Your nose is runny. Every time you swallow your throat burns a bit. You feel a touch feverish. Your congested-sounding voice sounds a little pathetic to even your own ears.
Let’s be honest — you feel a bit miserable.
You have a cold.
And you would do anything to feel better fast. Because you have something really important next week (think job interview, date, exam, wedding, etc.).
Suddenly you vaguely recall hearing something about an herb. You open the search engine on your browser and start to enter - e, c, h … wait … you have no idea how to spell it. Thankfully Google supplies the rest.
And you start to wonder if it really works. Or if buying some is a complete and total waste of your hard earned money.
Then you go down the rabbit hole of internet “research.” Fifteen minutes go by and you still aren’t sure if you should get some echinacea or just suck it up and feel sick for the next week.
What do you do?
I’ll tell you what you’ll do — you’ll remember your trusty friend Skye told you all about echinacea. She told you if there were scientific evidence to support using it and, if so, how to use it.
So . . . Does Echinacea Work to Treat Colds?
Yes! There are multiple randomized controlled studies that demonstrate echinacea helps treat colds.
Echinacea can decrease the longevity of the common cold. One study showed using echinacea twice daily decreased cold duration from 9 days to 6 days — a decrease in 33%.
Not only can echinacea decrease the length of your cold, it can also decrease the severity of your symptoms. Another study showed using echinacea significantly decreased cold symptom scores by 23%.
How Does Echinacea Work?
Echinacea is thought to have a lot of ANTI effects. By that, I mean antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects. These effects all help echinacea fight off infection.
Echinacea also posses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can also help when you are under the weather.
When Should I Take Echinacea?
To reap the benefits of echinacea, you should start using it AS SOON AS your cold symptoms develop.
As one of my best friends says - immediately if not sooner.
If you wait too long, echinacea probably won’t give you much of a benefit.
What Are the Risks of Echinacea?
Everything — absolutely everything — has side effects. And echinacea is no exception.
The good news is echinacea is generally well tolerated. The most common side effects are stomach upset and rash.
And there is a risk of allergic reaction because echinacea is a plant.
If you have a genetic tendency toward allergies, autoimmune conditions, or a skin condition called pemphigus vulgaris, echinacea is probably not for you.
And you should always get your healthcare provider’s blessing before adding anything to your medicine regimen.
Okay . . . I’m Convinced and Want to Try Echinacea. How Much Should I Take?
That is a tricker question for several reasons. One reason is studies that support echinacea used specific proprietary products. Another is echinacea products come in various formulations — capsules, elixirs, tinctures, and tea, to name a few. Furthermore, there are different parts of the echinacea plant that can be used (above the root, below the root, etc.).
So how do you know what to use? I typically go back to the original scientific studies for guidance.
One study used 5 milliliters of an echinacea elixir twice daily for 10 days. Another used 20 drops of echinacea extract in alcohol every two hours on the first day of cold symptoms followed by three times daily for 10 days.
Tea was used in a study. Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Plus tea blend was consumed five or six times on the first day of cold symptoms followed by one cup a day for 5 days.
Bottomline: you need to evaluate the specific product you plan to use for safety, efficacy, and dosage.
I’m Not Sick Right Now. Should I Still Take Echinacea?
That is an excellent question.
If you want to learn how echinacea can be preventive, check out my post on natural ways to prevent colds.
Now you know the 4-1-1 on echinacea. Wishing you health and happiness! And if you do have a cold, I hope you start feeling better fast.