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Echinacea as Effective as Tamiflu For Early Flu Treatment

12/1/2015 3:50:43 PM
Tamiflu ® (oseltamivir) is a popular prescription antiviral drug used to treat influenza; however, a 2014 systemic review in the British Medical Journal found only modest benefit and that it can cause nausea, headaches, and renal and psychiatric syndromes. A 2015 study featured in Current Therapeutic Research compared an Echinacea purpurea extract to Tamiflu and found that the echinacea was just as effective without the side effects.
 
In this randomized, double-blind, multicenter clinical trial, 473 patients experiencing flu symptoms for 48 hours or less were randomized to receive either five days of Tamiflu treatment, five days of placebo, or ten days of echinacea in the form of a Echinacea purpurea-based hot drink (Echinaforce HotdrinkÃ’ , A. Vogel Bio- force AG, Roggwil Switzerland). Recovery from the flu was comparable in the two treatment groups (10 day recovery rate of 90.1% for Echinacea and 84.8% for Tamiflu versus placebo; however, there were far fewer adverse events in the Echinacea group (2.46% vs. 6.45% incidence). The primary side effect of the Tamiflu was nausea. In fact, nine of the patients in the Tamiflu group dropped out of the study because of the side effects.
 
The researchers noted that risk of drug resistance, safety issues, and limited availability challenge the usefulness of drugs like Tamiflu for early flu symptoms. They conclude that echinacea is an attractive therapy for acute influenza because it has a better safety profile than drugs like Tamiflu and it appears to be just as effective for early treatment.
 
The World Health Organization estimates that epidemic influenza causes between 30,000 and 40,000 deaths a year in the United States. Finding safe ways to treat the flu will not only save lives, it will help millions of Americans avoid feeling miserable. Echinacea is considered safe and has a long history of use as a potent immune stimulating botanical.
 
Source: Raus K, et al. Effect of an Echinacea-based hot drink versus oseltamivir in influenza treatment: a randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, multicenter, noninferiority clinical trial. Current Therapeutic Research. 2015;77(2015):66-72.