In recent years, echinacea, also known as purple coneflower, has become a popular “immune-boosting supplement” in holistic circles. Itself native to North America, indigenous people have been using echinacea as an herbal medicine for centuries. But is it actually effective in shortening or preventing colds? Let’s take a look at the scientific evidence.
Echinacea after you show symptoms
According to the National Institute of Health, if you’re already showing symptoms of a cold, such as a runny nose, congestion, sore throat, and fever, taking echinacea won’t help. You can use over-the-counter medication to limit the symptoms, but since colds are caused by viruses, there’s really no way to treat the infection other than to let your immune system do its job. Get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids to give your body a chance to clear-out the virus on its own.
Echinacea before symptoms
The research is also murky when it comes to whether echinacea will proactively protect you from getting sick. Current research is focusing on the antibacterial properties of the herb, but such chemicals target bacteria, not viruses, so they’re unlikely to prevent a viral cold from growing in your system.
Echinacea side effects
Side effects of taking echinacea include nausea and stomach pain, so it’s best to follow the old adage, Start low and go slow. Moreover, there are different varieties of echinacea, each with its own unique chemical properties, so you’ll want to speak with a healthcare provider before you begin using the herb. You wouldn’t want to suffer an unforeseen allergic reaction.
The last thing to be aware of is drug interaction. It’s important that your supplements don’t interfere with any prescription medication you may already be taking. Such interactions could cause serious side effects, including death.
Still, once you communicate with your doctor, you can find out for yourself if echinacea is something that will benefit you during cold and flu season.