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Viral Hepatitis

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Alternative Therapies--Echinacea

for Veterans and the Public

Echinacea

Echinacea is a wildflower that is reputed to stimulate the immune system. It remains a popular herbal preparation, and has been studied extensively for treatment of "the common cold," although it may or may not have an effect on it. Monitored, medicinal preparations of echinacea have been used by doctors in Europe to treat certain cancers and infections.

Echinacea has been studied for certain cancers and chronic infectious conditions like AIDS. It is not clear whether it is helpful or harmful for these conditions, and the same probably applies to hepatitis C, where it has not been studied extensively.

Taking echinacea can cause problems in some cases. The herb can interfere with common medications, such as those to treat allergies, high cholesterol, fungal infections, and certain cancers. It also may interfere with birth control pills, or immunosuppressant medications used after organ transplants. It should be used only with significant caution in these settings. It should not be used by anyone with an autoimmune disease, such as Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, or lupus.