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29.07.2012


Echinacea makes you carefree

Researchers at the Hungarian Institute of Experimental Medicine in Budapest have discovered that a surprisingly low dose of Echinacea angustifolia makes people less anxious, worried and fretful. A dose of only 40 mg of extract can have an effect.

Psychotropic effects of Echinacea
Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida all contain alkamides. In the body these Echinacea alkamides interact with the cannabinoid CB1 receptor and probably reduce sensations of pain. The alkamides also inhibit the breakdown of the endocannabinoid anandamide, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in pain, depression, memory, fertility and feeling hungry.

Researchers suspect that the alkamides in Echinacea also do something with other and perhaps still unknown cannabinoid receptors and that they make the immune system more effective via those receptors.

In animal studies done a few years ago, the Hungarian researchers discovered that Echinacea supplements reduce feelings of restlessness and anxiety. [Phytother Res. 2010 Nov;24(11):1605-13.] This wasn't a complete surprise. These same researchers had previously shown that lowering the concentration of anadamide and blocking the CB1 receptor in animals increased their feelings of anxiety. [Eur J Neurosci. 2002 Oct;16(7):1395-8.]

Sure enough, it worked in rats. In fact, it worked very well indeed. According to these researchers, the amount of Echinacea extract that had a noticeable effect was 3-8 mg/kg of body weight/day.

In comparison, extracts of Passiflora plants used in animal studies have an effect only at the level of 400 mg/kg/dag, extracts of Valeriana officinalis at 100 mg/kg/day and extracts of Turnera aphrodisiaca at 50 mg/kg/dag.

Human study
The researchers have published the results of a human study in Phytotherapy Research. In this study, 33 healthy volunteers were given a 20 or 40 mg extract of Echinacea angustifolia each day for one week. The extract used was produced by the Hungarian ExtractumPharma. [expharma.hu]

Results
The test subjects were asked to answer questions daily so that scores could be kept on the subjects' feelings of anxiety, fretfulness and concern. The researchers discovered that Echinacea angustifolia lowered the total score within only a few days. Two weeks after the extract had no longer been used, the score remained lowered.

Light-shaded circles: 20 mg/day, dark-shaded circles: 40 mg/day.


Echinacea makes you carefree


Conclusion
"The need for intermittent treatment with anxiolytics that have a rapid onset of action and that of utilizing non-conventional therapies can be met by the Echinacea angustifolia extract tested in this and earlier studies", the researchers concluded.

Patent
The researchers have filed for a patent under their name for the use of Echinacea as a means of reducing feelings of anxiety and fretfulness. [Application number: 12/304,558; Publication number: US 2009/0285907 A1]

Source:
Phytother Res. 2012 Mar 26. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4677. [Epub ahead of print].

More:
Can Echinacea help build muscles? 01.03.2010
Study: Echinacea helps against colds 29.04.2009
Daily dose of Echinacea lengthens life expectancy 24.04.2009