Echinacea isn’t just a pretty purple flower. It has some impressive healing properties. You may already know it helps the common cold—more on that below—but there are a lot of other health benefits of echinacea.
1. Shortens the common cold
A lot of people turn to echinacea at the start of a cold and with good reason. Research shows that echinacea possesses chemicals that may help increase the number of white blood cells in your body. White blood cells support your body while you fight off infections. Echinacea is a great immune-boosting supplement to keep on hand when you start to feel under the weather.
2. Reduces inflammation
Chronic inflammation may lead to illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. In one small study, participants who were non-responsive to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs experienced reduced pain and anti-inflammatory results using a ginger and echinacea extract.
3. Helps to reduce respiratory illness after travel
When we fly, we encounter countless people and their microbes. However, echinacea may act as a defense against the germs we encounter when we travel. In one study, participants were asked to take either echinacea or placebo tablets before and during air travel. The echinacea group reported that they had lower respiratory symptoms compared to the placebo group.
4. Boosts antioxidants
When antioxidants are introduced to the body, they can delay or stop the damage from oxidative stress. Certain species of echinacea contain high levels of cichoric acid, which is a powerful antioxidant. By taking echinacea, the boost in free-radical fighting antioxidants may decrease the damage caused by oxidative stress.
5. Protects against cancer
In one study, researchers discovered the cichoric acid from Echinacea purpurea extract decreased colon cancer cell activity and eliminated some cancer cells. In another study, echinacea extract caused the death of lung cancer cells. Researchers need to conduct more research on these effects.
6. Reduces the need for antibiotics
Bacterial infections linked to ear infections, pneumonia, and sinus infections may require antibiotics. However, if antibiotics are used too frequently, it can lead to antimicrobial resistance and wipe out the “good” bacteria in our bodies. In a search to discover alternative treatments, scientists administered echinacea or vitamin C to a group of children. The children given echinacea were less likely to have respiratory illnesses that could develop into bacterial infections thus reducing the need for antibiotics.
7. Relieves sore throats
Although sore throats are often thought to be associated with strep throat, most are caused by viral infections. With a virus, you must wait for it to run its course and find symptom relief in the meantime. As a natural treatment option, echinacea has proven to be effective in relieving the symptoms of sore throats.
Written by Gina Kelly