Echinacea: Uses, Health Benefits & Risks

Echinacea is a type of flowering plant from the daisy family. People often use it in cold remedies. Many believe that taking an Echinacea supplement can help your body fight off infections and other illnesses, like the common cold. Echinacea is prevalent as purple coneflower and was previously used by native Americans to treat many diseases. It’s best known today as a remedy for a cold or flu, and people can buy it over the counter. In addition, it helps with pain and other health problems too.

Though echinacea has many benefits, it comes with an equal number of risks. While it is an excellent antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial, its effects don’t have significant scientific backing. In addition, there are many conditions associated with its consumption. The daily dose, the way to consume, what not to consume it with are only some conditions to follow. Without these, Echinacea can become more of a boon than a bane.

The benefits of Echinacea far outweigh its potential risks. With guidance and appropriate intake, you can take advantage of one of the most beneficial flowers out there.

What is Echinacea?

Echinacea refers to a genus of flowering plants native to North America. Coneflowers are another name for these plants. Depending on the species, the petals may be pink or purple. They surround a seed head that is prickly and dark brown.

Echinacea comes in nine different varieties. Three of them are in herbal remedies:

  • E. Angustifolia has thin petals.
  • E. Pallida has pale petals.
  • E. Purpurea has purple flowers.

Different species have distinct health advantages. For example, people use its top and lower sections to make tablets, tinctures, extracts and teas.

The echinacea plant contains various active chemicals. These chemicals include caffeic acid, alkamides, phenolic acids, rosmarinic acid, polyacetylenes etc. Furthermore, studies prove the several health advantages of echinacea and its constituents. For example, it helps reduce inflammation, enhances immunity, and lowers blood sugar levels.

Health Benefits Of Echinacea

Echinacea supplement can help your body fight off infections and other illnesses, like the common cold.- HealthifyMe

The echinacea plant and its extracts are beneficial to our health in various ways. Following are some health benefits.

1. Cancer Protection

Cancer is a disease characterised by uncontrolled malignant cell proliferation. Research has revealed that echinacea extracts may inhibit cancer cell development and even kill cancer cells. As per research, echinacea extract was proven to induce cancer cell death. In another study, echinacea plant extracts destroyed human cancer cells from the pancreas and colon by promoting apoptosis or regulated cell death.

It is due to echinacea’s immune-boosting characteristics. However, there was some fear that echinacea may interfere with traditional cancer therapies like doxorubicin. However, researchers later eradicated the possibility of any such interference. An important point to note here is that echinacea itself is not a cure for cancer. You need to consult your doctor to understand the proper ways to use it.

2. Improves Mental Health

Echinacea plants have surfaced as a promising anxiety treatment in recent years. According to research, echinacea plants contain chemicals that lessen anxiety. Alkamides, rosmarinic acid, and caffeic acid are examples of these. During the study, echinacea samples helped lower anxiety. Furthermore, unlike greater dosages of traditional therapies, they did not make the individuals less active.

Another research discovered that echinacea extract significantly lowered anxiety. However, there is currently just a little research on echinacea and anxiety. Therefore, more study is needed before recommending echinacea products as a viable cure.

3. Rich in Antioxidants

Echinacea plants have abundant plant components that work as antioxidants. Antioxidants aid in the defence of your cells against oxidative stress, a condition that may lead to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease etc. Some of these antioxidants in the echinacea plant are flavonoids, cichoric acid and rosmarinic acid. Plant extracts from fruit and flowers contain more antioxidants than leaves and roots.

Furthermore, echinacea plants contain alkamides, which may further boost antioxidant activity. Alkamides may replenish depleted antioxidants and assist antioxidants in reaching molecules vulnerable to oxidative damage.

4. Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Inflammation is your body’s natural method of mending and protecting itself. Unfortunately, inflammation may sometimes go out of control and linger longer than is required or planned. As a result, it increases your chance of developing chronic illnesses and other health issues. Several studies have demonstrated that echinacea may aid in the reduction of excessive inflammation.

As per research, echinacea chemicals have helped lower critical inflammatory indicators and memory loss induced by inflammation. Another trial indicated that taking an echinacea extract supplement substantially decreased inflammation, chronic pain, and oedema in people with osteoarthritis. Surprisingly, these people did not react well to standard nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs). However, an echinacea extract supplement helped them.

