Echinacea plus elderberry matches Tamiflu for early treatment of ‘flu

‘Significant’: Large trial supports echinacea’s immune benefits

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: ©
Photo: ©

Related tags Influenza

A proprietary combination of a concentrated echinacea herb and root extract and elderberry is as effective as Tamiflu (antiviral medicine) for the early treatment of ‘flu, says a new clinical trial from Europe.

Data from 473 patients exhibiting flu symptoms for less than 48 hours indicated that Echinaforce Hotdrink syrup (A. Vogel Bioforce AG of Roggwil, Switzerland) and oseltamivir (Tamiflu, Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Switzerland) are approximately equal in their therapeutic effects.

The study – performed by researchers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and the UK – was hailed as “yet another significant human clinical trial that helps to document the clinical benefits of this specific Swiss echinacea extract,”​ by Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council.

“It is rewarding to see an herbal products manufacturer investing resources in a well-designed clinical study on a phytotherapeutic product,” ​added Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC’s chief science officer. “The combination of echinacea and European elderberry has resulted in the same treatment outcome as the standard drug oseltamivir in the study population, providing evidence for the safety and efficacy of this product.”

Blumenthal and Gafner were commenting independently on the study’s findings and had no connection to the research.

Echinacea purpurea​ 

The purple flower is one of the most recognizable herbal products out there. A meta-analysis published in 2007 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases​ ​(Vol. 7, Pages 473-480) concluded that echinacea may cut the risk of catching the common cold by ~60%.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut combined the results of 14 different studies with positive results. In one of the studies they found in that echinacea taken in combination with vitamin C reduced cold incidence by 86%, and when the herbal was used alone the incidence was reduced by 65%.

The largest study to date with E. purpurea​ (Echinaforce product) was published in 2012 and indicated that the duration of the common cold may be reduced by 26%, and the number of recurrent colds decreased by 60%. This study was a gold standard randomized, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled clinical trial with 755 participants, (M. Jawad et al. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine​, doi: 10.1155/2012/841315).

The new clinical study, published in April’s issue of the open-access journal Current Therapeutic Research​, also used an Echinaforce product: Echinaforce Hotdrink syrup composed of E. purpurea​ herb and root and European elderberry (Sambucus nigra​).

Echinacea and Monarch (800x533)
Photo: ©

Study details

For the study, researchers recruited 473 patients who had exhibited flu symptoms for less than 48 hours and randomly assigned them to take Echinaforce Hotdrink syrup for 10 days or oseltamivir for five days followed by placebo for five days. Echinaforce Hotdrink is not currently commercially available in the US.

Results showed that a similar number of patients had recovered in both groups. After day one, 1.5% of patients in the Echinaforce Hotdrink group and 4.1% of those in the oseltamivir group exhibited mild or no symptoms; recovery rates for days five and 10 were 50.2% and 48.8%, and 90.1% and 84.8%, respectively.

Crunching the numbers indicated that both interventions were approximately equal in their therapeutic effects.

The researchers added that the incidence of complications was only 2.46% in the Echinaforce group, compared with 6.45% in the Tamiflu group, although these differences were not statistically significant.

“Echinaforce Hotdrink has here been demonstrated as attractive therapy for acute influenza treatment with better safety and comparable efficacy profile to the neuraminidase inhibitor Oseltamivir,” ​wrote the authors.

“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.”

Source: Current Therapeutic Research​ 
2015, epub ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.curtheres.2015.04.001
“Echinaforce Hotdrink versus oseltamivir in influenza: a randomized, double-blind, double dummy, multicenter, non-inferiority clinical trial”
Authors: K. Raus, S. Pleschka, P. Klein, et al. 

Related topics Research Botanicals Immune support

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