What is echinacea for?

Do you suffer from colds frequently? This herb may be of help to you.

What is echinacea for?

People use echinacea for colds. The typical echinacea product, such as Echinacea Supreme by Gaia Organics is taken once you experience cold or flu symptoms, because the early stages are when echinacea is most effective.

If you are pregnant

Note that researchers have cautioned against using echinacea during pregnancy. It’s not that there is proof that echinacea is harmful in pregnancy, but that there is no evidence that it is safe in pregnancy. So, it’s better to be safe and avoid it as much as possible when you’re expecting.

How effective is echinacea?

In a study involving 473 patients in the early stages of flu, an echinacea beverage was as effective as oseltamivir, a flu medicine.

After trying an echinacea beverage myself, I can say that this is probably a credible result. I was amazed by how well I felt after taking it, compared to the previous times I had the flu.

Can I take echinacea daily to prevent colds?

Scientists have been developing echinacea extracts for everyday use. 10 healthy volunteers took a standardized extract of echinacea root daily for four weeks. Their levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines rose, while pro-inflammatory cytokines decreased.

Standardized extracts are extracts of herbs that contain specific amounts of particular phytochemicals to guarantee their effectiveness. In this case, the extract contained

  • More than 2% echinacoside, which is anti bacterial
  • More than 5% IDN5405, a polysaccharide
  • Less than 0.1% alkamides, because scientists have found that at their natural levels in the root, may not be helpful in preventing infections.

Echinacea in its natural form is more suitable and effective for use at the onset of a cold or flu.

This standardized extract was developed for everyday use to boost immunity. It seems effective, but should you take it?

Tips for people who frequently fall sick

If you’re frequently down with a cold or the flu, it may help your immune system to have some echinacea at hand. Scientists who did an analysis of six studies involving over 2,400 people found that:

  • Using echinacea helped to reduce episodes of respiratory infection. In fact, those who had weak immunity, were stressed, or just more vulnerable to colds or flu reduced these episodes by half!
  • Using echinacea also reduced the risk of getting flu/cold complications such as tonsillitis and pneumonia.
  • Extracts derived using ethanol were more effective than echinacea juice.
  • Taking higher doses of echinacea extracts when they were sick made the extracts even more effective.

Extracts are more effective than juice, but…

Like other extracts I’ve looked at that have isolated phytochemicals into supplements, such as artemisinin, I’m withholding my praise from echinacea extracts, especially standardized ones. Why?

  1. You never know what might happen when you tinker with the balance within an herb. It may be more effective, but is it really safe to take such extracts long term?
  2. The immune system needs a great variety of phytochemicals for nourishment, not just those in echinacea. I would prefer to take echinacea for its anti viral properties when I’m down with a flu, and strengthen my immune system at other times with a balanced plant based diet.

Here’s an echinacea product I would heartily recommend–

Raw Fresh Freeze Dried Echinacea Flower and Leaf:

If you’re looking for a tried, tested, and safe plant food to boost your immunity in the long term, check out my post on cactus.

What do you think?

Are you taking an echinacea extract on a daily basis, or only when you have a cold or flu?

If you’re not currently taking it, would you give it a try? Why or why not? Do leave a comment below!

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