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Viral Illnesses + Herbal Medicine

If you are anything like me, you are freaked out right now. 

As scary as the coronavirus sounds, it's actually from the same family of viruses that causes the common cold. I'm not medical doctor. If you want to full scoop on the coronavirus, I suggest you head to @thewholesomedoctor. I also love the blog post written by Elisa Song, US -based paediatrician here.

What I do know is that Echinacea purpurea, is effective as a antiviral agent for the common cold and has also been (in retrospect) a potential against SARS, the last major outbreak before this one. 

Echinacea purpurea

It's a herbal medicine originating in North America, is one of the most well known herbal medicines for its immune boost properties. There are many different species of Echinacea and many different products available, all which differ in the part of the plant they use (aerial, root, or whole plant) and their extraction methods. There is many inconstencies in the literature about Echinacea's effectiveness, this is because the effectiveness is dependant on species, part used, how it was extracted and dose. It is like saying "my cake didn't work out", when the recipe called for self raising but you use plain flour. You use the wrong flour!

Echinacea purpurea is the species with the most evidence for antiviral activity. It is a potent antiviral agent and is also effective on enveloped (membraned) viruses, like the Corona virus. 

Corona Virus is responsible for the 2002 outbreak of SARS. Though the virus has since mutated, based on previous research on SARS, Echinacea Purpurea (EP) is a possible preventative agent. 

"A herbal preparation like EP, with anti-inflammatory and virucidal properties, could be useful if the SARS were to return".

- Hudson, 2012

Ok, give me the Echinacea.

If you are keen to start taking Echinacea prophylactically (aka as a preventative), there a a few things you should know. 

  • The evidence is with the Purpurea species, alcohol extracted and with mostly flowering tops parts but also roots. There are many other species of echinacea, all which have different and varying therapeutic effects. 

  • Good news, it's safe for children and in pregnancy. 

  • Who shouldn't use it? If you have autoimmune disease, undergoing chemotherapy or are on immunosuppressant medications.

  • Do not take if you have a known allergy to the composite (daisy) family of plants.

  • Dose is really important and so is purity. Many herbal medicines aren't what they say they are and some even contain heavy metals. Alway choose practitioner products.  

  • Alcohol extracted is best as many of the active constituents are lipophilic (meaning they like fats).

  • Some of my go to brands include Bioceuticals (esp. their pregnancy specific one), Mediherb and A.Vogel. For kids, Kiwi Herbs is best tolerated, taste wise! 

  • Dosages in studies were ~1800mg as preventative and up to 4000mg daily of a standardised extract (meaning each batch has the same level of active constituents). 

  • I cannot dispense or advise on individual dosing for these products without a consultation (unfortunately). Dosing for adults and children will differ. 

  • I am offering a 15-min call for anyone wanting to know more about their specific needs and to get their hands on some Echinacea.

Another potential is Vitamin C

A cochrane review  on vitamin C showed no benefit for prophylactic use of vitamin C, but one study did find 8g (BIG DOSE that wont be without side effects) is effective in treating the common cold if taken at symptom onset.  

Please don't take this advice as individual. If you are unsure if Echinacea is beneficial for you or your family, please reach out.

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