What is Echinacea?
Echinacea – also known as purple coneflower – is, in fact, a flower. A group of flowers, to be exact.
Echinacea includes three different daisy species (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida) that are used in herbal supplements (1). These flowers can be found in North American prairies as well as Europe and are an age old remedy for various ailments and are still being used today.
The roots of the flower are dried and used to make tablets, extracts, and teas you can purchase from the store or online (1). Additionally, the leaves, flowers and seeds are also used to produce several over-the-counter supplements.
These roots, leave, etcetera, contain phytochemicals including caffeic acid, alkamides, phenolic acids, rosmarinic acid, polyacetylenes and many more that have the potential to provide several health benefits (1).
It has also been linked to its ability to enhance immune health, ability as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and benefit to reducing anxiety.
Benefits of Echinacea
- High in antioxidants
- Boosts immune system health
Numerous research studies have found this plant may help your immune system (1).
3 Forms of Echinacea supplements
These tablets all include phytochemicals from the Echinacea flower (2). Phytochemicals are natural, active compounds produced by plants that provide the benefits of the herb. In this case – the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and anxiety reduction Echinacea offers.
Phytochemicals in Echinacea include caffeic acid, alkamides, phenolic acids, rosmarinic acid, polyacetylenes and many more (1).
You can also find Echinacea in the form of extracts. Extracts are made primarily from the dried root of the flower. They also come in several different varieties (i.e., tinctures).
Extracts are a beneficial way to consume and herb, due to its processing of the phytochemicals into a from that is readily absorbable without the need for digestion.
The amount of Echinacea tea you need to drink to see benefits varies depending on the brand of tea itself and how strongly you brew it (4).
- Bonus – Ointments or other skin care products
Although not a consumable supplement, ointments and other skin care products containing Echinacea are available to help treat skin concerns. These creams provide anti-inflammatory aid, for skin redness, and anti-bacterial assistance to stave off acne. Also, don’t forget about their ability to reduce fine lines and of wrinkles.
There is currently no recommendations for Echinacea due to research variability and a few unreliable products labeled to be containing Echinacea, but in fact do not. This shows the importance of finding trusted brands for your preferred Echinacea supplement (1).
That being said, researchers have seen enhanced immunity with the following doses of Echinacea for short-term use:
- Dry powdered extract: 300–500 mg, three times daily.
- Liquid extract: 2.5 ml, three times daily; or up to 10 ml daily.
However, best practices are to follow the instructions for your specific supplement (1).
Potential side effects of EchinaceaEchinacea has been proven to be safe and effective with short-term use. However, in cases where Echinacea supplements are used against recommendations -- such as long-term or excessive use -- patients experienced a range of less than optimal side-effects, including (1):
- Itchy skin
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
As always, if you are experiencing any of these negative reactions seek out the advice of a medical professional immediately.
Is an Echinacea supplement right for you?
First and foremost, you will need to determine what your need and use of Echinacea is and will be. Afterward, you will need to choose the form of Echinacea supplement you are looking for – whether that be a tea, extract, or tablet.
Whichever you happen to select, ensure you purchase a trustworthy brand and through review usage instructions.
Remember, though there is data on Echinacea, there is still ample research to be done on topics like dosage. So if you are ever in doubt, seek the advice of a medical professional.
Author: Allison Lansman, RDN, LD