Is echinacea on your shopping list? It should be. With virus prevention at the top of many minds, it’s key to remember that the best form of prevention is a strong immune system. Echinacea has shown great promise in protecting us from getting sick. Plus, ongoing research continues to tease out its immune-boosting benefits. Here are 10 reasons to arm yourself with echinacea ASAP.
Strengthens your immune system
Echinacea is a well-known herb for targeting colds. Extracts of echinacea have demonstrated a positive effect on the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells, which fight infections. In a 2014 review of 24 studies involving more than 4,500 subjects, echinacea was found to help in preventing colds.
Safe for ongoing use
In 2012, echinacea was put to the test by the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, UK. The researchers conducted a large clinical trial of echinacea, involving 755 participants: a placebo-controlled, double-blind study titled “Safety and Efficacy Profile of Echinaforce for Long-term Prevention of Colds and Flu.” The participants took echinacea extract for four months, and the product was found to be safe.
Leads to fewer sick days
Not only did the Cardiff University researchers find the echinacea extract to be safe, but they also found that it led to significantly fewer sick days for the participants who took echinacea. It also inhibited colds and prevented viral infections.
While we know this technically shouldn’t be a deciding factor in what we choose, we all know that it really is. No one wants to take something that tastes awful. Luckily, the Cardiff University study participants were very “compliant” with the “protocol.” In non-science speak: They didn’t have concerns about the taste.
Comes as a standardized extract
“What is a standardized extract, and why does it matter?” you may ask. It actually matters quite a lot. There are so many factors that go into herbal remedies that many of us never think of: Are the herbs dried or fresh? How are the plants grown? How are they stored, and for how long? How much leaf is in the product, and how much flower petal? All of these factors can affect potency and effectiveness—a key reason that research provides inconclusive or contradictory results.
By choosing a standardized echinacea extract, you know that what you’re taking is consistent, effective, and proven.
May help with anxiety
A specialized echinacea extract may have the ability to calm the nerves and relieve anxiety. The echinacea extract (EP107™) has shown promise in studies for anxiety relief, suggesting a relaxing effect in the brain similar to Valium or Librium—but potentially without their pharmacological side effects.
People with anxiety used this specialized echinacea extract for one week and evaluated their anxiety before, during, and after using the product. Self-reported anxiety levels were significantly lower after three days and the effects remained stable for the duration of the seven-day trial as well as for two weeks following treatment.
Safe alternative to prescription cold and flu medicine
A 2015 study compared oseltamivir (Tamiflu), an antiviral prescription medication, to a product containing a fresh herbal preparation of echinacea for complication risk, safety, and side effects.
The echinacea product was as effective as Tamiflu in every category. Plus, the echinacea option offered the additional benefit of a reduced risk of complications and adverse events. Its availability as an over-the-counter medicine makes it an optimal treatment for influenza at the earliest onset of symptoms—a key factor when treating viral infections.
May help reduce antibiotic overuse in kids
A 2016 study found that children’s guts can take at least a year to recover from one course of antibiotics. Fortunately, there are natural remedies like echinacea that focus on prevention.
A recent clinical study involved 203 children aged four to 12 years. Researchers demonstrated that the use of a specific type of echinacea was effective in preventing respiratory infections and reducing the risk of complications (sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia). Most importantly, those patients who received echinacea tablets had a significantly reduced need for antibiotics.
When compiling your children’s school supply shopping list, include echinacea so you can send them to school armed and ready to face the classroom—and its germs.
Long history of use
Echinacea, native to North America, was widely used by Indigenous people in their traditional medicines. In fact, it’s been used for more than 400 years to treat infections and wounds. At the dawn of the 20th century in the US, echinacea became the most-used plant preparation. Its popularity continues to grow these days, with demand for the herb spiking in 2020.
Widely available at health food stores
Remember—not all forms of echinacea are equally effective. Look for a standardized extract with fresh Echinacea purpurea, which has been shown in studies to be 10 times more effective than one made using the dried herb.
The part of the plant used also plays a key role in its effectiveness. In the case of Echinacea purpurea, the most potent antiviral activity comes from the fresh flowers, leaves, and stems, while the root extract demonstrates anti-inflammatory action. Choose a preparation that uses both aerial and root components for best results. Make sure to consult your health care practitioner before trying out a new supplement.