Written by Brenton Wight, Health Researcher
Copyright © 1999-2020 Brenton Wight. All Rights Reserved.
Updated 10th September 2020
What is Echinacea?
Echinacea is a flowering plant in the daisy family, also known as purple coneflower.
There are nine species, however only three are normally used as supplements:
- Echinacea purpurea
- Echinacea angustifolia
- Echinacea pallida
Most commonly used as an over-the-counter remedy to build immunity for colds, allergies and flu, but also used for inflammation, pain, migraines and blood glucose.
Native to North America but cultivated almost anywhere.
Upper parts and roots are typically used in tablets, tinctures, extracts and teas.
Beneficial Compounds in Echinacea include:
- Caffeic acid
- Phenolic acid
- Rosmarinic acid
Suggested health benefits include:
- Antioxidants, including flavonoids, cichoric acid and rosmarinic acid
- Alkamides that enhance antioxidant activity
- Immunity to infections and viruses. In studies, Echinacea lowered risk of colds by 50% and duration by one and a half days
- Helps blood glucose control by suppression of carbohydrate-digesting enzymes, also increased insulin sensitivity, and helps stop glucose levels plummeting in hypoglycemia
- Shown to help lower blood pressure, probably by helping to control blood glucose
- Reduced anxiety due to action of alkamides, rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid
- Anti-inflammatory, via compounds that reduce inflammatory markers
- Reduced pain, especially in those who received no benefit from standard pain relief drugs
- Reduced swelling
- Improved skin hydration and reduced wrinkles with Echinacea cream
- Acne (caused by Propionibacterium) suppressed with Echinacea cream
- Eczema symptoms reduced by Echinacea cream
- Shown to suppress cancer cell growth and trigger cancer cell death (Apoptosis), a benefit of the chicoric acid component
- Shown to increase apoptosis in pancreas and colon cancer cells
Issues with cream products: Echinacea extract is difficult to incorporate into commercial skin care products due to short shelf life.
Echinacea has been shown safe and tolerated well for short-term use, but long-term studies have not been carried out. Rare side effects (mainly in those with allergies to daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds, ragweed) include:
- Stomach pain, nausea
- Shortness of breath
- Rashes, hives, itchy skin
Those trying Echinacea for the first time should start with a tiny dose to test for any reaction.
Who should NOT consume Echinacea
Because Echinacea stimulates the immune system, those with any autoimmune disorder, or those taking immunosuppressive drugs (such as those for transplant rejection) should avoid taking Echinacea.
No official dosage exists, partly because studies have varied in quantity and quality of the product used, and products sometimes do not contain the amount and/or strength specified, so it is wise to purchase products from trusted brands such as those recommended by LeanMachine in this article.
Studies in the immunity properties of Echinacea suggest the following doses:
- Herb used as a tea, 1 teaspoon in a cup of hot water, up to 3 times daily
- Whole powder capsules 400mg, one or more times daily
- Liquid extract tincture 2 ml, three times daily, or up to 10 ml daily
Echinacea has a long and successful history of use in many countries, with rare allergy side-effects, and may help with immunity, allergies, anxiety, skin, cancer, blood pressure, pain, swelling and more.
There are many studies on Echinacea, but results are mixed, with some showing benefits and others showing none. Most studies were mouse studies, test tube studies, petri dish studies, etc and all were of short duration. However, LeanMachine suggests that the antioxidant benefits alone are worthwhile, and long-term studies are expected to show better health outcomes for seniors because their cardiovascular system should be in better shape, and their cancer risk should be lower.
Generally safe for children over age 2 to take Echinacea supplements and drink Echinacea teas, and studies show benefits to children taking Echinacea.
This study shows Echinachea is safe, but because the study involved only about 200 women, safety cannot be guaranteed absolutely.
Risk of drug interactions is relatively low, but some medications are affected by Echinacea.
Some interactions can be a life-or-death situation, so always inform the doctor if taking any herbal products, supplements, vitamins, minerals etc.