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(Echinacea purpurea)

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echinacea plant flower imageEchinacea is one of the most popular herb used today for its ability to strengthen the immune system to help fight off infections. Significant amount of research studies have been done on this herb.

It is shown to be helpful in treating (but not preventing) the common cold and the flu.

We suggest taking this herb for about 10 days and then stopping. Studies show that taking this herb continuously reduces its effectiveness as the body's immune system needs time to adjust and rest.

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Table of Contents

Evidence of Benefits (Leaf Rating System)

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Common Cold and Influenza (Flu)

This herb has been extensively studied for its ability to boost the immune system to fight off the common cold. It shortens the duration of the cold symptoms by about 10 to 30%.

Many studies showed benefits although there are studies that showed it didn't work.

Note: There's much more research done on using this herb for treating the common cold than the flu.
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Immune System Enhancement

Lab studies, animal studies and clinical trials do support this herb's ability to boost the immune function of the body.
However, many of these clinical trials were not designed properly so some experts question the positive results they reported.
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Yeast Infections (Vaginal Candidiasis)

One study combined using this herb with a standard prescription yeast infection medication. It showed that it was able to reduce the number of recurring infections.

Click here to get full details on preventing and curing yeast infections.
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Cancer

Lab and animal studies shows that echinacea can stimulate macrophage (a type of white blood cells) that can kill off cancer cells. Human studies will need to be done to verify this benefit in treating the different types of cancer.
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Wound Healing

One study done in guinea pigs showed that an ointment containing this herb healed wounds faster.
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Antioxidant Benefits

Lab studies done on extracts of echinacea showed that it has antioxidant effects. Experts suggest that using this herb on the skin may help in preventing the photo-damaging effect of UV rays from sunlight.
Helpful Acne

Some experts suggest that this herb can be useful in treating acne conditions.

Common Cold Prevention - Probably not effective

Clinical research shows that taking this herb regularly does not prevent a person from catching the cold virus.

Genital Herpes - Probably not effective

One study using this herb for six months showed that it did not have any effect on the frequency, duration or severity of recurrent genital herpes.

Otitis Media (Inner Ear Infection) - Probably not effective

A well-designed clinical study lasting 6 months done in 90 children between the age of 12 to 60 months showed that this herb did not help with treating inner ear infections.

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Suggested Benefits and Traditional Uses

  • acne
  • Anti-bacterial benefits
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Antioxidant effects
  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-viral benefits
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bladder infection (cystitis)
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • Common cold
  • Fever
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Immune system enhancer
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Leucopenia (radiation induced)
  • Malaria
  • Migraine headache
  • Otitis media (inner ear infection)
  • Pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Sore throat
  • Swine flu
  • Tonsillitis
  • Uveitis
  • Wound healing
  • Yeast Infections (Vaginal candidiasis)
Topically (on the skin)
  • Bee stings and bug bites
  • Boils
  • Eczema
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Wound healing

Mouth Rinse
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Facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is echinacea?

The three species that are used for treating health conditions are Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea augustifolia and Echinacea pallida. These herbs show different immune system boosting effect.

They believe that the different results from clinical studies may be due to the different species of plant used. Echinacea purpurea is the species believed to be the one with the most benefits.

This herb increases the production of interferon in our body to help fight off viruses. It also seems to activate and increase the number of white blood cells to help fight of bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

Lab studies show that this herb possesses anti-inflammatory actions, useful for treating some symptoms of the common cold.

This herb is more effective when used as needed to treat a health problem rather than to take it regularly as a prevention.

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Side Effects, Toxicity and Warnings

What are some side effects of taking echinacea?

The most common side effects are stomach complaints such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Other less common side effects include constipation, fever, heartburn, dry mouth, sore throat, headache, dizziness and insomnia.

Allergic reactions are rare but have been reported. These would include rash, itch, watery eyes, runny nose, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks and anaphylactic reactions.

What is some toxicity if I take too much of echinacea?

Some small studies seem to show that high doses of echinacea may cause fertility problems in both males and females animals. It is not known if this would happen in humans.

What health conditions could be made worst by taking echinacea?

As this plant is shown to stimulate the immune system, people with health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), systemic lupus erythmatosus (SLE) and leukemia should see their healthcare provider first before using this plant.

What are the safety data on using echinacea in children and while pregnant or breast feeding?

Avoid using this herb in children as they seem to be more likely to develop allergic reactions. Indeed 7% of the children did get a rash after taking this herb in one clinical study.

There is some evidence to suggest it may be safe to use this herb for up to a week during the first trimester of pregnancy. Additional studies will be needed to verify this initial finding.

The safety of using this herb during breast feeding is unknown.

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Dosage & How to Take It

There are wide varieties of dosage suggested for using this herb. It comes as pills, tincture, extract and tea formulations.

Commonly used dosage range is 500 to 1,000 mg of the herb in pill form taken three times daily for 5 to 7 days.

Extract - Take 300 to 800 mg two to three times daily for up to six months.

Tea Bags - Place a tea bag in 250 mL (1 cup) of boiling water for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and drink three times daily.

Juice - Drink 6 to 9 mL daily.

Tincture (1:5) - Use 60 drops three times daily.

Decoction - Use 30 grams (1 oz) of the dried herb or 60 grams (2 oz) of fresh plant in 500 mL (1 pint) of distilled (or reverse osmosis processed) water in a non-metallic container. Simmer for 30 minutes, strain and store refrigerated in a sealed container. This preparation may be stored in the fridge for 48 hours with full potency.

How long can I take echinacea for?

Evidence suggests that taking this herb regularly can cause it to loose its effectiveness.

Experts recommend using it for no longer than 8 weeks and suggest stopping the herb for one week in between to allow the body to "rest". Other experts support using this herb for no longer than 10 days when treating infections.

There are disagreements among experts even today. There are no studies to show which way is better.

Related Articles to Echinacea

The common cold

The Flu

Selected References for Echinacea
Created: December 26, 2009

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