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Echinacea: Medicinal Benefits – Health Line

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Source: Health Line
Research on echinacea suggests that it offers several impressive health benefits.

Positive Effect on the Immune System

Echinacea is best known for its beneficial effects on the immune system.

Numerous studies have found that this plant may help your immune system combat infections and viruses, which could help you recover faster from illness (8Trusted Source9Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

That’s one reason why echinacea is often used to prevent or treat the common cold.

In fact, a review of 14 studies found that taking echinacea may lower the risk of developing colds by more than 50% and shorten the duration of colds by one and a half days (11Trusted Source).

However, many studies on this topic are poorly designed and show no real benefit. This makes it hard to know if any benefits on colds are from taking echinacea or simply from chance (12Trusted Source).

In short, while echinacea may boost immunity, its effects on the common cold are unclear.

May Lower Blood Sugar Levels

High blood sugar can raise your risk of serious health problems.

This includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease and several other chronic conditions.

Test-tube studies have found that echinacea plants may help lower blood sugar levels.

In a test-tube study, an Echinacea purpurea extract was shown to suppress enzymes that digest carbohydrates. This would reduce the amount of sugar entering your blood if consumed (13Trusted Source).

Other test-tube studies found that echinacea extracts made cells more sensitive to insulin’s effects by activating the PPAR-y receptor, a common target of diabetes drugs (14Trusted Source15).

This particular receptor works by removing excess fat in the blood, which is a risk factor for insulin resistance. This makes it easier for cells to respond to insulin and sugar (16Trusted Source).

Still, human-based research on the effects of echinacea on blood sugar is lacking.

May Reduce Feelings of Anxiety

Anxiety is a common problem that affects close to one in five American adults (17).

In recent years, echinacea plants have emerged as a potential aid for anxiety.

Research has discovered that echinacea plants contain compounds that may reduce feelings of anxiety. These include alkamides, rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid (18Trusted Source).

In one mouse study, three out of five echinacea samples helped reduce anxiety. In addition, they did not make the mice less active, in contrast to higher doses of standard treatments (18Trusted Source).

Another study found that Echinacea angustifolia extract rapidly reduced feelings of anxiety in both mice and humans (19Trusted Source).

However, as of now, only a handful of studies on echinacea and anxiety exist. More research is needed before echinacea products can be recommended as a possible treatment.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Inflammation is your body’s natural way of promoting healing and defending itself.

Sometimes inflammation can get out of hand and last for longer than necessary and expected. This may raise your risk of chronic diseases and other health problems.

Several studies have shown that echinacea can help reduce excess inflammation.

In a mouse study, echinacea compounds helped reduce important inflammatory markers and memory-loss caused by inflammation (20Trusted Source).

In another 30-day study, adults with osteoarthritis found that taking a supplement containing echinacea extract significantly reduced inflammation, chronic pain and swelling.

Interestingly, these adults did not respond well to conventional non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) but found the supplement containing echinacea extract helpful (21Trusted Source).

May Help Treat Skin Concerns

Research has shown that echinacea plants may help treat common skin concerns.

In a test-tube study, scientists found that echinacea’s anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties suppressed the growth of Propionibacterium, a common cause of acne (22Trusted Source).

In another study in 10 healthy people aged 25–40, skin care products containing echinacea extract were found to improve skin hydration and reduce wrinkles (23Trusted Source).

Similarly, a cream containing Echinacea purpurea extract was shown to improve eczema symptoms and help repair the skin’s thin, protective outer layer (24Trusted Source).

However, echinacea extract appears to have a short shelf life, making it difficult to incorporate into commercial skin care products.

May Offer Protection Against Cancer

Cancer is a disease that involves the uncontrolled growth of cells.

Test-tube studies have shown that echinacea extracts may suppress cancer cell growth and even trigger cancer cell death (25Trusted Source26Trusted Source).

In one test-tube study, an extract of Echinacea purpurea and chicoric acid (naturally found in echinacea plants) was shown to trigger cancer cell death (25Trusted Source).

In another test-tube study, extracts from echinacea plants (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida) killed human cancer cells from the pancreas and colon by stimulating a process called apoptosis or controlled cell death (26Trusted Source).

It’s believed that this effect occurs due to echinacea’s immune-boosting properties (27Trusted Source).

There was some concern that echinacea could interact with conventional cancer treatments, such as doxorubicin, but newer studies have found no interaction (28Trusted Source29Trusted Source).

That being said, human studies are needed before making any recommendations.

SUMMARY

Echinacea has been shown to improve immunity, blood sugar, anxiety, inflammation and skin health. It may even have anti-cancer properties. However, human-based research on these benefits is often limited.

Potential Side Effects

Echinacea products appear to be safe and well-tolerated for short-term use.

There have been cases where people experienced side effects, such as (3Trusted Source):

  • Rashes
  • Itchy skin
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

However, these side effects are more common among people with allergies to other flowers, such as daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds, ragweed and more (3031Trusted Source).

As echinacea appears to stimulate the immune system, people with autoimmune disorders or people taking immunosuppressive drugs should avoid it or consult their doctors first (3Trusted Source).

While it appears to be safe for short-term use, its long-term effects are still relatively unknown.

SUMMARY

Echinacea appears to be safe and well tolerated in the short term, but its long-term effects are relatively unknown.

Dosage Recommendations

There is currently no official dosage recommendation for echinacea.

One reason being that findings from echinacea research are highly variable.

In addition, echinacea products often may not contain what is written on the label. One study found that 10% of echinacea products samples did not contain any echinacea (32Trusted Source).

This is why you should purchase echinacea products from trusted brands.

That said, research has found the following doses to be effective in aiding immunity (11Trusted Source):

  • Dry powdered extract: 300–500 mg of Echinacea purpurea, three times daily.
  • Liquid extract tinctures: 2.5 ml, three times daily, or up to 10 ml daily.

However, it’s best to follow the instructions that come with your specific supplement.

Keep in mind that these recommendations are for short-term use, as echinacea’s long-term effects on the body are still relatively unknown.

SUMMARY

Echinacea products are highly variable, which makes it hard to set a standard recommended dosage. The dosages vary with the form of echinacea you’re using.

The Bottom Line

Echinacea has been shown to improve immunity, blood sugar, anxiety, inflammation and skin health. It may even have anti-cancer properties. However, human-based research is often limited.

It’s considered safe and well tolerated for short-term use.

Suggested dosages vary depending on the form of echinacea you’re using.

Although it’s commonly used to treat the common cold, results in this area are mixed. While research has shown it may help prevent colds, shorten their duration or provide symptomatic relief, many studies have been poorly designed or shown no real benefit.

That said, there aren’t many products like echinacea with similar potential immune-boosting effects, so it might be worth trying it out.

During the pandemic many medical professionals are recommending immune boosting foods like echinace, vitamin c and d. What are you taking? How has it worked for you? Why do you take what you do?

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