Echinacea and Immunity

2 min read

woman in echinacea purple coneflower garden

If you’re seeking natural ways to boost your immune system, you are not alone. The common cold is in fact quite common. Most adults average two to three colds per year. and spend roughly 20 days each year nursing aching heads, stuffy noses and sore throats.
The idea of a cure for the common cold may appeal to you if you can’t afford to be sick, or you have no patience for the annoying, energy-sapping symptoms. While there is unfortunately no cure in sight, there are natural ways to strengthen your immune system so your body’s defenses are better equipped to fight off seasonal bugs. Echinacea is a popular herbal supplement known for its immune-boosting properties that may help with respiratory challenges.

What is Echinacea?

Echinacea, also known as purple coneflower, is a type of plant with nine identified species – all native to North America. Three species of plants in the echinacea classification are used as herbal supplements: E. angustifolia, E. pallida and E. purpurea.

If you routinely wash your hands, exercise, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of rest, and you’re still experiencing too many sick days, you may want to consider taking echinacea. 

For hundreds of years, indigenous people used echinacea as an herbal remedy for toothaches, coughs, colds and sore throats; settlers followed suit by using the easily available herb for medicinal purposes for a variety of ailments.

How Does Echinacea Work?

Echinacea has long been touted for its immune-boosting properties, and continues to be used to support health. But how does echinacea work to support your immune system?

There is some evidence to suggest that echinacea encourages your body to produce more T-lymphocytes and white blood cells, both of which help fight infections. Additionally, echinacea seems to promote the production and effectiveness of germ-eating white blood cells called macrophages, which in turn stimulates the production of more germ-fighting cells.

Research on Echinacea and Immunity

Because of its longstanding use as a medicinal herb, echinacea has been studied to better understand the relationship between the use of this herb and the immune system — with some promising results. A 2015 meta-analysis, which included six clinical trials, found that taking echinacea may help with respiratory challenges

Another study, published in the Journal of Current Therapeutic Research, found that a standardized extract of echinacea herb and root (in addition to elderberry) was also effective for respiratory challenges.

Should You Take Echinacea?

Considering modern medicine has yet to eliminate the common cold or the flu, you may be attracted to natural formulas that help support your immune system. Turning to herbal remedies to prevent these viral infections can be tempting, but realize that — although these might help — healthy lifestyle habits are required to keep your immune system strong so it can fend off pathogens that cause illness.

If you routinely wash your hands, exercise, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of rest, and you’re still experiencing too many sick days, you may want to consider taking echinacea. While it isn’t likely to resolve your symptoms overnight, if used as soon as you suspect you’re coming down with something, echinacea can help you more quickly bounce back to a more productive, sniffle-free existence.

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