Ingredients and Uses
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Echinacea: The Benefits And Side Effects

Echinacea: The Benefits And Side Effects July 30, 2018

Also known as the American coneflower, echinacea is a popular herb that is primarily used to boost immunity and fight cold. If you think you are up for a disaster during the winters and the rainy season, echinacea is there to rescue you. Well, there are several other benefits of this herb. So, why wait – scroll down!

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How Does Echinacea Work?

The herb contains a mix of potent substances that possess antimicrobial and pro-immune properties. The most important group of substances in echinacea is the phenols, which are special compounds that control the activities of enzymes and cell receptors. The result is protection from infections and radiation damage (UV). Phenols also have antioxidant properties that contribute to good health.

Echinacea also contains alkamides, another set of compounds beneficial for the human immune system.

Though echinacea is available in various varieties, three of its species are used for their herbal benefits. These include echinacea angustifolia, echinacea pallida, and echinacea purpurea.

Herbal benefits. Yes. That’s where we are headed now.

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What Are The Benefits Of Echinacea?

1. Echinacea Fights Cancer

The phytochemicals in echinacea were found to be effective in combating tumors (1). Though the research is preliminary, the findings have been encouraging. But, as of now, experts recommend echinacea only as a supplement to cancer treatment and not as a replacement.

2. Aids Diabetes Treatment

Echinacea can prevent blood sugar spikes and keep the glucose levels under control in diabetic and prediabetic individuals (2). And in case you are hypoglycemic, it can also keep your blood sugar levels from plummeting. Taking echinacea tea or popping in the supplement can be a great way to treat diabetes (on top of the conventional medications).

3. Fights Inflammation

One Canadian study tells us how regular intake of echinacea can fight inflammation (3). Other studies also show that echinacea can help treat uveitis, a form of eye inflammation. Even people who have inflammatory arthritis can benefit from consuming echinacea tea.

4. Boosts Immunity
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Echinacea increases the number of white blood cells that fight infections. Though there is less information on the link between echinacea intake and treatment of colds, studies have shown that the herb can boost the immune system (4).

A few studies show that echinacea can cut the risk of a cold by as much as 58 percent. Interestingly, the herb was also found to reduce the duration of the cold by 1 ½ days.

Some research also shows that echinacea may help treat bronchitis and sore throat.

5. Lowers Blood Pressure

The high amounts of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds in echinacea can help lower blood pressure, as per preliminary studies (5).

However, we need more research in this regard. So, do consult your doctor before using echinacea for this purpose.

6. Treats Infections

Studies show that echinacea (especially the purpurea species) can be used as a remedy for urinary tract infections and other infections of the upper respiratory tract. As the herb strengthens immunity, it works well in preventing infections.

Research also shows how taking echinacea, in addition to using an antifungal cream, can help in the treatment of vaginal yeast infections (6).

7. May Be Beneficial During Pregnancy

Stress during pregnancy can make the mother’s body more vulnerable to infections and weaknesses. But thanks to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of echinacea, this herb can be of help.

Quite interestingly, some studies have shown echinacea to be safe during pregnancies (7).

But other studies that state the contrary too – echinacea might influence fetal development in pregnant women and lead to complications (8).

There also is unclear information with respect to the safety of echinacea during breastfeeding. Hence, please consult your doctor before taking echinacea if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

8. Treats Herpes

Thanks to the ability of echinacea to fight infections, you can now get relief from herpes. Anecdotal evidence suggests that taking echinacea can help reduce the frequency and severity of herpes.

As we know, echinacea boosts the immune system, and this can also help treat cold sores. It can fight the herpes simplex virus that is responsible for a range of infections.

9. Can Treat Acne

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Echinacea can fight acne by reducing the inflammation induced by the acne bacteria (9). Taking echinacea tea thrice a day can help.

These are the ways echinacea can benefit you. There are different ways to take echinacea. But one common way is to take it as tea.

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How To Make Echinacea Tea

It is a simple process. You can purchase dried echinacea root (in tablet form or as dry leaves) at any drugstore or herbal store. Or you can even procure it online at Amazon or Walmart.

  1. Add two teaspoons of the powder (crush the tablet or leaves) into your favorite tea diffuser.
  2. Steep the powder for 2 to 3 minutes in about 8 ounces of boiling water.
  3. Remove the echinacea infusion and allow the water to cool.
  4. You can add a few drops of honey if desired.

And talking about dosing…

You can have 300 mg of dry powdered extract, 0.25 to 1.25 mL of liquid extract, 1 to 2 mL of tincture, or 0.5 to 1 gram of dried root tea. Just ensure you don’t use echinacea for more than 8 weeks at a time to avoid immune suppression.

And ensure you take echinacea in the recommended dosages to avoid complications.

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What Are The Side Effects Of Echinacea?

  • Possible Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Though echinacea might have some positive effects, research is limited. Hence, avoid use during these periods.

  • Autoimmune Disorders

Echinacea might influence the immune system, thereby aggravating autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Issues In Children

Do not use echinacea for children under 12 years of age (unless a doctor or a nutritionist suggests otherwise) due to possible allergic interactions.

  • Drug Interactions

Echinacea can react with caffeine, medications that are changed by the body and liver, and immunosuppressants. So, you need to consult your doctor if you are taking medication.

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Conclusion

No matter what the weather, your immune system is always under attack. And this is why echinacea can be a great addition to your routine.

Tell us how this post has helped you. Simply leave a comment in the box below.

References

1. “Echinacea increases arginase activity…”. US National Library of Medicine.
2. “Antioxidant, antidiabetic…”. ResearchGate.
3. “Echinacea as an anti-inflammatory agent”. US National Library of Medicine.
4. “Echinacea for the common cold”. WebMD.
5. “The use of dietary supplements and their…”. US National Library of Medicine.
6. “Echinacea”. WebMD.
7. “Study shows echinacea safe during pregnancy”. WebMD.
8. “Influence of echinacea purpurea…”. US National Library of Medicine.
9. “The potential use of echinacea…”. US National Library of Medicine.

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