The health benefits of echinacea include its ability to boost the immune system, prevent cancer, eliminate bacterial and viral infections, reduce inflammation, improve skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, protect respiratory health, speed healing and recovery times, manages allergies, boost oral health, and prevent recurrent infections like ear infections.
What is Echinacea?
Echinacea includes a group of herbaceous, flowering plants that are highly prized for their medicinal and healthy properties. There are nine main species of the Echinacea genus, and they are commonly called coneflowers, such as the Pale Purple Coneflower or the Tennessee Coneflower. The flowers themselves 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. It is commonly classified as an herb, although many other people think of it as a flower; much of this disparity comes from the different ways in which it can be used. The different strains of echinacea also contain different active chemicals, including a variety of phenolic compounds like cichoric acid, caftaric acid, echinacoside, and various other polysaccharides and alkylamides.
In terms of their medical usage, certain species are used for different purposes, having a variety of chemical components that make them useful for various conditions. The juices can be extracted or pressed out; the roots and the herbs can be used in various applications as well. The Plains Indians used echinacea for hundreds of years in their herbal remedies, and even in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was turned to as an herbal option for keeping people healthy. 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!
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. Much of this is derived from the chemical constituents within echinacea that can directly affect the chemical processes of the immune system. Studies have shown that regular intake of echinacea can reduce your chances of catching a cold by 50% and if you are already ill, taking echinacea can help reduce the duration of your cold by 1.4 days. For this reason, echinacea is used by millions of people every year when they are trying to eliminate the annoying symptoms of the common cold.
Echinacea’s ability to affect the immune system specifically relates to how it handles foreign substances within the body. Echinacea has been connected to preventing cancer because it stimulates the body’s immune system to eliminate cancerous cells. Although echinacea is not necessarily considered an antioxidant, it can certainly help eliminate free radicals by stimulating the proper immune system cells, like T cells, thereby helping to prevent the development of cancer.
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, echinacea 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.
The active chemical components in echinacea have been proven to reduce inflammation and the associated pain of that irritation. For this reason, echinacea 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.
For the same reason, on as it can be helpful for sunburn, it can also help heal other skin conditions. Echinacea has been recommended to patients for many years as a way to help heal 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.
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, thereby helping you to heal faster.
Some of the worst, and most annoying, illnesses are recurring. For example, ear infections are known to occur very often once a person has suffered through it once. This sort of recurrence can make life very unpleasant. Echinacea 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.
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 echinacea supplementation can be an effective way of helping to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
Better Wound Healing
Not only does echinacea stimulate the immune system to fight against infection and illness, it also speeds up the recovery time and wound healing process in case you do fall ill, or injure yourself. It 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.
Word of Caution: Some people have reported allergic reactions to echinacea, so obviously speak to your doctor before beginning any treatment regimen. Furthermore, if you are taking other painkillers, echinacea can negatively impact your liver. Also, some people report headaches and stomach aches. However, the overall benefits of echinacea far outweigh the potential negatives.