The Many Benefits of Echinacea Tea
Herbal remedies are now big business and there are no signs that sales are slowing down. By some distance the top selling herbal treatment is Echinacea with sales almost doubling over the past few years.
What is Echinacea Tea?
Echinacea is a medicinal plant native to North America where it has been used for centuries by Native Americans to treat wounds and infections and numerous other general ailments. It gets its name because of its prickly scales and a large conical head which resembles the appearance of the hedgehog or ‘echinos’ in the Greek language.
It has been used down the years to treat syphilis, malaria, scarlet fever and diphtheria and was especially popular in the 18th and the 19th centuries.
When antibiotics came to the fore in the 1950s, its popularity began to wane in the USA though it remained popular in certain parts of Europe such as Germany and in fact the majority of the research regarding Echinacea has been done by German scientists.
These days, echinacea has experienced a dramatic comeback and is mostly used to speed up recovery from influenza and the common cold as well as to treat symptoms like coughing, fever and sore throat. It is also considered an effective treatment for bolstering the immune system and fighting infections.
Herbal preparations like tea and tinctures are made from its roots, leaves and flowers but the chemical composition of the preparation depends on which part of the plant is used. According to research, the roots contain high amounts of volatile oils while the parts of the herb above ground contain immune boosting polysaccharides.
Echinacea Tea Benefits
There have been a number of studies which suggest echinacea contains active compounds which can boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and relieve pain. It also has antiviral, hormonal and antioxidant effects.
1. Echinacea Tea for the Immune System
Echinacea tea is popularly used to boost the immune system in order to ward off common viral complaints like the cold and influenza. Research results have varied with some suggesting that echinacea tea can help prevent colds and flu while others suggest that it can reduce the duration of the illness. Other research has been less positive suggesting that echinacea has little effect on the immune system.
A meta-analysis of 14 studies was published in 2007 by the University of Connecticut which reported that echinacea could help reduce your risk of catching cold by as much as 58%. The same analysis found that echinacea could reduce the duration of your cold by a day and a half. (1) The study’s author stated that echinacea was indeed confer powerful cold prevention and treatment benefits.
A large scale study published in 2012 found that echinacea was especially effective when it came to preventing recurring cold infections. (2)
2. Echinacea Tea to Treat Cold and Flu Symptoms
As well as boosting the immune system and preventing colds from developing, echinacea might be effective in treating the symptoms of your illness after it has already taken hold.
Studies have demonstrated that you should start taking echinacea tea as soon as possible after you start feeling the symptoms.
A study conducted with 95 people found that those who started taking echinacea immediately upon feeling sick had fewer symptoms such as sore throat, fevers and runny nose than those who didn’t take it. The study suggests that drinking 2 or 3 cups of echinacea tea each day for about 5 days helped participants recover much sooner.
3. Echinacea Tea for Allergies
If you suffer from the miserable symptoms of seasonal allergies, you are certainly not alone. Hay fever effects millions of people worldwide and results in annoying and debilitating symptoms like breathing problems, weeping eyes and runny noses.
Common prescription medications tend to leave you feeling sleepy and washed out so the search is on for more natural antihistamines.
While it is true that echinacea can actually cause an allergic reaction in some people, it may also help to prevent or improve allergic symptoms. Other herbal teas that are considered effective include chamomile and nettle tea.
It may not work but given that there are very few side effects and that echinacea has several other proven abilities, we think it is worth a try.
4. Echinacea Tea for Sore Throat
Because of its excellent immune boosting ability as well as its anti-inflammatory actions, echinacea tea can help treat sore throats along with numerous other respiratory complaints including the cold, flu, sinusitis, whooping cough, croup and diphtheria.
5. For Pain
Echinacea has been used for pain relief purposes for centuries by the native Indians of the Great Plains and there is some evidence that it can ease pain associated with a variety of conditions. While evidence is scant, echinacea tea may help relieve pain associated with headache, herpes, stomach ache, throat pain, toothache and skin infection.
Some common ways to use echinacea to combat pain is to drink the herbal tea, or even make a paste out of the ground herb and rub it directly on the area that is affected.
6. For Skin
Because it has natural antioxidant properties, drinking echinacea tea might help benefit your skin in plenty of ways. It can help to rejuvenate tired skin cells and it was used traditionally to deal with bites, eczema, psoriasis and skin infection. It can also help expedite wound healing when made applied topically in the form of a paste.
7. For Inflammation
Inflammation is considered to be the root cause of the vast majority of serious health problems including heart disease and inflammatory bowel conditions. Studies have demonstrated that echinacea has powerful natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help deal with the issue. A study published in 2009 showed that consuming echinacea tea could help ease numerous types of inflammation. (3)
As well as internal inflammation, drinking regular amounts of echinacea tea might help relieve joint inflammation and benefit people with chronic inflammatory complaints like rheumatism.
8. For Mental Health
Like so many herbal teas, drinking echinacea may help to naturally alleviate some of the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Unlike so many of the prescription medications for emotional problems, echinacea comes with very few side effects and the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
9. Fights against Infection
Consuming echinacea tea has powerful effects against a range of infections. It can help treat infections ranging from gum disease to malaria and syphilis. When applied topically studies show that it is effective against recurring vaginal yeast infections while it is often prescribed for infections of the urinary tract.
Recommended Use and Dose
- For general health and immune boosting purposes, you can drink between 1 and 2 grams of dried echinacea root as a tea each day.
If you feel the first symptoms of a cold, you may prefer to take echinacea in capsule form 3 times a day until your symptoms have disappeared. When taken as a capsule, it is not recommended that you take it for more than 10 days consecutively.
Potential Side Effects
- The risk of side effects when drinking echinacea tea is low but reported effects include headaches, drowsiness, stomach pain, aching muscles and dizziness.
- Very rare side effects include heart, kidney or liver issues.
- In very rare cases drinking echinacea tea may cause an allergic reaction which can range from minor rashes to far more serious anaphylaxis. People with either asthma or those who suffer from allergies are more prone to adverse reaction.
- People with certain diseases should not take echinacea. These include leukemia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disease and liver disorders.
Echinacea During Pregnancy
Despite some concerns over the safety of echinacea for pregnant women and nursing mothers, research suggests that it does not cause pregnancy related complications nor does it raise the risk of the baby being born with a defect.
Having said that, the researchers concluded that more research was necessary and until that time it is prudent to avoid echinacea during pregnancy.