If you’ve ever stepped foot into a health food store or pharmacy, you’ve probably noticed adverts for Echinacea, a herbal remedy purported to fight off the common cold.
If you’d like to find out more about this remedy read through our guide below.
First things first, what is Echinacea and where does the supplement come from?
Echinacea is a herbal flowering plant native to the United States and Canada. It is closely related to the daisy and there are a total of nine varieties, which known by various names. So if somebody is talking about Black Susans, Black Sampsons, Coneflowers or American Cone Flowers, they may be referring to Echinacea.
Various parts of the Echinacea plant have been used as a herbal remedy since at least the mid-19th century. All parts of the plant can be used, including the roots, leaves and flowers.
What is Echinacea used for, is it effective?
Traditionally, people took Echinacea to protect themselves from colds and flu, but today scientists take a dim view on this use. Instead, scientists believe that Echinacea might have some medicinal properties but only for alleviating cold and symptoms if taken in the early stages as the virus develops – not to ward it off. However, no conclusive evidence proves this as yet. This is because research has been inconsistent and unreliable to date.
WebMD weighs up the scientific evidence behind Echinacea and concludes by saying that if there is any evidence it is “likely to be modest.”
If you visit the US government’s MedlinePlus website, you can see a review of the Echinacea supplement from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. The NMCD assigns herbal remedies and supplements ratings after reviewing relevant literature. They rate Echinacea as “possibly effective” for reducing cold symptoms if taken during the early stages of the virus developing. Possibly effective is a reasonable rating:
“This product has some clinical evidence supporting its use for a specific indication; however, the evidence is limited by quantity, quality, or contradictory findings. Products rated “Possibly Effective” might be beneficial, but do not have enough high-quality evidence to recommend for most people”
Uses for Echinacea
Traditionally, in addition to its popular use for the common cold, Echinacea supplements and teas have been used to provide relief from other ailments too, including:
- Urinary tract infections
- Vaginal yeast infections
- Genital herpes
- Gum disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
- Bloodstream infections
- Rattlesnake bites
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
However, none of these other uses have ever been proved by research studies as being effective either.
Is Echinacea safe?
The NMCD believe that Echinacea is most likely safe for both adults and children when taken in the short term. However, little is known about side effects from taking the supplement long term.
There are some known precautions to consider before taking this supplement:
- Pregnant women and those breastfeeding should avoid Echinacea.
- Anyone with autoimmune disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, should also avoid taking Echinacea.
- Adults and children who are already allergic to ragweed, daisies, marigolds and mums may have reactions to Echinacea.
- When applied to the skin, Echinacea has been found to cause a rash, redness, and itchiness in some people.
There are also a number of different medicines that can interact negatively with Echinacea, including medicines that are changed by the liver and immunosuppressant medications. For full details of known medical interactions, click here.
Echinacea is available at a wide range of pharmacies, health food stores and online suppliers; should you wish to try the supplement, and it is available from leading retailer NATURE’S BEST. The company supplies a wide range of herbal cold and flu remedies to individuals all around the world.
This article is a guest post and does not constitute medical advice. You should always discuss medications and supplements with your doctor or pharmacist before trying them for the first time – especially if you are in an at-risk group or you take any other medications.
Echinacea flowers, from Nature’s Best – http://www.naturesbest.co.uk/echinacea-cold-and-flu-relief-tablets-p102/
Sneezing girl, used under creative commons license –