Echinacea is from the family of daisies and is native to North America. The word Echinacea is a derivative of the Greek echino (thorn) because of the « spiny » central disc of the flower. It is a perennial plant that lasts several years. The plant reaches approximately 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters) in size when ripe. It is slightly pointed and has large flowers ranging from purple to pink, depending on the species. The center of the flower has a head. There are 9 species of echinacea, three of which are grown as ornamental plants in gardens, but also for their medicinal properties: Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea pallida. The parts used depend on the species: root, aerial parts or whole plant. Echinacea is rarely the victim of diseases even if some foliage is sometimes affected by powdery mildew.
The rhizome ofEchinacea was used by the Plains Indians of North America (perhaps more than any other plant) in the development of medicinal remedies. Echinacea was not commonly used for the treatment or prevention of colds by North American Indians. A few, like the Kiowa and Cheyenne used it for sore throat and cough, while the Pawnee said it was effective for headaches. For their part, the Lakotah appreciated it as an analgesic. By the late 1800s, echinacea was one of the most widely used medicinal plants in North America. In the middle of the 19th and early twentieth century, it was used to treat anthrax infection, snakebites and also as an analgesic. The plant falls into oblivion almost the entire twentieth century victim of the popularity of antibiotics. It was not until the late 1990s that echinacea experienced a resurgence of interest in the United States, generated by the discovery of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
Its phytonutrients and vitamins
Echinacea contains Alkylamides, phenolic compounds, complex polysaccharides, alkaloids, fatty acids and essential oils. However, the active components in the herb, their optimal doses and in vivo effects are still undefined (1).
Its medicinal virtues
Echinacea plant extract is widely used for the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections. It is a plant very popular for fighting flu and colds. Echinacea promoters say that the herb encourages the immune system and reduces many symptoms of colds, flu and other diseases, infections and ailments.
Echinacea is very popular in Germany, where it is used as a supporting treatment for respiratory or urinary tractinfections. However, clinical studies demonstrating the benefits of its use against colds, flu, bronchitis or other respiratory diseases are not all unanimous. In contrast, more recent research suggests that, instead of preventing the common cold, echinacea may treat it by reducing its duration and severity.
For its part, Health Canada agrees:
Recommended use(s) or purpose(s)
Statement(s) specifying the following:
- Used (traditionally) in herbal medicine to help fight infections, especially upper respiratory tract infections
- Traditionally used in herbal medicine/herbalism to help relieve cold symptoms
- Supportive therapy to treat upper respiratory tract infections (e.g. colds)
- Helps relieve symptoms and reduce the duration of upper respiratory tract infections
Risk Statement: None
Statement(s) specifying the following:
Precaution(s) and warning(s):
- If symptoms persist or worsen, consult a health care practitioner.
- If you are taking immunosuppressants, consult a health care practitioner before using them
- If you have an autoimmune disease, consult a health care practitioner before using it
- If you have a progressive systemic disease such as tuberculosis, collagenosis, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and/or HIV infection, consult a health care practitioner before use
Statement not required
Known adverse reaction(s):
Echinacea purpurea – Top (herb):
Rare cases of severe allergic reactions may occur; exercise caution if you are allergic to daisy plants
Source: Health Canada, Echinacea Monograph