Echinacea is a flowering plant in the daisy family. Native to North America, this popular herbal supplement has been used for centuries by the Native Americans for its healing properties.
The Echinacea family plant comes with different species, such as Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea, and Echinacea pallida. Each of these species can offer different levels of hydrophilic caffeic acid and lipophilic amides derivatives (study).
Today, echinacea is a widely used supplement. It is taken around the world to help support the immune system and modulate it in some populations (study).* Echinacea has also been used by individuals to help ward off colds (study).* The herb has become popular around the world as a holistic treatment for a variety of ailments.
There are many different ways to take echinacea. The most commons are in supplement capsule form, tea, or tinctures. It is also available in creams and ointments for topical use.
How echinacea works
Echinacea is thought to work by stimulating the immune system to positively support the immune system in some research (study).
Echinacea offers different compounds, including alkamides, Caffeic acid derivatives, and polysaccharides.
One of these compounds in echinacea, alkamides, may help activate the body's natural interferon production (study).*
Interferon is a protein that helps protect cells from viral infections. Echinacea also contains polysaccharides which may stimulate the activity of macrophages.* Macrophages are white blood cells that may defend against foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses.*
Echinacea preparations and echinacea supplements are often taken as a preventative measures to support health & wellness.*
As explained, the herb may work in some cases by stimulating the immune system, which would then help the body fight off infection more effectively.
Echinacea and pain
The active ingredients in echinacea could help to reduce inflammation and pain. The herb has traditionally been used to relieve pain associated with arthritis and joint pain (study).*
Echinacea and gut health
The herb is a natural prebiotic, which means it could alter the GI microbiata (study).* The gut microbiota is a term used to describe the numerous amounts of bacteria in the digestive system. The gut microbiota is responsible for various essential functions, including nutrient absorption, digestion, and immune system regulation.*
Echinacea and lungs
Echinacea may also play a role in the duration and severity of acute respiratory tract infections for some populations (study).* One reason for this might be a change in cytokine levels through echinacea supplementation.
Echinacea and skin health
Echinacea can also be applied topically to the skin for a variety of benefits. The herb has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which makes it a candidate for acne, eczema, and other skin conditions.* A study showed that a type of echinacea purpurea cream and gel developed might support skin hydration and wrinkles but have low storage potential (study).*
Echinacea and antioxidant properties
Echinacea is a versatile herb that has been used medicinally for centuries. It is most commonly taken to support the immune system, offers different wellness benefits, and may contain specific anti-inflammatory properties for some populations that might make it helpful in supporting a variety of conditions.
As always, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Get professional advice if you think you might need an echinacea supplement or are already taking one to ensure you're not exceeding the amounts you may need.