Introduction Pregnancy Facts Pregnancy Indications Risk Perception Toxicity
Clinical Evidence Related Issues
Length of Exposure Check Labels Alcohol Content Interactions Lactation Conclusion Acknowledgment References introduction
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is an umbrella term that covers a number of healthcare modalities that generally fall outside the realm of the conventional medical model (Smith et al., 1996). Herbal medicine is considered to be a primary complementary and alternative therapy. In recent years, the use of herbal products has increased dramatically, particularly in developed countries, by people who wish to maintain good health and reduce the need for conventional drug therapy.
Echinacea products are among the most popular phytomedicines. While these remedies have a long history of use in pregnancy, during delivery, and for lactation, clinically relevant sources of information on the safety and risk of such products are lacking (Lepik, 1997). Given the great variation in product composition and constituent concentration, the actual safety of Echinacea has not been easy to study in pregnancy and lactation. To date, there is only one published study that has examined the safety of Echinacea use during pregnancy for upper respiratory tract ailments (Gallo et al., 2000).
There is an underlying baseline risk for malformations associated with every pregnancy, regardless of the mother's exposure to a substance of concern. As a result, the primary objective of most studies done in pregnancy is to determine whether pregnancy outcome is associated with any increased risk for toxicity or malformations above this baseline.
Malformations are defined as defects in organ structure or function that can vary in severity, with the most severe being life-threatening or requiring major surgery (Koren et al., 1998). On the other hand, certain drugs are considered to be toxic rather than teratogenic. This includes substances that do not cause birth defects per se, but that can damage the fetus as a result of long-term exposure during pregnancy.
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