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Echinacea is Good for What Ails You

Updated on February 3, 2014

If you've ever seen gardens with purple-pink flowers that bloom in the late summer to mid-autumn, you've seen echinacea. It's a favorite of gardeners because of its tolerance to the elements. It also attracts butterflies! But it's more than just ornamental. While you may recognize it by the common name of "purple coneflower," it's also one of America's most popular herbal treatements.

How Is It Used?

Echinacea has been used for many generations to treat everything from toothaches to snake bites. Nineteenth century herbalists recognized its value as an immune system booster, and also used it to reduce the frequency and duration of colds and flu, speed the healing of wounds, lessen inflammation and combat infections.

Photo by Sarah Casha
Photo by Sarah Casha

Did You Know?

  • Echinacea is a family of nine flowering plants indigenous to North America.
  • Echinacea has been used by Native Americans for hundreds of years as an antiseptic, pain killer and for the treatment of snakebites.

Echinacea used to be an American best-seller During the early 20th century, because of its positive affects on diverse maladies. Around 1930, however, modern doctors decided it had no value. As a result, it fell out of favor until the 1980s, when people started becoming interested in herbal remedies again. Today, it's one of the best-selling herbal extracts on the market. There are varieties: Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia.

Studies have shown different results, but there's evidence that taking echinacea can help cold and flu symptoms and strengthen the immune system. It's best to take it at the first sign of a cold or flu, because it is most effective as a preventative.It can also shorten the duration of an illness, so taking it at any time during your illness may help.

Echinacea is also recommend to combat allergies and sinus problems. Much like with colds and flu, it's a good idea to take it early in allergy season -- before allergens are everywhere. It shouldn't be taken all the time though. It's best to take it for three weeks and then take one week off, because the body will adjust to it and it will lose its effectiveness.

How Safe Is It?

There are no known serious side-effects from taking echinacea, other than allergic reactions or mild nausea in very rare cases. This is because echinacea works doesn't destroy germs or act invasivly. Because it activates your body's natural resources to strengthen your immune system, the kind of side-effects that sometimes happen with pharmceuticals such as antibiotics aren't a problem.

The only caveat to this is that people with auto-immune diseases might have to be careful taking echincea. The evidence is inconclusive, but it's probably a good idea to not take it if you have an autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus or scleroderma, or you're HIV-positive.

More Information About Herbs and Supplements

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    • WordPlay profile image

      Carla Chadwick 7 years ago from Georgia, y'all

      Thanks, Shari. :-)

      I love Echinacea too. It's saved me from many a cold. :-)

    • wavegirl22 profile image

      Shari 7 years ago from New York, NY

      One of my most favorite herbs is echinacea . .I should take a picture of my very own plant that I am looking at right now! Maybe I will wait until she goes back outside as soon the last frost is over! But I love herbs and could not live without them! Thanks for all the good information .. bookmarked it so that I always have the reference of it when I try to explain the benefits of it to others!!!

    • WordPlay profile image

      Carla Chadwick 9 years ago from Georgia, y'all

      Good question! Here are equivalent doses for adults, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center:

      "For general immune system stimulation, during colds, flu, upper respiratory tract infections, or bladder infections, choose from the following forms and take three times a day:

      *1 to 2 grams dried root or herb, as tea

      * 2 to 3 mL of standardized tincture extract

      * 300 mg of powdered extract containing 4% phenolics

      * Tincture (1:5): 1 to 3 mL (20 to 90 drops)

      * Stabilized fresh extract: 0.75 mL (15 to 23 drops)"

      I hope that helps!

    • Mystic Biscuit profile image

      Mystic Biscuit 9 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      Great info - One question though...

      How effective is Echinacea tea? Is the "dose" of Echinacea in the tea enough to make a difference?

    • WordPlay profile image

      Carla Chadwick 9 years ago from Georgia, y'all

      Thanks, Zsuzsy! I always appreciate it when you stop by.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Wow! Lots of great information in this article.

      great HUB

      regards Zsuzsy