5. Boosts Immunity

The most well-known benefit of Echinacea is its immune-boosting properties. Numerous studies have revealed that this plant can assist your immune system in resisting viruses and infections, perhaps allowing you to recover from sickness quicker. That is one of the reasons people use echinacea to prevent or cure a common cold.

An analysis of 14 research indicated that consuming echinacea may reduce the chance of getting a cold by more than half and cut the length of a cold by one and a half days. However, while echinacea may help with immunity, its benefits on the cold or flu are unknown.

6. Echinacea Lowers Blood Sugar

High blood sugar levels might put you at risk for significant health concerns. It includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and a variety of other chronic diseases. In addition, animal studies prove that echinacea plants help reduce blood sugar levels.

As per one study, an echinacea purpura extracts suppressed enzymes that break down carbs. As a result, it helps reduce sugar levels in your blood.

Another research indicated that echinacea extracts rendered cells more susceptible to the effects of insulin by activating the PPAR-y receptor, which is a popular target of diabetes treatments. In addition, it helps eliminate excess fat from the blood, a potential risk for insulin resistance. As a result, it facilitates cell responses to insulin and sugar.

7. Great For Skin

Echinacea plants are beneficial in treating skin issues. For example, several studies found that echinacea’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial characteristics inhibit the development of Propionibacterium acnes, the primary cause of acne.

One research discovered that using skincare products containing echinacea extract helps increase skin moisture and reduce wrinkles. In addition, studies prove that an extract of echinacea purpurea helps relieve the symptoms of eczema and restore the skin’s thin, protective outer layer (epidermis). However, it is difficult to include in commercial skincare products due to its short shelf life.

Echinacea & COVID-19

A study published in 2011 discovered that various echinacea preparations aid in treating viral respiratory infections. However, researchers warn that the absence of standardisation in echinacea products may prevent patients from finding effective therapies.

Meanwhile, 2020 research suggests that echinacea extract in commercial medicine helps prevent severe respiratory infections caused by coronaviruses. However, other experts caution that this restricted experiment did not examine the product’s impact on the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In addition, experts say that the researchers only tested the effect on cell lines and viral particles, not on humans. The research was also not peer-reviewed, and it does not prove that echinacea will help treat COVID-19. These experts also warn that the substance might be harmful to people with autoimmune diseases.

There is no indication that Echinacea or any other herbal medicine component may prevent or treat severe respiratory infections such as COVID-19. Therefore, you should seek medical attention in any such case.

Potential Side Effects

For short-term usage, echinacea preparations seem to be safe and well-tolerated. However, some people may experience a few side effects, such as:

  • Rash
  • Skin itch
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea & Fatigue
  • Breathing difficulty

However, these adverse effects are more prevalent in people allergic to other flowers like the daisy, dahlias, marigolds, ragweed etc.

Since echinacea activates the immune system, people with autoimmune illnesses or immunosuppressive medications should first avoid using it or check with their physicians.

In the short term, echinacea seems to be safe and well-tolerated. However, its long-term consequences are unclear. Therefore, it is not safe for people with medical issues or specific medications.

Echinacea: Daily Dose

There is no official dose guideline for echinacea at the moment. It is because the echinacea study results are pretty varied. Additionally, echinacea products often do not contain the exact contents stated on the label. According to reports, 10% of echinacea products had no echinacea. That is why it is essential to acquire echinacea products from reputable manufacturers. However, the following dosage is widely recommended.

  • Dry Extracts: 500mg per day (Maximum)
  • Liquid Extract Tinctures: 10ml per day (Maximum)

You should always follow the instructions included with your supplements. Remember, these are just short-term suggestions because the long-term effects of echinacea on the body are yet unclear.

The Bottom Line

Echinacea helps boost immunity, control blood sugar, reduce anxiety, reduce inflammation, and promote skin health. It may even be anti-cancer. However, human-based research is often constrained. Therefore, it is well-tolerated and safe for short-term use.

Usually, healthcare experts recommend echinacea doses based on the type of echinacea. Although people often use it to treat the common cold, the outcomes are mixed. While evidence suggests that it may mitigate colds, decrease their length, or give symptomatic relief, many trials were poorly conducted or failed to demonstrate any effect. Similarly, echinacea may help boost the immune system, but further research is required to prove the claim. However, echinacea is worth trying, given the limited number of medicines with similar potential immune-boosting characteristics.

