9 Surprising Benefits of Echinacea

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The health benefits of echinacea include its ability to boost the immune system, cure upper respiratory issues, eliminate bacterial and viral infections, reduce inflammation, treat skin conditions,  speed healing and recovery, regulate blood sugar levels, treat anxiety, boost oral health, as well as eliminate ear infections and prevent their reoccurrence.

What is Echinacea?

Echinacea includes a group of herbaceous, flowering perennial plants in the daisy family, prized for its medicinal properties. The Echinacea genus has nine main species, which are commonly called coneflowers such as the Pale Purple Coneflower or the Tennessee Coneflower. The flowers are beautiful, and some varieties can grow up to 4 feet in height. Their colorful heads are easy to distinguish, and you can commonly find them in eastern and central North America, the regions they are native to.

Echinacea is commonly classified as an herb, although many think of it as a flower. Different parts of the plants, including its flowers, leaves, stem, and root, have a variety of phenolic compounds that are beneficial to health. This includes compounds like cichoric acid, caftaric acid, echinacoside, and various other polysaccharides and alkylamides. The Plains Indians used it for hundreds of years in their herbal remedies, and even in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was turned to as an herbal option to boost immunity and fight infections. It has long been known as one of the best ways to prevent colds.

However, echinacea can cease to have an effect and can actually impact your T-cells in a negative way if used in large doses consistently. It should not be overused, but when you need it, nothing works better!

A collection of echinacea flower with a blurred background

Echinacea flower Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health Benefits of Echinacea

Let’s explore some of the many health benefits that this herb can provide!

Boosted Immune System 

Perhaps the most common usage of echinacea relates to its impact on the immune system. This is because the chemical constituents within this herbal plant can directly affect the chemical processes of the immune system. Regular intake can reduce your chances of catching a cold by 50% and if you are already ill or have the flu, taking echinacea can help reduce the duration of your cold. For this reason, it is used by millions of people every year when they are trying to eliminate the annoying symptoms of the common cold, cough, and flu. [1] [2]

Relieves Upper Respiratory Issues

The anti-inflammatory capacity of echinacea extends to the respiratory tracts. So, for those patients who regularly suffer from conditions like bronchitis, echinacea can help to reduce the irritation and mucus deposition in those tracts. It also helps to provide relief from diphtheria, asthma, cough, croup, acute sinusitis, and strep throat; thereby helping you to heal faster. [3]

Reduced Infections

Echinacea is used to treat recurring infections such as genital herpes, malaria, syphilis, urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infection, gum diseases, bloodstream infections, typhoid, and ear infections. It allows for various immune-boosting compounds to build up and remain in the body, tacitly altering the structure and reactivity of our immune system. Studies have shown a reduction in ear infections when echinacea is consistently consumed as a way to build up resistance to further infections. [4]

Pain Relief

Echinacea can be taken orally or applied topically to combat pain. The paste of this dried herb can be directly rubbed on the affected area. It can be taken orally or applied topically to combat pain. The paste of this dried herb can be directly applied to the affected area.

Increased WBC count

Echinacea does more than stimulating T-cells, it also increases the production of white blood cells in the body, which are the main soldiers in the battle against illness going on in our bodies every day. Furthermore, the herb contains a compound called echinacein, which actually inhibits bacteria and viruses from penetrating healthy cells, thereby greatly reducing the chances of contracting any type of infection while consuming echinacea in either supplemental or natural form. [5]

Reduced Inflammation

The active chemical components in echinacea have been proven to reduce inflammation and the associated pain of that irritation. For this reason, it is often recommended as a “cure-all” for aches and pains in the joints. For this same reason, echinacea oil is often spread on the skin to reduce the inflammation people suffer from being in the sun for too long. [6]

Skin Care

Along with sunburn, echinacea has been traditionally recommended to patients suffering from psoriasis and eczema. If spread on the affected area, improvement can be seen quite rapidly, and besides healing the irritation and inflammation, it also prevents any open sores from becoming infected, due to its powerful antibacterial and antiviral powers. [7]

Oral Health

Studies have shown a connection between the intake of echinacea and a reduction in gingivitis, which makes sense, considering that gingivitis is a bacterial infection. Regular supplementation can be an effective way of helping to keep your teeth strong and healthy. [8]

Better Wound Healing

Echinacea can speed up the formation of new skin cells and get you back on your feet by eliminating bacteria from the system quicker than other medications. Also, any wound that you suffer from an accident or injury can be protected from developing infections at the same time as it is speedily healed. [9]

Controls Blood Sugar Levels

Consuming echinacea tea helps control blood sugar levels. It prevents a spike in diabetics and prevents a fall in hypoglycemic patients, thanks to its antioxidant properties. Additionally, it also helps to prevent hypertension. [10]

Mental Health

Echinacea is believed to cure attention deficit disorder (ADD) in children and adults. Those suffering from ADD may show frequent symptoms of anxiety, and social phobias. [11]

Enhances Detoxification

Echinacea is a diuretic, carminative, and laxative. Studies say that it helps to heal the gastrointestinal tract. [12]

Hair Care

Echinacea is also used by many to cure alopecia, which is patchy hair loss on head or body. The essential vitamins and minerals present in it reach the hair follicles, resulting in hair growth. It is also known to cure dandruff and promote healthy hair.

Side Effects

It is very dangerous to exceed the recommended dosage of echinacea tea. Different treatments require you to consume this tea in different quantities. It is important to consume only as much as the doctor advises. Its overconsumption has numerous side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • Disorientation
  • Headaches
  • Numbness of tongue
  • Dry mouth
  • A sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle ache
  • Joint ache

Those allergic to echinacea may suffer from allergic reactions like redness, itchiness, and rash. Furthermore, if you are taking other painkillers, it can negatively impact your liver. Those suffering from auto-immune disorders, and children, as well as pregnant and lactating mothers, are advised to consult physicians or medical practitioners before adding herbs and supplements to their diet.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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