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Q & A: Is Echinacea Really Effective?

When I was a child, if I ever so much as coughed or sneezed in the presence of my mother, she would send me straight to the bottle of Echinacea. Her reasoning? It would help me get better faster, or even completely abolish the cold before it fully sets in. True, sometimes the cold that may have been on its way never came around, and it may have been because of Echinacea, but I still had my doubts. How could a herb help me fight off a virus?

What Is Echinacea?

Echinacea is a flower that grows wild in the grasslands of the central United States. Native tribes had been using it for centuries to treat colds and flues, and it was quickly picked up by the European settlers as an all-purpose infection and virus fighter.

There are different types of Echinacea flowers that grow, but only 3 of the 9 different types have beneficial to us as a medicinal herb.

The Benefits of Echinacea

The main reason why Echinacea is used to fight off colds and flues is because it actually stimulates the cells in our immune system, which helps keep our immune system strong and healthy. This helps lower our susceptibility to any sort of infections.

Echinacea is also a natural antibiotic, so it will not only kill viruses, but it will also fight off foreign bacteria, fungi, and a number of other disease-causing agents.

Lastly, there are no actual known side effects to taking Echinacea, making it a flu-fighter that absolutely anyone can use. It can be used either alone or with any number of medications you may also be taking. To be safe, if you do plan on taking Echinacea, you should check with your doctor first.

But does it Work?

Despite generations of people are taking Echinacea to help fight off a wide range of common illnesses, there is also strong evidence that suggests Echinacea may not be as effective as we thought. Studies have indicated that taking Echinacea supplements and taking a placebo rendered the same results in fighting a cold or flu. All participants recovered from their cold or flu symptoms in approximately the same amount of time, and all suffered from the same general degree of severity of symptoms. These included: sneezing, congestion, aching muscles, coughing, headaches and sore throats.

What You need to Consider when Taking Echinacea

An important factor in using an Echinacea supplement is the quality of the supplement. Check into what part of the Echinacea flower was actually used to create the supplement (the root is the best part) and check the actual type of flower that is being used. As mentioned above, only 3 of the 9 species of Echinacea are actually effective in helping fight off colds and flues. Too much Echinacea could be hazardous. Do your research and speak to a natural health practitioner for more information.


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