What is Echinacea?

Echinacea is one of the most popular herbal products in the UK. It’s a flowering plant that grows throughout Europe and North America the leaves, stems, flower, and roots of which may be used to produce supplements, liquid extracts, and teas. People have used Echinacea as a traditional cold remedy for centuries.

Echinacea is now registered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as a traditional herbal medicine meaning it can be sold in the UK for treatment of symptoms of the common cold and flu.

What are the benefits of Echinacea?

Different studies have produced mixed results about whether Echinacea works for colds. Giving healthy adults Echinacea every day for four months has been found to result in around a 26% reduction in the number and duration of colds, according to the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff University, in a study published in 2012.

Inevitably there are many variables in studying Echinacea for the common cold. Studies have looked at different types and strengths of Echinacea as well as different parts of the plant or root. This makes it hard to compare the results, as it is possible that some formulations are better than others.

Echinacea seems to activate chemicals in the body that decrease inflammation, which may reduce cold and flu symptoms. Laboratory research suggests that Echinacea can stimulate the body’s immune system and in humans it seems that it is especially effective at relieving cold and flu symptoms.

Echinacea can be taken alongside Vitamin C in the winter months, but avoid taking it long term.

Echinacea for children

Children under 12 years old should not be given herbal treatments containing Echinacea because of the risk of an allergic reaction and Echinacea products carry this advice on their packaging. Other reported side effects of Echinacea include rashes, nausea, heartburn, itching, constipation and headache.


29 Nov, 2014

4 thoughts on “What is Echinacea?

  1. I’ve used Echinacea in the past for colds with good results. I made a tincture of it once and my husband used it when he became ill with a severe cold and got good results.

    My practitioner had recommended it to me and did say not to take it long term, that eventually it will not work. I like using herbals when I can afford them, but being on a strict budget always gets in the way.

    1. Thanks Lisa. I’m pleased you have been able to use Echinacea and you got good results.

      I do agree with you that they can be quite expensive, which is a shame because I am sure more people would turn to alternative herbal remedies as a substitute for conventional medicine.

  2. I have used Echinacea tablets and a throat spray.

    I have no idea how effective they were or whether my cold and sore throat would have got better without them in around the same time as it took, but I work on the principle that either they will have helped or at the very least won’t have made it any worse and that is my approach to ‘alternative’ remedies generally.

    1. At least you’re not completely being negative about ‘alternative’ remedies so that’s good and you give them a go so that’s even better!

      I think to a certain extent we have to believe in alternative remedies or they won’t work or we think they won’t work. It doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t, we just think they won’t. I believe they do.

      Echinacea works. We’d be worse without. That is my belief

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