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Table of Contents > Articles > Echinacea: A Warning for Atopic ...
Echinacea: A Warning for Atopic Individuals

Echinacea may cause serious allergic reactions in atopic individuals. Atopic individuals are people who have inherited a predisposition toward developing certain hypersensitivity reactions, such as hay fever or asthma, when exposed to specific allergens. Interestingly, echinacea is in the Asteraceae family of plants, which also contains many common weeds and wildflowers, including ragweed.

In a recent meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, a doctor reported on his findings from a review of several reports of allergic reactions to echinacea. The allergic reactions detailed in the case reports included anaphylactic shock (a sudden, severe allergic reaction that may be fatal if emergency treatment is not given immediately), acute asthma, and hives. While case reports cannot prove an exact cause and effect relationship, they do point to a clear connection. In his research, this doctor determined that 43 percent of the reactions were "probably" caused by a response to echinacea. In a follow-up study, 20 out of 100 atopic individuals showed signs of being allergic to echinacea.

The bottom line: although dietary supplements are "natural" and available over-the-counter, they are not always safe or effective for everyone or in every circumstance. Talk to your doctor before you start taking dietary supplements, especially if you have a family history of allergies. This is also very important if you are taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin, or managing serious health conditions, such as cancer or HIV. Also, be sure to report any adverse side effects from dietary supplements to your doctor or pharmacist.


AAAAI. Today's findings from the AAAAI Annual Meeting unveil new research on alternative therapies and food allergy: Echinacea can cause allergic reactions [news release]. Accessed at on March 13, 2000.

Blumenthal M, senior ed. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, Mass.: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Mullins R. Allergic reactions to echinacea. Presented at: AAAAI 56th Annual Meeting; March 3-8, 2000; San Diego, Calif.

Review Date: June 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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