ECHINACEA – Response by the IAHS

Aug 22, 2012

RESPONSE BY THE IRISH ASSOCIATION OF HEALTH STORES (IAHS) TO THE “RECOMMENDATION” BY THE IRISH MEDICINES BOARD (IMB) ON USE OF ECHINACEA BY CHILDREN UNDER 12 YEARS

A BAN – NOT A “RECOMMENDATION”

The IAHS respects the IMB’s advice that Echinacea is a medicinal herb and as such we observe our Protocol for Customer Care when suggesting its use.

Echinacea has been safely and effectively used by children in Ireland for almost 20 years. The IAHS has no knowledge of any adverse event in all that time. For years Echinacea has been used to protect children entering new environments such as playgroups and school where they will inevitably come into contact with new bacteria and viruses, as it has been used to help fight off such infections if they occur.

We have to query the evidence on which the IMB Committee arrived at its decision, especially in light of the fact that children in other European states are still allowed by their health regulators to use it.

As we understand it, an EU monograph was used by the IMB to justify its decision. Published 4 years ago, it states that traditional use for those under 12 years is not recommended, but that as a medicine whose use is well established, “specific risk in children over 1 year of age is not documented”. In other words there is no data on any specific risk when Echinacea is used by children aged 1 year and older. No new data has been published in the last 4 years.

The one research paper suggesting that in rare circumstances Echinacea can be associated with allergies dates from 2002. This paper suggested that in very rare circumstances Echinacea could be associated with allergies in adults who were prone to allergic reactions.

Jill Bell, President of the IAHS, states that “There is no up to date evidence to show that Echinacea is unsafe for use in under 12s. This ban by the IMB is completely unjustified and will cause worry to many parents who want to protect their children’s health. Ironically it is bound to result in more infections and increased use of antibiotics. There might be more sense in banning the sale of peanuts!”

Healthfood stores play a key part in frontline and primary healthcare. By helping hundreds of thousands of customers deal with minor self limiting ailments and the promotion of dietary and lifestyle changes for optimal health, healthfood stores have a key role and a unique position in reducing the pressure on our public healthcare system, thus relieving pressure on already hard pressed GP services and A&E departments.

The Irish Association of Health Stores (IAHS) is the professional trade association representing over 80% of all healthfood stores in Ireland. Founded in 1986, the Association operates under a written constitution and member stores are required to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics. The IAHS exists to ensure that healthfood retailing is ethical, responsible, truthful and professional.

Further information:

The Irish Association of Health Stores

Carrownalassan, Four Mile House, Co Roscommon.
Office hours: Mon-Wed, 9-5pm. Tel/Fax: 090-6629981
email: iahs@eircom.net
Spokesperson: Jill Bell, 086-1701193

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