Echinacea is most often touted for its immune system support, not only in helping to prevent infections, but also clearing up some of the symptoms of colds, flus and other infections, and speeding up recovery time.
Echinacea also has a few other tricks up its sleeve, with surprising benefits in other areas of health.
It is a perennial plant, meaning it lives for many years. The roots are of particular medicinal benefit. It’s sometimes known as American cone flower and is related to the daisy. It has a long history of medicinal use, especially in North America, with various traditional applications, in particular as a pain relief from snake bites, headaches and toothaches.
Of the three main varieties (angustifolia, pallida and purpurea), Echinacea angustifolia has shown itself to be the most effective, with the widest range of health applications.
All three varieties of Echinacea contain phenols – antioxidant compounds produced by the plant to protect it from environmental damage and infection. Phenols have a direct effect on the integrity of human cells as well, providing a similar protective effect for us. Echinacea angustifolia contains alkylamides, bioactive compounds thought to have a stimulating effect on the immune system.
New research reveals Echinacea may be able to treat a range of health problems
A 2016 study comparing two types of Echinacea and different parts of the plant (roots, rhizomes, leaves and flowers) shows Echinacea angustifolia (the kind in Oli Resist) plus purpurea to be more effective than other extracts containing only Echinacea purpurea. It demonstrated a blood sugar lowering effect, as well as antiproliferative effects (preventing the growth of malignant cells), and revealed a higher level of antioxidant phenols, alkylamides and flavonoids.
Echinacea has been the subject of numerous clinical studies, supporting its reputation for safety and efficacy in strengthening the immune system, and supporting the body’s defence against respiratory tract problems.
Echinacea has also been claimed to be an effective remedy for a wider range of ailments, such as:
- pain relief, including migraine relief
- antioxidant for long-term protection against inflammation caused by DNA-damaging free radicals
- respiratory system – fights bacterial and viral respiratory infections, reduces asthma symptoms
- immune booster and antimicrobial, fighting infections such as diphtheria, gum disease, malaria, septicemia, urinary tract infections, yeast infections
- addresses digestive complaints such as acid indigestion and constipation
- lowers blood sugar
- reduces inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis
- preliminary studies suggest Echinacea may stimulate the immune response in people with chronic fatigue syndrome
- treatment for ADHD* (Echinacea angustifolia only) and anxiety
- skin conditions – helping to heal stings and snake bites, eczema, inflammatory skin conditions, accelerates wound healing
*Dr Josh Axe recommends a dose of 20mg and no more, for the treatment of mental health conditions associated with ADHD in children and adults. Anxiety, depression and social phobias in people with ADHD have all shown improvement following treatment with Echinacea angustifolia.
Make sure you’re getting the real deal!
Some low-quality products have been tested and found to contain heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. Others have been tested and found to contain no Echinacea at all!
So be sure to choose an Echinacea product that is tested for purity, and contains genuine Echinacea plant extracts, such as About Health’s Oli Resist, which contains three key immune boosting ingredients: olive leaf extract, which has antioxidant and antimicrobial effects; the protective and restorative Schisandra, which reduces sensitivity to stress at times when we may be susceptible to illness; and extract from the root system of Echinacea angustifolia.
Although there are minimal side effects from taking Echinacea, high doses can cause dizziness and nausea, especially in people with allergies. So proceed with caution and try a low dose first. Although it may not be recommended for treating seasonal allergies, there has been some evidence that Echinacea can help to manage asthma.