Echinacea is a popular immune-boosting herb with a long history of use.
In fact, echinacea was widely used by Native Americans for various ailments long before being discovered by European settlers.
Today, echinacea is still used to alleviate cold and flu symptoms as well as other immune-related conditions.
We’ll dig into the benefits, safety, and history of echinacea.
Table of Contents
- Health Benefits of Echinacea:
- Echinacea Safety:
- Naming & Taxonomy:
- History & Traditional Use:
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Health Benefits of Echinacea:
Below are the top research-backed benefits of echinacea.
1. May Boost Your Immune System
Echinacea is a popular herb for immune health.
Echinacea is well regarded for its immune-stimulating benefits. Echinacea is thought to work by increasing phagocytosis, a process where the immune system targets and destroys invading microbes.
In vitro trials support this idea, with research showing that echinacea works to modulate macrophage response.
Additionally, research shows that echinacea has the potential for supporting both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
Summary:Echinacea may be helpful in supporting the immune system.
A recent study has shown that echinacea may be useful for COVID-19 due to its ability to modulate virus entry, internalization, and replication.
In vitro research also shows that the extract of E. purpurea is active against HSV-1, HSV-2, HIV-1, and influenza A.
Summary:Research shows that echinacea may have benficial antiviral properties.
3. Anti-inflammatory Properties
Research shows that echinacea has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. This is thought to be due to the alkylamide content, a family of bioactive compounds that give echinacea its characteristic numbing, zinging sensation.
An in vitro study showed that echinacea extract worked to decrease inflammation by reducing cytokine expression.
Similarly, an animal study showed that echinacea helped to reduce the effects of inflammation and perceived pain in rodents.
Summary:Echinacea may be beneficial in decreasing inflammation.
4. Antimicrobial Properties
Studies show that echinacea may be a beneficial herb against fungi and bacteria.
Research suggests that E. purpurea could have an antimicrobial effect on different types of bacteria, including Candida albicans, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Streptococcus pyogenes, Haemophilus influenzae, and Legionella pneumophila.
One study found that an echinacea extract inhibited S. cerevisiae, C. albicans, and S. cerevisiae.
Summary:Studies show that echinacea may have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Additional research is required to confirm these findings.
5. Skin Health & Anti-Aging Properties
Research shows that Echinacea purpurea contains many beneficial constituents for skin health.
A human clinical trial with 10 patients showed an increase in overall skin hydration and a reduction in skin wrinkles by 10%-14% when using echinacea as either a face cream or gel. The study also showed that echinacea is well tolerated, with none of the patients complaining of skin irritation.
One problem that the study found is that the compounds in echinacea have low stability, so getting fresh product is ideal.
Summary:Research shows that echinacea may benefit skin health, however, more clinical research is required for verification.
Safety Class: 1 (can be safely used when consumed properly)
Interaction Class: A (no clinically relevant reactions are expected)
Echinacea is generally considered as being safe when taken within the recommended dosages.
There are no drug contraindications. However, it is theorized that taking echinacea may be harmful to individuals with autoimmune diseases. As with all herbs, it’s best to talk with one’s doctor prior to ingestion.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
There are no studies on the safety of echinacea for women who are pregnant or nursing. While no concerns have been identified, safety has not been conclusively established.
Tincture (1:5): 1–4 mL up to three times per day.
Decoction: Add 1-2 teaspoons of root in 1 cup of water and bring slowly to a boil. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, then steep for 1 hour. Drink three times a day.
Capsules (Dried Whole Root): 1 gram (roughly 4 capsules), three times daily.
Capsules (Extract 1:1): 500-1,000mg per day.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Echinacea gets its name from the Greek word “echinos“, which means hedgehog. This makes sense when one looks at the hard, spiky head of the flower.
Echinacea has many different names, including purple coneflower, black sampson, and Missouri snakeroot.
Echinacea is part of the Asteraceae family of plants. It’s native to eastern North America. It is present to some extent in the wild in much of the eastern, southeastern, and midwestern United States.
In its native temperate range, echinacea occurs in open woodlands, thickets, prairies, and near waterways and roadsides. It thrives in full sun and is shade intolerant. It is also quite drought tolerant.
History & Traditional Use:
Echinacea was used by many different Native American tribes, including the Cheyenne, Choctaw, Dakota, Delaware, Fox Kiowa, Ponca, Sioux, and Winnebago.
Echinacea was used to treat a variety of ailments, including general pain relief, coughs and sore throats, fevers, smallpox, mumps, measles, rheumatism, and arthritis; it was also used as an antidote for poisons and venoms.
Antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, anticatarrhal, and alterative.
Echinacea contains echinacoside, echinacein, echinocoside, cichoric acid, caffeic acid derivatives (chlorogenic acid & cynarin), and various polysaccharides.
Echinacea is a popular herb that can be consumed or applied topically. It has been studied for its ability to help with immune health, inflammation, and healthy aging.
In general, it appears to be relatively safe when taken in appropriate amounts.
If you’re considering using echinacea as part of your natural supplement routine, we recommend consulting with a doctor first.