Background: The medicinal benefits of Echinacea sp. plants in several disease conditions, including insect bites, respiratory ailments, and even cancer and AIDS, have been touted for decades. Echinacea sp.-based phytoceuticals are among the top selling herbals in the Western marketplace today. However, evidence is very scant concerning the effects of using Echinacea species herbals during pregnancy. While available data indicates that fetal malformations do not occur during pregnancy in humans consuming this herb, there are no formal studies aimed at assessing the possibility that consuming Echinacea herbals may promote spontaneous abortions, thereby reducing the number of live births upon which to assess the presence or absence of malformations.
Objectives: We undertook a study in which pregnant mice were fed daily Echinacea purpurea from pregnancy onset until gestational days 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14.
Methods: Maternal spleen and bone marrow were taken for enumeration of cells in each of five separate hemopoietic lineages/organ, and fetal status was recorded.
Results: The data indicate that the significant, pregnancy-induced elevation in splenic lymphocytes and nucleated erythroid cells was all but eliminated in those females which consumed E. purpurea daily throughout their pregnancy. Moreover, consuming E. purpurea during pregnancy reduced the number of viable fetuses.
Conclusions: The data may be extrapolated to suggest that in humans, abstention from consuming Echinacea products during the early/mid stages of pregnancy, may be prudent.