The popular herbal cold remedy Echinacea may increase concentrations of gastrointestinal bacteria linked with colon cancer, say University of Arkansas researchers.

In their study, daily doses of Echinacea purpurea, a commonly used variety of the popular supplement, were given to 15 healthy adults for 10 days. Then researchers analyzed their stool samples.

The researchers found increased concentrations of anaerobic Bacteroides bacteria in general and of Bacteroides fragilis in particular. Bacteroides play a role in the normal functioning of the colon hut, under certain conditions, they can also act as cancer-causing pathogens. This is especially true of 13. fragilis strains, say the researchers.

Worth noting: Increased Bacteroides concentrations have been reported in people at high risk for colon cancer. And previous research shows that B. fragilis may contribute to inflammatory bowel disease and diarrhea.

Another Opinion: Echinacea Is Effective

The herb echinacea does boost the immune system and helps to fight upper-respiratory tract infections, despite a recent study indicating the contrary, says Mark A. Stengler, ND. The study dosages (1 gram daily) was too low. During acute illnesses, such as colds, flu, bronchitis. and ear infections. echinacea should be taken in high doses of 2 milliliters of liquid extract or two 300-mg capsules every two waking hours for the first 24 hours and every three hours after that. It is helpful as a skin ointment for wounds, eczema and bums. It also may be effective for sore throats and as a cream for rheumatoid arthritis. Check with your doctor before starting treatment.

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