The Austin-based American Botanical Council recently promoted published results from a clinical trial in which they suggest that an herbal over-the-counter extract of concentrated Echinacea may be as effective and safe as the conventional antiviral medicine oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) in the early treatment of influenza. The study, entitled, “Echinaforce Hotdrink versus Oseltamivir in Influenza: A randomized, double-blind, double dummy, multicenter, non-inferiority clinical trial,” was published in the open-access journal Current Therapeutic Research.
To determine if an Echinacea preparation is comparable in efficacy and safety with the neuraminidase inhibitor Oseltamivir (TamiFlu), the researchers recruited 473 patients with early influenza symptoms (≤48h) from 29 primary care clinics in the city of Prague, Czech Republic. These study patients were randomized into two almost equal groups by the treatment option given and included:
- 236 patients were treated with 5 days Oseltamivir followed by 5 days placebo.
- 237 patients were treated with 10 days of the Echinacea formulation.
To determine efficacy the cumulative proportion of patients with recovery from their influenza symptoms after 1 day, 5 days and 10 days of treatment, was analyzed. Recovery was defined as the first day when cough, nasal obstruction, sore throat, fatigue, headache, myalgia and feverishness were rated as absent or mild in the evening. To determine safety the proportion of subjects experiencing respiratory and/or gastrointestinal complications, which required premature treatment stop was also analyzed.
The results showed that the recovery rates between the groups were comparable:
- at 1.5% vs. 4.1% after 1 day treatment with the concentrated Echinacea and Oseltamivir
- at 50.2% vs. 48.8% after 5 days treatment with the concentrated Echinacea and Oseltamivir
- at 90.1% vs. 84.8% after 10 days treatment with the concentrated Echinacea and Oseltamivir
The rate of complications observed was lower with the Echinacea formulation than with Oseltamivir (2.46% vs. 6.45%) and fewer adverse events (particularly nausea and vomiting) were associated with Echinaforce Hotdrink.
When discussing the findings of the trial the authors wrote, “Echinaforce Hotdrink has here been demonstrated as attractive therapy for acute influenza treatment–Its availability as over-the-counter medicine allows for a very early treatment start, which is central for treatment success with any intervention. Further studies are warranted.”
Limitations of the Study:
The conclusions made by the study authors are limited by the following:
- The sample of patients studied was made up entirely of Caucasians, which makes the generalizability of the findings to the real world population extremely difficult.
- This study was funded by A. Vogel Bioforce AG, the manufacturer of Echinaforce Hotdrink and one of the authors (Roland Schoop, MSc) is an employee of the company. Therefore, the potential for a conflict of interest cannot be refuted.
About the American Botanical Council
Founded in 1988, the American Botanical Council is a leading international nonprofit organization addressing research and educational issues regarding herbs, teas, medicinal plants, essential oils, and other beneficial plant-derived materials. ABC’s members include academic researchers and educators; libraries; health professionals and medical institutions; government agencies; members of the herb, dietary supplement, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries; journalists; consumers; and others in more than 81 countries. The organization occupies a historic 2.5-acre site in Austin, Texas, and publishes the peer-reviewed quarterly journal HerbalGram.