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In this Moment of Science, we discuss Echinacea–one of the most popular herbal medicines.

Echinacea is a flowering plant native to North America. Native Americans have used Echinacea for thousands of years as medicine. According to those who swear by it, Echinacea boosts the immune system by increasing white blood cell counts and other disease fighting agents. But it hasn’t been approved by the FDA, and there really haven’t been many studies done to either prove or refute its effectiveness.

The fact that the FDA hasn’t approved Echinacea doesn’t mean it’s necessarily dangerous or bad for you. What it does mean is that Echinacea hasn’t undergone thorough tests to determine efficacy, side effects, drug interactions, and other problems or benefits it might cause. Plus, people who manufacture Echinacea are unregulated. Therefore, when you buy a package of Echinacea pills or Echinacea tea, you can’t really be sure of the quality and dosage of the product.

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