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December 1, 2000

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Echinacea May Be Safe for Pregnant Women

Echinacea May Be Safe for Pregnant Women

TORONTO--In the Nov. 13 Archives of Internal Medicine (160:3141-3143,2000), researchers reported that echinacea supplementation during pregnancy maynot affect the developing fetus.

The study followed 412 women, with 206 reporting they had used the herb whilepregnant. Of those who took echinacea, 112 women reported taking the herb in thefirst trimester. In the echinacea group, there were 195 live births, whichincluded three sets of twins, 13 spontaneous abortions and six majormalformations (including one chromosomal abnormality). Researchers, led byMichael Gallo from the University of Toronto, noted that four of themalformations occurred in women who used echinacea the first trimester.

In comparison, the control group (those who had not used echinacea whilepregnant) had 198 live births, seven spontaneous abortions and seven majormalformations. The researchers concluded there were no statistical differencesbetween the study and control groups in terms of pregnancy outcome, deliverymethod, maternal weight gain, birth weight or fetal distress.

However, pregnant women taking this herb may need to exercise caution. In aninterview with the media outlet Reuters, Gallo stated that unlike withprescription and over-the-counter drugs, pregnant women were less cautious withthe herb echinacea in pregnancy as they felt it posed little risk. He addedthis was a preliminary study, and further studies need to be conducted on theherbs safety. For a copy of the abstract, visit http://archinte.ama-assn.org/.

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