You can purchase echinacea in various forms like dried echinacea, teas, liquid extracts, and tablets. You can buy it without a prescription from local pharmacies, health food shops, and internet retailers. But, you should remember not to use it without consulting your physician.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What happens if you take echinacea every day?

A. Echinacea is a beneficial flowering plant that is excellent for your body. It helps prevent illness, builds immunity and enhances metabolism. However, moderation is key. So, when using a dry powdered extract, it’s best not to go over 500mg a day. Over Consumption may lead to side effects.

Q. Does echinacea help with Covid?

A. While current research shows that echinacea supplementation may help reduce the length and intensity of recurrent respiratory tract infections, no trials have been discovered that use Echinacea to prevent or treat illnesses comparable to COVID-19. Therefore, until sufficient research is available, it’s best to seek medical attention.

Q. Is echinacea bad for your liver?

A. As per several controlled studies, echinacea has not been associated with liver damage, either as an increase in temporary serum enzyme or clinically apparent acute liver impairment. However, herbalists advise against using echinacea if you take medications that harm the liver.

Q. Why is echinacea good for the immune system?

A. Several studies prove the immunity-boosting effects of echinacea plant extracts. For example, it boosts the number of white blood cells, which fights off infections. In addition, many studies have found that this plant may help your body fight off infections and viruses, which could help you recover faster from an illness.

Q. Can you take zinc and echinacea together?

A. Yes. No study proves that zinc and echinacea have side effects when taken together. So, you can feel free to take both together. However, it is always better to consult a doctor before doing so.

Q. Can you take echinacea every day?

A. Yes. No study proves the adverse effects of echinacea on daily consumption. However, it is essential to keep the quantity in check. For example, when utilising a dry powdered extract, don’t exceed 500mg per day unless necessary. Echinacea is beneficial to the body. Hence, taking it every day will aid in preventing diseases, boosting immunity, and enhancing metabolism.

Q. Is echinacea good for the lungs?

A. No herbal medicine or ingredient can treat or prevent severe respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. However, echinacea extracts reduce the risk of repetitive acute respiratory infections and health issues like bronchitis, pharyngitis, and ear infections. Therefore, it is safe to say that echinacea is suitable for your lungs.

Q. Can echinacea make you tired?

A. No. Consuming an adequate amount of echinacea doesn’t have many side effects. However, some people experience an upset stomach, headache, sore throat, drowsiness, and rash. In addition, echinacea can have sedative effects in the homoeopathic form, diluted and made more potent.

Q. Can I take echinacea on an empty stomach?

A. You must take it with some food or water, not on an empty stomach. Many people who take echinacea don’t experience any adverse effects on taking it on an empty stomach. But some people experience side effects like stomach cramps or diarrhoea.

Q. Is zinc better than echinacea?

A. Although early studies say that echinacea has an antiviral effect, modern and detailed studies don’t support this claim. Similarly, there isn’t enough proof to conclude that zinc is good for shortening the length of a cold. Zinc is a mineral found in your body, which helps improve your immune response and digestion.

Q. Is Echinacea an antiviral?

A. You can use echinacea to prevent several diseases. For example, it can help cure infections and colds faster. In addition, its antiviral properties are significant. However, echinacea is not the last resort antiviral. Therefore, you should consult a doctor before taking a large amount of echinacea.

Q. Is Echinacea an antibiotic?

A. Many people use echinacea to prevent diseases, especially colds and cases of flu. In addition, people also use it to combat upper respiratory tract infections. That is because it is an effective alternative to antibiotics. However, you should always consult a doctor when in need of antibiotics.

Q. Does echinacea increase heart rate?

A. Echinacea may cause some side effects when taken with caffeine. For example, it can lead to a headache, a faster heart rate, and a jittery feeling. However, the antioxidant properties in echinacea help prevent oxidative damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Q. Who should not use echinacea?

A. If you have any of the following conditions, echinacea may not be suitable for you:

  • An autoimmune disorder (like lupus)
  • HIV infection
  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

In addition, echinacea can cause adverse effects in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Therefore, you should consult with your doctor before using it.

Q. Does echinacea affect sleep?

A. The diluted form of echinacea may have sedative effects. It also causes laziness, minimal fatigue, and drowsiness. All these effects are significant for sleep. Echinacea virtually guarantees good sleep when you take it in appropriate amounts. However, it does not negatively impact your sleep.

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