I am often asked by patients about the risks of long-term usage of the herb Echinacea. Many authorities have told us of the health risks. While I agree that the long-term use of any herbal product can potentially cause side-effects, I have never in my clinical practice seen that Echinacea in particular has been any more dangerous than any other herbal product taken over a long period of time.
Many of my patients have been taking Echinacea throughout the cold and flu season and done great. In general, no herb should be taken more than 4 weeks, but everyone is an individual, and has individual responses to herbs. Some people develop allergies to certain herbs after only a week or so, and other people can take herbs for a longer time with no negative side effects.
In general, and according to Chinese medical theory, it is always best not to take individual herbs. Combination herbs are far superior and work better in all ways. They also have less side-effects. So if you take Echinacea, get it as a formula with other immune enhancing herbs.
In an article published in the Alternative Medicine Review, Volume 6, Number 4, 2001, numerous clinical studies of Echinacea were cited. All of them found that in the numerous clinical studies cited, there was nothing to support any limitations on the longer term use of Echinacea.
The article states that Echinacea is good for colds, the flu, chronic autoimmune disorders, leukemia, allergies, MS and other chronic immune problems.
In general, I suggest getting on a good immune regimen during the cold and flu season. This should include a wide variety of herbs and supplements. My patients and I work out a variety of programs geared specifically to their individual health issues.