What is Echinacea?
Echinacea (also known as Echinacea purpurea) is an herb that is native to North America. Both the roots and the above-ground parts of the plant have been found to contain substances that stimulate our immune system and help fight off infections.
What are the Benefits of Echinacea?
Studies have shown that the active substances in Echinacea helps your body circulate infection-fighting antibodies, which helps to treat:
- Colds and flus
- Skin infections such as acne and boils
- Urinary tract infections
- Ear infections
In particular, studies have shown that taking echinacea while suffering from a cold or flu can help decrease the duration of the symptoms by up to two days compared to other treatments.
Uses of Echinacea
Echinacea to Treat Colds, Flus, and Urinary Tract Infections
For general immune system stimulation (colds, flus, nasal congestion, or upper respiratory infections) as well as urinary tract infections, boil 1 to 2 grams of Echinacea root or herb into a tea and consume it after one meal each day for up to two weeks. Alternatively you may substitute the tea with Echinacea capsules or tablets (approximately 300mg), or other forms of the herb such as tinctures or powders.
Treat Wounds and Skin Infections with Echinacea
Echinacea has been found to be effective at treating slow-healing wounds and skin infections such as boils. You can drink an echinacea herbal tea once per day, or apply Echinacea creams or ointments directly to the infected surface.
What are the Side Effects of Echinacea?
For most people, Echinacea does not cause any major side effects. However, individuals that have an existing allergy to plants such as ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums, or daisies may also experience allergic reactions to Echinacea (such as skin rashes). A more common side effect of Echinacea use is minor gastrointestinal problems, as well as nausea or dizziness. If you notice any of these symptoms or are unsure if you should use Echinacea, it is recommended that you consult your doctor.
Echinacea is not recommended if you are pregnant or lactating.
Since Echinacea boosts the immune system, it is not recommended if you are currently taking immunosuppressants. Immunosuppressants are often used to treat cancer or suppress the immune system following an organ transplant (so that the new organ is not rejected by the body).
Where and How to Buy Echinacea
Echinacea is available in extracts, tinctures, capsules/tablets, and ointments. It can be found in most natural health stores and pharmacies.