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Echinacea is a medicinal plant, also known as cone flower, purple or rudbéquia, rich in alkamides, flavonoids and polysaccharides, with anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and immunomodulatory properties, and is therefore widely used as a home remedy in the treatment of colds and flu, relieving runny nose and cough, The scientific name of this plant is Echinacea spp. and the best known species are Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia, the parts normally used are the root or the leaf, which can be used in the form of tea, compresses or capsules.
Echinacea can be found in herbalists, he alth food stores or compounding pharmacies, but it should be used under the guidance of a doctor or other he alth professional who has experience with the use of medicinal plants.
What is it for
Echinacea has several he alth benefits, the main ones being:
1. Strengthen the immune system
Echinacea is rich in alkamides, polysaccharides, glycoproteins and caffeic acid derivatives, with anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory action, which help to strengthen the immune system, preventing and helping to fight respiratory system infections, such as flu., colds, sinusitis or otitis, for example.
In addition, this medicinal plant can also help fight chronic urinary or pelvic infections, as well as candidiasis or cold sores.
2. Fight inflammation
Echinacea has anti-inflammatory properties that help fight inflammation and swelling, and can be useful to help treat toothache and gum pain, for example.
3. Help with skin healing
Echinacea has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial action, and can be used on the skin to accelerate the healing of superficial wounds or help fight skin infections such as abscesses or boils.
In addition, this plant can also be used in skin problems such as eczema, burns or poisonings such as spider or snake bites.
4. Decrease Anxiety
Some studies [1, 2] show that echinacea has substances in its composition, such as alkamides, rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid, with anxiolytic action, as they bind to receptors cannabinoids in the brain, helping to reduce anxiety.
However, more research is still needed to prove this benefit. In addition, it is important to note that echinacea does not replace the treatment for anxiety indicated by the doctor. See how anxiety is treated.
5. Help control blood glucose
Some studies [3, 4] carried out with cells in the laboratory, show that echinacea has substances in its composition with hypoglycemic properties, by inhibiting enzymes responsible for the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps to reduce the amount of sugar in the blood.
Also, echinacea can help make cells more sensitive to the effects of insulin, which can be helpful in managing diabetes.
However, echinacea does not replace the treatment for diabetes indicated by the doctor, and human studies are needed to prove this benefit. See how diabetes treatment is done.
6. Aid in the fight against cancer
Some studies done [5, 6] in the laboratory with pancreatic and intestinal cancer cells show that the chicory acid present in echinacea can help decrease proliferation or increase cell death from these cancers.
However, human studies are still needed to prove this benefit.
How to use
The parts used in echinacea are the leaves, roots and seeds, from which substances with medicinal properties are extracted, generally for the preparation of tea, compresses or capsules.
1. Echinacea tea
Echinacea tea is a great option to take in cases of flu and colds, as it relieves symptoms such as cough and runny nose.
- 1 teaspoon of echinacea root or leaves;
- 1 cup of boiling water.
Place 1 teaspoon of echinacea root or leaves in a cup of boiling water. Let stand for 15 minutes, strain and drink twice a day. Find out more about other natural options for cold and flu.
2. Echinacea compresses
Echinacea can also be used on the skin, by applying a paste based on echinacea roots and leaves.
- Echinacea leaves and roots;
- Cloth moistened with hot water.
Mash the leaves and roots of echinacea, with the help of a pestle, until it forms a paste. Then, apply to the affected area with the aid of a cloth moistened with hot water.
3. Pills or Capsules
Echinacea can also be found in the form of capsules and tablets, in compounding pharmacies or he alth food stores, as is the case with Enax or Imunax, for example.
The normally recommended dose is 300 mg to 500 mg, 3 times a day, however, a doctor or herbalist should be consulted so that the correct dose is individualized. See more about the indications of echinacea in capsules.
Possible side effects
The most common side effects that can occur while using echinacea are nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, fever, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, dizziness, confusion, insomnia, or taste unpleasant in the mouth.
Multiple allergic reactions may also occur, such as itching and worsening of asthma attacks.
Who should not use
Echinacea should not be used by children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or by people who have tuberculosis, leukemia, collagen diseases, multiple sclerosis, or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or psoriasis.