Echinacea not an effective endurance sports supplement

Runners who take 8 g Echinacea extract every day for six weeks don’t even add a millisecond to their speed, and don’t increase their oxygen uptake either. Sports scientists at Georgia State University Atlanta will soon publish their findings in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Runners who take 8 g Echinacea extract every day for six weeks don’t even add a millisecond to their speed, and don’t increase their oxygen uptake either. Sports scientists at Georgia State University Atlanta will soon publish their findings in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

In 2007 American sports scientists discovered that a daily 8 g Echinacea supplementation boosted EPO synthesis in humans. The researchers also found indications that Echinacea boosts endurance capacity.

Interesting findings like this beg for follow-up studies – and that’s what the sports scientists at Georgia State University have now provided. They gave nine well-trained runners a daily dose of 8 g Echinacea in supplement form for a period of six weeks.

The preparation the researchers used came from Puritan’s Pride.

The subjects took a dose of 2 g Echinacea four times a day.

A control group of 7 runners took a placebo.

Before and after the supplementation period the researchers measured the subjects’ maximal oxygen uptake, their haemoglobin and haematocrit levels, and their endurance capacity in an exhaustion test that involved the subjects exercising for as long as possible at a high level of exertion.

The table below shows that there was no sign at all of any performance enhancing effect.

1

So it seems that Echinacea has no effect in trained runners, the researchers conclude. They do suggest though that Echinacea may enhance performance when used over a longer period and in higher doses.

Runners who take 8 g Echinacea extract every day for six weeks don’t even add a millisecond to their speed, and don’t increase their oxygen uptake either. Sports scientists at Georgia State University Atlanta will soon publish their findings in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
We are of course not as well informed as the Georgia State University Atlanta scientists, but we do know that many complementary therapists employ high doses of Echinacea for short periods of time.

High doses of Echinacea become ineffective when used for periods longer than several weeks, and, when used for longer than that, they actually become counterproductive. That’s why we wonder whether the researchers didn’t use Echinacea for too long even.

Another older study, in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, provides indications that this might be the case. [J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jul;26(7):1928-33.] In that study researchers at Arkansas State University gave recreational athletes 8 g Echinacea every day for four weeks.

The Echinacea boosted the subjects’ maximal oxygen uptake by a small amount, probably because the extract boosted their EPO synthesis. The supplement had no effect on the red blood cells.

The figure below shows that the effect of the Echinacea was strongest on day 14. After that the effect declined.

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In none of the studies were subjects given extra iron. In the competitive cycling world you often hear that EPO only attains an optimal effect when cyclists also take iron supplements.

Maybe researchers would obtain better results if they had measured the effect of this dose of Echinacea after three weeks, and if they had given their subjects extra iron too.

Echinacea Purpurea Supplementation does not Enhance VO2max in Distance Runners.

Baumann CW, Bond KL, Rupp JC, Ingalls CP, Doyle JA.

Source

Department of Kinesiology and Health, Georgia State University Atlanta, Georgia.

Abstract

Oral supplementation of echinacea purpurea (ECH) has been reported to increase levels of serum erythropoietin (EPO) and as a result improve endurance performance in untrained subjects. The purpose of this study was to determine if ECH supplementation alters maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) in trained endurance runners. Using a double-blind design, 16 trained endurance runners (9 ECH and 7 placebo-PLA) supplemented with either 8000 mg·d of ECH or wheat flour (PLA) for 6 weeks. Maximal aerobic treadmill tests and blood samples were measured before and after supplementation to determine VO2max, hematocrit (Hct) and hemoglobin (Hb). VO2max, Hct and Hb did not differ between the ECH and PLA group before or after supplementation. Furthermore, supplementation of ECH failed to improve VO2max (67.37 ± 4.62 vs. 67.23 ± 5.82 mL?kg?min), Hct (43.57 ± 2.38 vs. 42.85 ± 1.46%) or Hb (14.93 ± 1.27 vs. 15.55 ± .80 g·dL) from baseline measurements. Echinacea purpurea (ECH) supplementation of 8000 mg·d for 6 weeks failed to increase VO2max, Hct or Hb in trained endurance runners and thus does not appear to influence physiological variables that affect distance-running performance.

PMID: 24045635 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24045635

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