medicines to prevent organ transplant rejection like cyclosporine
  • steroid medicines like prednisone or cortisone

What should I watch for while using this medicine?

See your doctor if your symptoms do not get better or if they get worse. Do not take this supplement for more than 2 weeks unless your doctor tells you to. Long term use of this supplement has not been proven to be helpful and may be harmful.

If you are scheduled for any medical or dental procedure, tell your healthcare provider that you are taking this supplement. You may need to stop taking this supplement before the procedure.

Herbal or dietary supplements are not regulated like medicines. Rigid quality control standards are not required for dietary supplements. The purity and strength of these products can vary. The safety and effect of this dietary supplement for a certain disease or illness is not well known. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The Food and Drug Administration suggests the following to help consumers protect themselves:
  • Always read product labels and follow directions.
  • Natural does not mean a product is safe for humans to take.
  • Look for products that include USP after the ingredient name. This means that the manufacturer followed the standards of the US Pharmacopoeia.
  • Supplements made or sold by a nationally known food or drug company are more likely to be made under tight controls. You can write to the company for more information about how the product was made.

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Last Updated: April 21, 2009
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