Echinacea: Health benefits, side effects, and uses

Echinacea is a daisy-like genus of blooming plants that is commonly used in cold treatments.

Supporters claim that the supplement improves the immune system and helps to minimize the symptoms of infections and other ailments, such as the common cold.

Researchers have yet to confirm that it has these advantages.

We’ll look at some of Echinacea’s potential applications and what the scientific research says about it.

What is it?

Echinacea
Echinacea’s antibacterial and antiviral characteristics may aid in the treatment of a variety of ailments.

The word Echinacea refers to a group of flowering plants native to North America.

Coneflowers are another name for these plants. Depending on the species, the petals are pink or purple, and they surround a spiky dark brown or red seed head, or cone.

Echinacea comes in nine different types, three of which are used to make herbal remedies:

  • E. angustifolia, which has narrow petals
  • E. purpurea, which has purple petals
  • E. pallida, which has pale petals

It’s probable that different species have distinct health advantages.

Traditional medicine uses echinacea, but experts have yet to show that it offers any health benefits.

Benefits

Echinacea plants contain a diverse range of active ingredients. Some of these molecules may be antibacterial and antiviral, while others may help the immune system in other ways.

Phenols are found in all kinds of Echinacea, as they are in many other plants. A variety of enzymes and cell receptors are controlled by phenols.

They may have advantageous antioxidant effects and protect the plants from infections and UV radiation damage.

The uses

Echinacea-based products are used by people all over the world to help with the treatment of a variety of ailments, including:

  • vaginitis
  • bronchitis
  • some inflammatory conditions
  • coughs and colds
  • upper respiratory infections
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • gingivitis
  • influenza
  • canker sores
  • yeast infections
  • ear infections

Some people also take Echinacea to aid in the healing of wounds.

However, the majority of evidence for these applications is anecdotal. There are few scientific studies that back up the use of Echinacea in any treatment.

Types

Echinacea can be found:

  • fresh or dried, sometimes in teas
  • squeezed, as juice
  • as a dietary supplement, in pills
  • as an extract, in capsules
  • as a preparation to apply to the skin

Adverse effects

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), taking Echinacea by mouth for a short period of time is probably safe, but the long-term consequences are unknown.

After taking it, some people have acquired a rash, which could be the result of an allergic response. A person with a history of allergic responses is more prone to experience this.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the risk of other drugs interfering with Echinacea is probably low.

Herbal therapies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result, people can’t be sure what they’re getting when they take a herbal cure. It’s possible that the product doesn’t contain everything that the label claims.

Is it effective?

Various claims have been made concerning Echinacea’s ability to fight infections, including the one that causes the common cold.

Colds and Echinacea

Echinacea has been demonstrated in several trials to aid in the prevention of colds.

For example, scientists found that taking Echinacea reduced the risk of acquiring a cold by roughly 58 percent and cut the length of a cold by 1.4 days in a study of over a dozen research.

However, another study indicated that Echinacea had no effect on the common cold, and that it only cut the duration of symptoms by half a day at best.

“Echinacea products have not been proved to provide benefits for treating colds,” according to a Cochrane analysis published in 2014.

Echinacea and COVID-19

Echinacea has yet to be proven to aid with the symptoms of a cold, and there is limited evidence that it can help with other conditions.

Some echinacea preparations may help treat viral respiratory infections, according to the authors of a review published in 2011. They do warn, however, that the lack of uniformity across Echinacea medications may make it difficult for people to identify effective treatments.

Meanwhile, a 2020 study suggests that a commercial medication containing Echinacea extract could help prevent severe coronavirus-related respiratory illnesses.

Other scientists, on the other hand, point out that this limited experiment did not examine the product’s effect on the virus that causes coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19).

Furthermore, the product has only been evaluated on cell lines and viral particles, not on people. The research was also not peer-reviewed, and it does not prove that Echinacea can assist in curing COVID-19 in any way.

The substance could be risky to people with autoimmune diseases, according to the scientists who issued the warning.

There is no proof that echinacea or any other herbal medicine ingredient, including COVID-19, may prevent or cure serious respiratory diseases.

Conclusion

Echinacea may assist to enhance the immune system, but further research is needed to establish this. It hasn’t been proven to cure a viral infection or any other illness.

Echinacea is sold dry, in teas, as liquid extracts, or as capsules over the counter at pharmacies, health food stores.

Before taking Echinacea or any other herbal supplement, consult your doctor because they may interact with your current medications.

Sources:

  • https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/746567/echinacea-treating-common-cold-randomized-trial
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586990/
  • https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/echinacea
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252684
  • https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-2081004
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058675/
  • http://www.cochrane.org/CD000530/ARI_echinacea-for-preventing-and-treating-the-common-cold
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10825459
  • http://www.cmaj.ca/content/173/9/1043
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2254517/
  • http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(07)70160-3/abstract
  • https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-15282/v2