Echinacea is derived from a group of coneflower plants that include dandelion, daisies, cudweed, artichokes, lettuce and sunflowers. It’s considered to be an herb, with several species of the plant used to make medicine from its leaves, flower, and root. Native Americans used echinacea as a cure for infections and wounds and the compound is currently used as an herbal remedy replacing pharmaceuticals in the relief of the common cold and flu.
The overall effectiveness of the potency of echinacea is debatable, but the benefits of using its natural properties is for many much preferable to harsh chemicals found in over the counter and prescription drugs. Echinacea products can come in many forms including tablets, juice, and tea.
It’s uses also include preventing and containing the following ailments:
- Acid reflux
- Bee stings
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Genital herpes
- Gum disease
- Skin wounds
- Streptococcus infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Vaginal yeast infections
Echinacea appears to activate chemicals in the body that decrease inflammation, reducing cold and flu symptoms and other ailments. Other studies suggest that echinacea stimulates the body’s immune response and has some antioxidant properties. Drinking Echinacea tea or taking a high-quality supplement can contribute to healthy cell growth in your body. Don’t use it with caffeine though, since Echinacea might decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine and might increase the risk of side effects like jitteriness, headache, and fast heartbeat.
Studies on its antioxidant properties have shown that Echinacea in your bloodstream can help keep your blood sugar from spiking if you’re diabetic or prediabetic.
The research for Echinacea as a supplement to lower blood pressure is ongoing. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds could help blood pressure levels. It has been suggested that it can decrease anxiety, contributing to lowering blood pressure.
Over $8 billion is spent annually on pharmaceutical products for the common cold, including Echinacea supplements. Echinacea products differ greatly and that the majority of the products have not been tested in clinical trials.
High doses of echinacea can sometimes cause nausea and dizziness, particularly in those who have allergies. Side effects can include diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, fever, headache, insomnia, joint and muscle aches, nausea, numbness of the tongue, sore throat, stomach pain, unpleasant taste and vomiting. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should limit the use of Echinacea, but it’s considered to be safe in small measures.