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Echinacea is widely known for its potential benefits in relieving the symptoms of the common cold.
Also known as American coneflower or purple coneflower, this wild flowering herb has a rich history of traditional use by indigenous Native Americans, who relied on it to treat various conditions such as coughs, colds, snake bites, burns, and minor wounds.
What Is Echinacea?
Echinacea belongs to a group of flowering plants in the daisy family, with three main species used in herbal remedies: Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea angustifolia.
Echinacea purpurea is the most popular and widely used among these three species. Native to North America, this herb is recognized for its daisy-like flowers and spiky, cone-like center.
The entire Echinacea plant, including its roots and upper parts, is utilized in various forms such as tablets, drops, teas, liquids, creams, and ointments.
The therapeutic properties of Echinacea stem from its complex mix of active substances, including phenols, polysaccharides, and alkamides. These compounds contribute to echinacea’s antimicrobial, antiviral, and immune-boosting properties.
Phenols, in particular, act as antioxidants, protecting the plant from infections and oxidative stress. The combination of these plant compounds makes echinacea a potent herbal remedy with a range of potential health benefits.
As with anything related to herbs and health, I always personally read through multiple clinical trials to ensure that I’m not saying anything ill-advised.
After reading through several studies, here’s a look at the research-backed benefits of Echinacea.
May Help Boost Immunity and Help Fight the Common Cold
One of the most well-known uses of echinacea is in relieving the symptoms of the common cold. While scientific evidence is limited and further research is needed, echinacea has shown promise in reducing the frequency and duration of colds.
Echinacea is believed to work by boosting the immune system, thanks to its polysaccharides and alkamides. These compounds help stimulate the production of white blood cells, which play a crucial role in fighting off infections. By enhancing the immune response, Echinacea may help the body combat cold viruses and reduce the severity of symptoms.
A trusted journal, The Lancet, published a meta-analysis evaluating the effectiveness of Echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold. On analyzing multiple clinical studies, the review concluded that Echinacea does have benefits in reducing the frequency and duration of the common cold.
Another study questioned this finding as it found that the herb had no measurable impact on the common cold. At the most, it shortened the duration of the symptoms by half a day. It’s debatable whether half a day of relief should or shouldn’t be discounted as ineffective. For some, this could make a difference. For others, it may be insignificant.
With many other studies yielding mixed results, most conclude for now that the effectiveness of echinacea in treating colds may vary depending on the preparation and dosage used.
It’s important to note that echinacea is most effective when taken at the first signs of a cold, but it may still provide benefits even if taken during the full swing of a cold.
Sipping on a warm cup of Echinacea tea is a delicious and comforting way to boost immunity during fall and winter, which are peak seasons for the cold and flu.
Benefits Of Echinacea For Soothing Eczema
Beyond its immune-boosting properties, echinacea has also been explored for its potential benefits in skin health and soothing eczema, an inflammation of the skin.
This study found that daily use of a cream containing Echinacea extract can help soothe irritation caused due to eczema, thus helping improve symptoms. It also helped in building up the protective outer layer of skin, further promoting healing from atopic eczema.
Echinacea’s effectiveness in soothing eczema symptoms stems from its potent inflammatory properties. More research needs to be done to confirm if this herb can be recommended to help eczema.
When using Echinacea for eczema, one thing to be careful about is possible allergic reactions. People with eczema commonly have allergies and asthma. Before applying Echinacea cream liberally to the skin, it’s important to do a patch test for any adverse reaction.
The Relation Between Echinacea and Skin Health
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of Echinacea purpurea make it a valuable ingredient in skincare products.
This study on the skin improvement and stability of Echinacea purpurea dermatological formulations found that Echinacea purpurea cream and gel are effective in improving skin hydration and reducing wrinkles, but showed low storage stability.
However, it’s important to note that the efficacy of echinacea in skincare may vary depending on the specific product and individual factors.
Echinacea may play a role in fighting off various infections. It has been used topically to soothe minor cuts, grazes, bruises, and even acne.
The protective and healing properties of echinacea on the skin can be attributed to its ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. By calming inflammation and neutralizing free radicals, echinacea may help promote healthy skin and aid in the healing process of minor skin issues.
Anti-Inflammatory Potential of Echinacea
While echinacea’s benefits in relieving cold symptoms and improving skin health are well-documented, its potential in other health conditions is still being explored.
Echinacea has shown promise in reducing inflammation, which is linked to the development of chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis.
A pilot study on participants with knee osteoarthritis recommends the use of highly standardized ginger and Echinacea supplementation for reducing symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.
As with all other uses, further research is needed to determine the optimal dosage, duration, and efficacy of Echinacea in managing inflammatory conditions.
Choosing the Right Form and Dosage of Echinacea
Echinacea is available in various forms, including tablets, drops, teas, liquids, creams, and ointments. When choosing an echinacea product, it’s important to ensure that it comes from a reputable source and contains the appropriate species and parts of the plant.
The dosage of echinacea may vary depending on the specific product and individual needs.
As with all types of medications, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice. When buying Echinacea online, always follow the instructions on the product label.
It’s worth noting that while echinacea is generally considered safe for short-term use, there are certain groups of people who should exercise caution or avoid echinacea altogether.
You MUST consult with a healthcare professional before using Echinacea if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or you have autoimmune disorders or immune system disorders.
Also, never give Echinacea to children under 12 years of age without first consulting their pediatrician.
Echinacea, with its rich history and potential health benefits, offers a natural approach to supporting immune health and promoting overall well-being. While more research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms and benefits, echinacea has shown promise in relieving cold symptoms, improving skin health, and potentially offering other health benefits.
Remember, echinacea is not a cure-all, but it may serve as a valuable addition to a holistic approach to health and well-being.
By choosing high-quality echinacea products and following recommended dosages, you can incorporate this powerful herb into your wellness routine. As with any herbal supplement, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it aligns with your individual needs and health circumstances.
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