It seems that in the world of herbs a “fad” herb comes around every few years or so. One of the biggest fads was the use of echinacea. It was touted as the ‘latest thing in herbalism and could help myriad problems.
But, before people rush out to buy it, or begin taking it daily, it would be wise to know it does and how much you should be taking.
Even before we look at those issues, we need to be looking at a very big issue which many people fail to take into consideration – what are you buying?
Jane has heard that echinacea is great for helping stop a cold from starting. So, she rushes out to her local store to find this great herb. She sees a bottle of capsules that clearly states ECHINACEA, so she grabs them and takes them home. Jane has made a big mistake.
She didn’t read the label to see if the herb was organic or if it was grown for commercial purposes on a farm that uses pesticides. She didn’t look to see if it was 100% echinacea, and worse, what type of echinacea it was. Many commercial products use fillers which can greatly decrease the benefits of the pure herb.
Echinacea has been identified (Trusted Source) as having anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties and as an immune-strengthening agent. This makes it a very popular herbal supplement that’s available in many commercial products. One of the common ways to use Echinacea is to drink it in a tea.
The amount of Echinacea tea you need to drink to reap its benefits varies depending on the tea itself and how strongly you brew it. Echinacea can also be found in liquid tincture, tablets, ointments, capsules, and extracts. It’s important to only buy Echinacea from a reputable and established company and to verify its quality.
So, what should Jane have done?
She should have consulted with a herbalist who could go over what type to buy, how to administer it, and where to get it.
The herb is good for stopping colds before onset, but you need to take it BEFORE you get a cold. But may not be very effective in fighting a cold once you have one.
It is good for some other maladies. The source above stated, “Overall, the data suggest it is a choice for developing antihyperglycemia and antihypertension compounds from field-grown E. purpurea.”
Now note, it says field-grown E. purpurea, that’s the echinancea we want, and in its pure form with no additives.
SO what else can this herb help with?
Here’s a list:
- It fights the flu
For some of us, contracting the flu is simply an inconvenience, but for others it can actually be life-threatening. That’s why doctors recommend getting a yearly flu vaccine. Drinking Echinacea tea has been found Trusted Source to be effective in shortening the duration of your symptoms. Studies have shown that Echinacea can reduce the odds of developing a cold by 58 percent and reducing its duration by 1–4 days. Taking Echinacea regularly may also influence the flu vaccine to be more effective at staving off the disease, according to one study.
- It helps control blood sugar
The antioxidant properties in Echinacea purpurea are unique. A 2017 study showed that Echinacea in your bloodstream can help keep your blood sugar from spiking if you’re diabetic or prediabetic. It can also keep your blood sugar from plummeting if you are hypoglycemic. It certainly isn’t a replacement for insulin therapy or other diabetes treatments, such as managing carbohydrates. But drinking Echinacea tea or consuming it in supplement form is one way that you can help control your blood sugar levels.
3. Aids healthy cell growth
Any herbal remedy or food that contains antioxidants can help repair your cells. Antioxidants destroy the toxins (free radicals) that age and damage the cells in our body prematurely. Because of the antioxidants in Echinacea, drinking Echinacea tea or taking a high-quality supplement can contribute to healthy cell growth in your body.
4. Potentially reduces risk of breast cancer
Echinacea is a good supplement for those that are seeking treatment for various types of cancer. Cancer treatments tend to weaken the immune system and kill off some of our healthy cells, so drinking Echinacea tea may help to counter some of those side effects.
Echinacea has also been studied (Trusted Source) as a treatment for cancer itself. The study concluded that Echinacea extracts slowed the growth of malevolent tumor cells, blocking the cancer’s ability to spread. Some might suggest that taking Echinacea is a good preventative measure for women with a family history of breast cancer. More research is needed to conclude that for sure.
5. Helps manage anxiety
Echinacea was tested (Trusted Source) as an anti-anxiety supplement and found to be effective. Echinacea extract helps regulate the synapses that aid communication between your body and brain. While it can’t turn off the “fear reflex” that people who have anxiety attacks experience, it can limit the physical effects of your fears and help you to feel calmer. Echinacea can be an excellent herb for those that battle with anxiety.
6. Lowers blood pressure
The research for Echinacea as a supplement to lower blood pressure is ongoing, but it’s also promising Trusted Source. It makes sense that an herb with high amounts of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds could help blood pressure levels. Anxiety also plays into high blood pressure, so the effects of Echinacea contribute to controlling blood pressure in additional ways.
7. Reduces inflammation
Because of its clinically demonstrated (Trusted Source) anti-inflammatory properties, Echinacea has been suggested as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers, Crohn’s disease, and other conditions that are caused or worsened by inflammation. The biologically active compounds in Echinacea work with your body to keep its inflammation response down. This contributes to healing and relief for many inflammation-related issues.
So, as we can see, echinacea may not be the “herb of the century, but it certainly has some amazing health benefits.
As with any medicine, herbal or a prescription from you medical doctor, there are side effects that may occur:
Potential side effects
Some people that take Echinacea do experience side effects (Trusted Source). The most common side effects are nausea and mild stomach pains. Some people are allergic to Echinacea. The benefits of drinking Echinacea tea don’t outweigh the risks of an allergic reaction for people with known allergies to the Echinacea plant. People with autoimmune diseases are discouraged from using Echinacea because Echinacea has such a strong effect on immune reactions.
It’s generally considered safe for children over the age of 2 to take Echinacea supplements and drink Echinacea teas, and studies (Trusted Source) have even been conducted on the efficacy of Echinacea in strengthening children’s immune systems. It’s also thought to be safe for pregnant women. If you’re nursing or pregnant, you should always consult with your medical professional.
Want to know if echinacea is good for you? Don’t be like Jane. Talk to a herbalist who can go into depth about your needs, medical history, lifestyle, and diet. You can always book an appointment with us at the New Mexico Herbal Clinic. We offer video conferencing with our professional herbalist during the current pandemic and can even ship herbal medicines right to your door!