Echinacea has been used for centuries to treat conditions such as a cold, flu, migraine, and other various ailments. With all of its health benefits that echinacea and their compounds provide, it’s no wonder that this is one of the most popular herbs known worldwide.
Echinacea was used by the Native Americans for its healing powers, and nowadays, it continues to be promoted as a potent natural treatment with several claimed benefits.
So, what is echinacea, and what are its benefits and side effects?
What is Echinacea?
Echinacea, also called purple coneflower, is the name of a group of flowering plants that are native to North America. These plants belong in the daisy family and thrive in prairies and open, wooded areas.
Each of the nine species in echinacea plants contain a vast variety of active compounds, such as phenolic acids, rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, and many more.
Echinacea is versatile, as every part of the plant can be used in tablets, tinctures, extracts, and teas, from its roots to its upperparts.
Echinacea can be used orally and topically, and both methods can have extremely positive health outcomes if used properly.
The benefits of echinacea range from lowering blood sugar levels to reducing feelings of anxiety.
What can echinacea do for your body? Some of the most common benefits of echinacea include:
Benefits when taken orally:
- Improves immunity, which is why echinacea is often used to prevent or treat the common cold.
- Lowers blood sugar, due to its ability to suppress enzymes that digest carbohydrates.
- Reduces anxiety, due to its compounds including alkamides, rosmarinic acid, and caffeic acid.
- May offer protection against cancer, due to its chicoric acid that triggers cancer cell death.
- Reduces excess inflammation
Benefits when applied topically:
- Suppresses the growth of Propionibacterium, a common cause of acne, due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
- Improves skin hydration and reduces wrinkles
- Improves eczema symptoms
With all of these benefits that come with the use of Echinacea, products containing this supplement make for a worthwhile purchase for those looking to improve both their skin and their health.
As with most supplements, echinacea presents potential adverse reactions with its use. In order to avoid any of these side effects, it’s important to be cautious of them before use.
Some of the potential common side effects of this plant include:
- Itchy skin
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
While these side effects can occur for anyone who uses echinacea, it’s important to note that these reactions are more common among people with allergies to other flowers, including daisies, marigolds, ragweed, and more.
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have an autoimmune disorder, or take immunosuppressive drugs, talk to your doctor before using echinacea orally or topically.
How to Use Echinacea
Echinacea is a versatile supplement that can be taken in a variety of ways. These methods for taking echinacea include:
- Echinacea tea
- Powdered form
- Liquid extracts
- Dried herbs
To prevent any negative reactions from topical application, it’s recommended you do a skin patch test with the product to see if any irritation occurs.
Before incorporating echinacea into your everyday life, it’s important to know the proper dosing of the supplement to avoid any side effects. The recommended dosage for echinacea products is as followed:
- Dry powdered extract: 300–500 mg of Echinacea purpurea, three times daily.
- Liquid extract tinctures: 2.5 ml, three times daily, or up to 10 ml daily.
All in all, the appropriate dose of echinacea depends on several factors such as your age, health, and several other conditions, which is why it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor to find the best dosage for you specifically before using.
There are a plethora of benefits that come with the use of echinacea. If you are thinking about using echinacea topically or orally, you should consult with your doctor first. They will be able to provide more information on whether or not this supplement would be beneficial for you.
Further, when purchasing echinacea products, look to the packaging labels for more information. You may want to look out for the following.
- What, if any, government labels the package has to determine the level of regulation and testing the product underwent
- Other ingredients in the product that you could be sensitive to
Disclaimers: This article does not constitute professional medical advice, nor can it replace the advice of a licensed professional.