Echinacea purpurea along with zinc, selenium and vitamin C to alleviate exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: results from a randomized controlled trial

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2011 Oct;36(5):568-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2710.2010.01212.x. Epub 2010 Nov 10.


What is known and objective: Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) frequently cause exacerbations of chronic-obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Stimulation of the innate immune system may provide an early defence against such infections. The objective of this study was to determine whether Echinacea purpurea (EP) along with micronutrients may alleviate COPD exacerbations caused by acute URTI.

Methods: This was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in COPD patients with acute URTI. Patients were given ciprofloxacin for 7 days and additionally one tablet per day of EP, of EP along with zinc, selenium and ascorbic acid (EP+), or of placebo until day 14. Serum levels of TNF α and interleukins 1β, 6 and 10 were measured before and after treatment. Until week 4 post-end of treatment, all patients had to daily report on COPD symptoms in diaries.

Results and discussion: In total, 108 mostly male patients with a mean age of 65·8 years (40-81 years) were enrolled. Patients of the three treatment arms did not vary significantly in baseline characteristics. EP+, but not EP resulted in significantly less severe and shorter exacerbation episodes following URTI as compared with placebo suggesting a synergistic effect of Echinacea and micronutrients. Large variations in biomarkers in-between and within groups were unrelated to treatment. Study medication was safe and well tolerated with overall 15 adverse events one of which was serious. Among those, sleeping disorders were most frequent and likely related to the underlying disease.

What is new and conclusion: The combination of EP, zinc, selenium and vitamin C may alleviate exacerbation symptoms caused by URTI in COPD. Further studies are warranted to investigate the interactions among Echinacea, zinc, selenium and vitamin C.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Ascorbic Acid / adverse effects
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Ciprofloxacin / therapeutic use
  • Disease Progression
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Synergism
  • Echinacea*
  • Female
  • Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Micronutrients / adverse effects
  • Micronutrients / pharmacology
  • Micronutrients / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytotherapy
  • Placebos
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / physiopathology
  • Selenium / adverse effects
  • Selenium / pharmacology
  • Selenium / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vitamins / adverse effects
  • Vitamins / pharmacology
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*
  • Zinc / adverse effects
  • Zinc / pharmacology
  • Zinc / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Micronutrients
  • Placebos
  • Plant Extracts
  • Vitamins
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Ascorbic Acid