Echinacea: What You Didn't Know About This Power Flower
If you’ve ever been on a long road trip, you’ve probably noticed a few fields of wildflowers growing on the side of the highway.
These flowers have a way of brightening up an otherwise boring drive. And if you look closely, you might even see a few wild varieties — like echinacea!
Also called Kansas snakeroot, coneflower, and black sampson, echinacea is one of 9 species of flowering herbs that belong to the daisy family (1).
Throughout history, echinacea has been used to treat a variety of illnesses, including scarlet fever, diphtheria, malaria, and syphilis (12). However, once antibiotics were introduced in the 19th century, however, the flower use began to diminish quickly.
Nowadays, more people are looking for natural ways to support their health and are returning to echinacea.
Curious to know more about this power flower? Read on to learn about its most popular health benefits, ways you can take it, if it’s right for you, and things to look out for.
Uses and Health Benefits of Echinacea
Of the nine available species of echinacea out there, only three are used medicinally: Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea (2). Typically, the whole plant is used to make supplements and herbal remedies.
Some of the most notable benefits surrounding this flowering herb include (3):
- Antiviral and antioxidant effects: Studies have found incredible virus-fighting compounds called alkylamides, which are shown to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antioxidant properties (10).
- Reducing inflammation: One study showed adults with arthritis found relief from pain, swelling, and inflammation when taking ginger and echinacea for 30 days (4).
- Boosting immune system: Several studies have found that echinacea extract has a way of supporting and enhancing immune cell activity, helping your body fight off illnesses and infections (6).
- Anxiety relief: While studies are mixed, one study noted how 40 – 80 mcg of echinacea extract taken orally for at least 7 days may significantly reduce feelings of anxiety (5).
What is it about echinacea that makes it such a powerful flower? This particular plant contains polysaccharides, alkamides, flavonoids, glycoproteins, and volatile oils that all work together to produce a therapeutic effect on the body (7).
According to research, the roots seem to have higher amounts of volatile oils, while the leaves, stem and flower are higher in polysaccharides. Quality echinacea supplements will utilize all parts of the plant, helping you get the most out of the product (3).
There are also some claims that echinacea can reduce the negative side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in cancer patients, but research isn’t supportive at this stage.
Why do cancer patients take echinacea? Because of its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, many cancer patients with to add it to their treatment plan to help their body fight against cancer growth.
Ways to Take Echinacea
Manufacturers take the compounds from the root, leaves, and entire echinacea plant and turn them into various supplement formulations. Depending on your needs and preferences, you can take echinacea in:
Make sure to verify the quality of supplements by looking for certifications, third-party ingredient testing, and any sustainability measure that are important to you.
How much echinacea should you take? That depends on which formulation you use, your goals and reasons for taking it, and any previous medical conditions you may have.
For children, talk with your pediatrician about what’s best for anyone under 18 years of age. Make sure to choose alcohol-free formulations.
For adults, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label. If you’re trying to stay ahead of a common cold, taking echinacea multiple times per day for the first 2-3 days may help shorten or decrease your symptoms (9).
Here’s what a short-term dosing range could look like:
- Dry powdered extracts: 300–500 mg of Echinacea purpurea, up to 3x per day
- Liquid extract tinctures: 2.5 milliliters (mL) 3x per day, not exceeding 10 mL per day
What to Avoid When Taking Echinacea
Natural remedies offer several health benefits, but sometimes there are drawbacks.
In the case of using echinacea, research gives a clear caution. While it seems echinacea itself won’t hurt you, there have been reports of liver damage associated with taking echinacea (8). This may be due to mixing it with other medications.
If you’re taking medications that affect your liver, talk with your healthcare provider before adding echinacea to your supplement regimen.
If you’re undergoing cancer treatment and would like to add echinacea to your treatment plan, make sure it doesn’t interact with your medication. Some medications, such as etoposide, might be less effective if echinacea is used along with it (11).
Also, if you have immune-suppressed illnesses like HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or other autoimmune disorder, echinacea may not be for you.
In general, side effects are rare but may include:
- Digestive issues
- Feeling dizzy
- Redness, itching, or swelling of the skin
Wrapping it Up
Ancient civilizations seemed to tap into medicinal plants that were all around them. From leaves to stems to roots, echinacea is one example of an herb that has a lot to offer.
Researchers marvel at this plant’s ability to encourage a healthy immune system, lower anxiety levels, lower inflammation, and heal wounds.
While this flower seems to work wonders, proceed with caution if you have any type of immune-related condition. Other side effects are rare, but they do happen.
Did you know herbs have a remarkable way of supporting your immune system? Check out Dr. Kara’s own signature proprietary blend Total Immunity here (14).
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author