Extracts of Echinacea
species have been used traditionally in North America for the control of symptoms of colds, influenza, and other diseases, and some of them have become very popular as “herbal medicines”. Recent studies have revealed that preparations derived from certain species and plant parts, but not all of them, possess potent antiviral activities, at non-cytotoxic concentrations, particularly against membrane-containing viruses. Thus all strains of human and avian influenza viruses tested (including a Tamiflu-resistant strain), as well as herpes simplex virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and rhinoviruses, were very sensitive to a standardized Echinacea purpurea
preparation. In mechanistic studies the influenza virus-specific hemagglutinin and neuraminidase were inhibited. In addition some extracts displayed anti-inflammatory activity in virus-infected cells, and numerous other effects on the expression of cellular genes. Multiple components, either discrete compounds or mixtures, appeared to be responsible for the various antiviral activities.