Echinacea – Frequently Asked Questions

Echinacea – Frequently Asked Questions

Author -  Vicki Martin, Nutritionist and Naturopath

Naturopath Vicki Martin answers a few common questions about Echinacea – a traditional natural remedy for common cold and flu

What is Echinacea and how does it work? 

Echinacea is a herb that originated in America. American Indian healers used it for hundreds of years to help with infections. Echinacea boosts the production of the immune system cells that destroy bacterial, fungal, and viral micro-organisms, and so helps to reduce infectious conditions and symptoms.

When is the best time to take Echinacea? 

Most herbalists and researchers agree that Echinacea is most effective if you take it:

  • right at the onset of an infection, and 
  • at the maximum dose until the infection is gone.

Can I take Echinacea year round?

You can take Echinacea at a low dose year round if:

  • your immune system is weak, or 
  • you get chronic infections, especially in your skin or mucous membranes. 

For most people, however, naturopaths advise stopping Echinacea at the end of Winter, or when you no longer require it. Constantly stimulating your immune system may be detrimental if you don’t need to.

Can I take Echinacea with my anti-infective pharmaceutical medication?

There is usually no problem with this combination. However, if you are taking antibiotics or anti-fungals, they will tend to suppress your immune system cells. If so, wait until you have finished your course of medication, and then immediately start supplementing with Echinacea to support your immune system.

Is there a time when I should not use Echinacea?

Echinacea is a very cooling herb, so may not be as effective if you have cold syndrome symptoms that it may exacerbate. These symptoms include: chills; desire for hot drinks; lots of clear mucous; or cold limbs, hands, and feet. Echinacea is most effective when you use it for inflammatory or heat-type syndromes. Heat syndrome symptoms include sore throats, fevers, headache, aching limbs, yellow-green mucous, and desire for cool drinks and foods.