Echinacea for Winter Immunity

It seems like nearly everyone I know is either sick right now or just getting over a cold. This is typical for this time of year when the seasons change. One of the first herbs people think of for this season is Echinacea, and probably rightly so. Echinacea is a very well studied and is widely regarded as an immune stimulating herb. A study where participants use 1 gram of Echinacea three times a day did show increased immune function. Also, Echinacea appears to have some antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. For instance, one study showed that taking Echinacea for ten weeks helped prevent the recurrence of yeast infections in women.

Echinacea is probably most effective when used before you get sick or as soon as you start having symptoms. Not all of the studies have found Echinacea to be valuable for fighting colds, but nearly all of the studies that showed no benefit from Echinacea used low doses of this herb. There is also debate on how long Echinacea should be used. Many people say don’t use if for more than a few weeks, but this might be a misinterpretation of a study that showed that the immune response started dropping when Echinacea was discontinued. Still, Echinacea is generally not used for more than 2 months at a time.

Echinacea

 

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3 responses to “Echinacea for Winter Immunity

  1. I have conflicting feelings about echinacea. It’s original usage was by the Native Americans, but instead of the flowering part of echinacea purpurea (which is most commonly used now) they used the root of echinacea angustoflia. They also didn’t use it preventatively as we do today, but used it as an antidote for snake-bites and other more extreme circumstances. It was a German doctor who brought echinacea purpurea to the Western world and changed its usage, but I don’t know of any studies he did to support this information.
    I think perhaps Oregon Grape, Goldenseal, Osha and the like might be more reliable alternatives, but I am curious what other people’s positive experiences have been with echinacea?
    Thanks for the lovely post!

    • Thanks for your insightful comment. I actually prefer Echinacea purpurea over angustifolia because E. purpurea is more immune modulating and thereby helps the immune system find balance, while E. angustifolia is more unidirectionally immune stimulating. I use the whole plant of E. purpurea when I make a tincture of it. Some people claim that E. purpurea looses potency faster than E. angustifolia. I cannot verify this.
      Also, Native Americans did use Echinacea purpurea. For instance, the Chicksaw and Choctaw from my region of the country used E. purpurea for coughs.
      It is possible that Echinacea angustifolia may be more helpful for snake bites, but I am not sure which species is highest in the echinacosides that inhibit the hyaluronase enzyme that is in some venoms. I find that history fascinating, but left it out for fear that people might decide to use Echinacea for bites instead of seeking appropriate medical attention.

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