Echinacea, or purple coneflower, has been one of the most-used herbal supplements for generations. The Native Americans across the Great Plains, as well as the settlers that followed, used the leaves, flowers, and roots for medicinal purposes. Although the discovery of antibiotics lessened its use for a time, this member of the daisy family enjoys a resurgence as commonly prescribed medications lose effectiveness.
Recent studies have had conflicting results about the effectiveness of this herbal remedy, despite the decades of prevalent use it has enjoyed. Part of the challenge is that there are several species of the plant, and several plant parts, namely the leaves, flowers, and roots, have all been used medicinally. Study results range from yielding negligible to highly promising results.
Also, remember that each person has a unique metabolism and varying tolerances. Should you decide to test the traditional merits of the herb, choose quality supplements, and follow the directions carefully. And although many have enjoyed significant benefits from the remedy, it may not react well with some prescription medications, so you consult your doctor before adding it to your daily regimen if you take regular meds.
Some recent studies have also found that the herb may be useful beyond the common cold or flu. It contains anti-inflammatory properties and also offers some calming effects. More definitive and controlled research could pinpoint the most effective species, plant part, and dosage to the satisfaction of the scientific community. Until then, even many doctors agree that the testimony of herbalists, nutritionists, and satisfied users cannot be altogether dismissed.
Treating the Common Cold
Studies show this herbal treatment to contain antimicrobial and antiviral properties that can make it a desirable alternative to prescribed meds. By beginning the supplement as soon as cold or flu symptoms appear, the duration and severity of symptoms such as fever, sore throat, and cough can be reduced without harmful side effects.
Some studies have also boosted the herb’s reputation as an immune system enhancer through alkamides and several other inherent chemical substances. The phenols found in the herb have antioxidant qualities that help the body to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses.
Treating Gum Disease
Studies indicate that a mouthwash containing coneflower, Gotu kola, and elderberry is useful in stopping gingivitis. The immune system regulating and antibacterial properties of the herb make it effective against microbial pathogens, yeast, and other kinds of fungi. The herb also helps to fight inflammation, one uncomfortable symptom of gum disease.
The correct dosage should present visible results within ten days. By rinsing your mouth and then swallowing the dose, you will be treating the condition both orally and systemically. The mouthwash may stain, so keep it away from clothing. It is also not tasty, but the results may be worth it.
Some studies have indicated that narrow-leaved Coneflower Root supplements can help regulate synaptic functions, resulting in the lessening of anxiety symptoms. While the herb cannot altogether remove all fear and sufferers’ reactions to it, it can make the battle easier for those who endure frequent anxiety attacks.
These findings are particularly useful because of the undesirable side effects associated with some prescription anxiety treatments. When taken as a low-dosage supplement, stress and tension significantly decreased in study participants.
Controlling Blood Sugar and Diabetes
Several studies support the ability of Echinacea purpurea to help reduce blood sugar. This improvement happens by suppressing the enzymes that digest carbohydrates. Specific components in the herb also help the body normalize its response to glucose, making it a possible supplemental treatment for people with diabetes.
The presence of this herb in the bloodstream can keep blood sugar from either spiking or plummeting. Adding the herb in tea form is easy, and side effects are rare. However, you should always begin any herbal supplement with small doses to assess your body’s response.
Reducing the Risk of Cancer
Studies have shown that this versatile herb may also encourage the growth of healthy cancer “kill cells” while inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. Its effectiveness with several cancers continues to be studied, including breast cancer and lymphomas, cervical, and lung cancers.
Taking a regular dose may also alleviate some of the symptoms of chemotherapy treatments, such as nausea and stomach upset, when included in an herbal blend. It also encourages white blood cell growth, which helps to discourage infections while fighting cancer and other diseases.
Fighting Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
Several laboratory studies indicate that this herb may be an effective treatment for urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, and ear infections. The active natural antibiotic substances, along with antiviral and antioxidant components, have made it one of the favorite supplements among professional herbalists.
Although some studies have been inconclusive, many herbalists agree that 400 years of traditional use should not be ignored. A careful examination of each species is bringing more information to light about this cure-all herb’s many healing properties for common ailments and infections. For chronic UTI sufferers, the herb may prove to be a boon, as it may mean lessened prescription meds dependence for day to day healthy functions.
Treating Respiratory Infections
Studies show that coneflower may also be useful as an initial treatment for Upper Respiratory Infections (URI). These studies have shown improvement in up to eight out of ten participants. This news is good for chronic sufferers.
There is no real evidence, however, that the supplements will work as a preventative measure, though some nutritionists and herbalists insist otherwise. Since some studies have indicated a small percentage of preventative results, chronic sufferers may want to try the supplement for a while and form their own opinion.
Other Possible Benefits
Over the years, parts of the coneflower have been used for a variety of ailments. Besides those previously mentioned, the herb has been put forward as a remedy for:
Even this is not an all-inclusive list. Although studies indicate the herb offers the potential for many healing components, time alone will tell what conclusions the scientific community will draw for so many varied conditions. Time has not lessened the herb’s popularity as a general preventive and treatment for colds and other viral infections.
How Echinacea Gained Its Following
Most Native American tribes did not initially use this prolific herb to treat colds. Some shared they learned about the herb by watching elk, who sought it out when wounded or sick. So the native tribes called the plant “elk root.” It was used for sore throat, cough, headaches, and as an all-around painkiller.
Only the South Dakota tribes used coneflower as a cold remedy. Then, the region’s European settlers quickly picked up on this application. Beginning in the 20th century, Germany has been conducting studies with the herb, and its use is common there.
It would appear that the different species each have their unique potency to combat various diseases. So a bit of research may help you to decide what to look for when considering the use of this natural treatment. Another important consideration is whether you will benefit more from the herb in drink or capsule form. It’s not recommended you use the raw plant unless you have a thorough knowledge of the risk of toxicity. Instead, take a supplement tablet or tea.
Who Shouldn’t Use an Echinacea supplement
If you take some prescription meds, such as immunosuppressants, this may not be an excellent herbal treatment for you. Also, don’t use the herb if you suffer from an autoimmune disorder such as
- multiple sclerosis
Also, avoid this herb if you suffer from tuberculosis.
Some people may have an allergic reaction, such as nausea or stomach upset. If you react, discontinue use. The herb is thought to be safe for children over two years old and for pregnant women. You may want to speak with your doctor first.
Final Thoughts on Echinacea and Your Wellness
For over 400 years, Echinacea has been a go-to herb for treating everyday illnesses, aches, and pains. As a supplement, there have been no studies showing any danger in taking the herb daily. However, some professionals recommend taking it in short bursts for a more robust immune boost.