Echinacea Benefits

Many people swear by the health benefits of using echinacea – these benefits are now supported by research.

 

Echinacea benefit No. 1 – Strengthen the immune system

The fundamental benefit of using echinacea is that it improves the way the immune system functions. Research by Ritchie (published in 2011) has confirmed what many herbalists have known for many years – echinacea strengthens those with a weak immune system such as people who are under stress or those who are overworked.

In doing so, the body is able to respond better to invading organisms such as viruses causing colds and flu. In this way, the key benefit of echinacea is in helping the body stand a better chance of fending off the bugs that cause such infections.

Echinacea benefit No. 2 –
Anti-viral action

In addition to improving the way the immune system functions, echinacea has the benefit that it has direct antiviral action on many of the viruses causing colds, as well as the influenza virus. This activity provides us with a second mode of action of echinacea which is especially useful when you are, for example, stuck on a train with someone next to you who has a streaming cold, sneezing and coughing the whole journey.

Echinacea benefit No. 3 –
Anti-inflammatory action

For many years, researchers were at a loss to explain how echinacea reduced symptoms when one does come down with a cold or flu. Today, we know from research that echinacea behaves as an anti-inflammatory, working through the body’s immune system.

When faced with an infection, the immune system can sometimes over-react and this gives rise to cold and flu symptoms we are all familiar with. One of the benefits of using echinacea is that this over-reaction is reduced – and this means a reduction of symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose and coughs.


 

Other Echinacea benefits

The native American Indians used echinacea to heal snake bites, treat boils, wounds, abscesses and to cleanse the blood, but didn’t specifically take it for colds or flu.

European herbalists have long used echinacea as a ‘blood cleanser’ or to phrase it differently, to ‘remove toxins from the blood’. Today, because of our knowledge of the way it improves immune function, we can understand the traditional use of the herb for conditions such as:

  • Yeast infections caused by Candida albicans
  • Post-viral fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic viral infection
  • Inflammatory skin conditions such as acne
  • Glue ear
  • When the immune system is depressed
 

Echinacea plantDispelling popular Echinacea myths:

Myth: Echinacea cannot be taken long-term as the body becomes resistant to it.

Fact: It can be taken as long as you need the benefits of echinacea to maintain the strength of your immune system and it does not lose its effectiveness.

Myth: It is not safe to take echinacea for long periods of time.

Fact: If you have had a cold or flu for over 10 days then you should see a doctor if it is not getting better. Echinacea is safe to take, but in these situations, you may need to find out if you have a more serious problem such as a chest infection.

Myth: Echinacea can cause asthma attacks.

Fact: Echinacea may affect people who have allergies already – so it could bring on an asthma attack in someone who is asthmatic. It does not induce asthma attacks in people who are not asthmatic. It should not be taken by allergy-prone people.

 

Don’t take Echinacea:

  • When you are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • If you are taking immuno-suppressant medication or chemotherapy
  • If you have an auto-immune condition
  • If you have allergies including asthma.