TORONTO, CANADA. Echinacea (Echinacea augustifolia and Echinacea purpurea) is among the most popular herbal medicines used in North America. It is widely used to prevent and treat colds and other upper respiratory tract ailments. Echinacea is generally considered safe although not recommended for continuous use. Researchers at the University of Toronto and the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine have just released the results of a study designed to investigate the safety of taking echinacea during pregnancy. The study involved 206 women who had used echinacea during their pregnancy (54 per cent during the first trimester) and 206 controls matched for age and use of alcohol and cigarettes. Capsules or tablets were used by 58 per cent of the echinacea users and tinctures by 38 per cent. The usual dosage was 250-1000 mg/day in capsule or tablet form and 5 to 10 to a maximum of 30 drops per day of the tincture.
There were 195 live births and 13 spontaneous abortions among the echinacea users as compared to 198
live births and 7 spontaneous abortions among the controls. There were six major malformations among
babies born to the "echinacea mothers" as compared to seven among the controls. The researchers
conclude that the use of echinacea during pregnancy is not associated with an increased risk of giving birth
to a baby with major malformations. They also noted that the self-reported efficacy for echinacea for upper
respiratory tract ailments was over 80 per cent in the user group.