The Common Cold Remedies Echinancea

Echinacea, also called the coneflower, purple cornflower or the American coneflower, is known as one of the more popular natural cold remedies available today.

Echinacea is native to North America and has been used for centuries to treat many medical problems, including:

  • diphtheria
  • infections
  • malaria
  • syphilis
  • wounds.

After the discovery of antibiotics, the use of Echinacea dropped dramatically in the United States, although the use of this herb continued in Europe and particularly in Germany. Today, many Americans looking for natural cold remedies are once again turning to Echinacea.

Echinacea and Natural Cold Remedies

Three types of Echinacea are used for preventing the cold and as cold remedies:

  • Echinacea angustifolia
  • Echinacea pallida
  • Echinacea purpurea.

Many believe that Echinacea purpurea may be the most effective type of Echinacea in treating the common cold.

The parts of the Echinacea plant that grow above the ground are thought to help boost the immune system through their polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates made up of sugar molecules), while the roots of the Echinacea plant contain essential oils.

Echinacea: Preventing the Cold

Is Echinacea effective in preventing and treating the common cold? Although many people stand by Echinacea’s effectiveness, unfortunately, studies to date are either conflicting or do not support the claim that Echinacea will prevent someone from getting the common cold or will reduce the amount of time that a person has a cold.

In addition, Echinacea does not prevent the flu or shorten the time a person suffers from the flu virus.

Taking Echinacea

If you want to try Echinacea for yourself and test its effectiveness as a cold remedy, you can either:

  • Juice the flowers and drink the extract.
  • Take an extract of Echinacea.
  • Take Echinacea in pill form.
  • Use the fresh or dried flowers to make a tea.

Note that in the United States, Echinacea is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, the amounts and types of Echinacea will vary according to manufacturer. Make sure that you read products’ labels and look for guarantees before purchasing Echinacea.

Echinacea Cautions

Taking Echinacea is relatively safe, although you should always follow the directions on the product label and consult your physician for possible drug interactions before taking this herb. In addition, if you are planning on becoming pregnant, are pregnant or are breastfeeding, consult your doctor before you start to take Echinacea. It would also be wise to consult your pediatrician before giving Echinacea to your child.

People who are allergic to Echinacea may experience rashes, or, depending on the severity of the reaction, might experience potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis (a severe, whole-body allergic reaction). If you are allergic to plants in the daisy family, such as ragweed, daisies or marigolds, you may experience an allergic reaction to Echinacea. In addition, if you have asthma, you may have problems taking this herb.

Other side effects may include a numbed tongue if you take Echinacea orally, or you may experience fevers.

People with certain types of medical conditions should not take Echinacea. These conditions include:

  • AIDS
  • autoimmune disorders
  • disorders of the white blood cells
  • HIV
  • multiple sclerosis.

In general, it is always best to talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplement.

Resources

Herb Research Foundation.(n.d.) Echinacea. Retrieved from the Herbs.org Web site: http://www.herbs.org/greenpapers/echinacea.html.

NCCAM. (n.d.) Echinacea. Retrieved November 23, 2007, from the NCAM National Center for Complementantary and Alternative Medicine Web site: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/echinacea/.

University of Maryland Medical Center. (n.d.) Echinacea. Retrieved November 23, 2007, from the University of Maryland Medical Center Web site: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/echinacea-000239.htm.