Echinacea is an herb that is commonly used to prevent colds and sore throats, but research published in a recent issue of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology indicates that people with allergies should be cautious when taking this dietary supplement.
In Australia, where the researchers practice medicine, nearly 50% of the population uses complementary medicine such as herbal treatments. The five people who were described in the research reported adverse reactions, including anaphylaxis, rashes and asthma attack after taking echinacea. The researchers also examined 26 other reported cases of people who had reactions to echinacea and evaluated the reactions of 100 people who took their first doses of echinacea. They found that people who had allergies were more likely to experience adverse reactions to echinacea.
Before taking any herbal supplement, you should check with your health care provider. This study suggests that people with allergies may be at higher risk for side effects from echinacea, such as breathing problems and hives. Other studies have indicated that using echinacea long-term may suppress the immune system, and it should not be used during pregnancy or in people with immune system disorders such as lupus or multiple sclerosis.
Sources: Mullins RJ, Heddle R. Adverse reactions associated with echinacea: the Australian experience. Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Volume 88, Number 1, January 2002, pp. 42-51.