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Issue No 104
Fall 2005 
page 45

Herbal Myths EXPOSED

By the way, most people get such loose stools at about 6 to 8 g licorice that they can’t take a higher dose anyway.

Find out more about echinacea’s safety record at www.herbalsafety.utep.edu

 
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Myth 5
Chamomile tea usually causes hayfever allergies.
Here’s the thinking behind this one: Since many people are allergic to herbs in the daisy family (ragweed comes to mind), no one should drink chamomile tea. Sure, in some instances, individuals will have allergies to this plant family, one of the herb world’s biggest groups, incorporating multiple medicinal plants such as chamomile, feverfew, and echinacea. But it’s the inhaled pollen—not the leaf and flower, brewed in a tea—that poses the problem.

Chamomile tea is the third most commonly consumed tea in the world. Allergic reaction is exceedingly rare. Caution dictates that those allergic to plants in this family tread slowly with these medicines, but most people will do just fine.

Myth 6
Echinacea reduces immune function after prolonged use.
This seems logical, but it’s a fear that stems from a drug-oriented mindset. No evidence exists to show that this herb blunts immune response. Traditional practitioners administered echinacea to patients for months at a time with no ill effect to the immune system. As one of the most widely used herbs of the nineteenth century, echinacea was prescribed extensively by physicians of that day. They made no mention of time limits in their journals. Neither did European physicians, who used and studied the herb extensively from the 1930s through the 1990s.

While it’s true that the German Commission E monographs mention dosage limitation and contraindications for licorice, several scientists (including German echinacea experts Bauer and Wagner, who helped create the monographs) question this. They argue that there’s no scientific reason for the dose limitation, and point out that no notations exist to help explain the reasoning or processes behind the Commission’s conclusions. In light of this, we can safely place this “truth” about echinacea in the myth category.

Myth 7
Echinacea stops having an effect after ten days.
In this myth, echinacea has the opposite problem. Rather than question the danger it may pose in the long-term, this “fact” questions whether echinacea even works beyond the short term. This pervasive, popular myth finds its roots in the mistranslation of one sentence in a German study.

English-language articles have widely reported that echinacea loses its ability to stimulate immune response after about ten days’ use. It has subsequently become standard practice for health practitioners to recommend a ten-dayon/ five-day-off pattern for longterm treatment. A study, published in 1989 in German, is invariably given as the reasoning behind this recommendation.

The article in question included a graph that indeed shows protective white blood cell activity declining after day five and trailing off to a plateau from day eight to ten. The problem: In the study, researchers actually discontinued administering echinacea after day five. The duration of treatment got lost in the translation from German to English. Echinacea does not stop delivering its immune-boosting effects, so you shouldn't feel the need to take a break after ten days.

 
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