Echinacea Benefits: A Potent Natural Remedy (+ a Caution!)

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Echinacea Uses and Benefits
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » Echinacea Benefits: A Potent Natural Remedy (+ a Caution!)

I met my husband walking across the country, and it turns out you learn a lot about a person by walking 15+ miles a day with them. At the time, he was a 20-something guy into sports and healthy(ish) eating and I was into academics and pizza (I know, I know… the processed grains and vegetable oils… yikes!).

Discovering Natural Remedies:

After our walk, we had the chance to travel to Europe where my pizza and PB&J habit caught up with me and I got a horrible head cold on the flight over. I landed with an ear infection, cough and sore throat.

Always one to be prepared, my then boyfriend had natural remedies with him on the trip and he force fed me some horrible tasting echinacea tincture. At that time, I was one to turn to antibiotics if I got sick, but that wasn’t an option in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language and definitely couldn’t navigate the medical system, so I took the nasty tasting tincture that he offered.

To my shock, it worked and I bounced back pretty quickly (yay younger genes and natural remedies!).

Moral of this story?

I definitely have not always been anywhere close to perfect in the nutritional department, so I was intrigued to learn more about natural remedies. In fact, my husband can really take the credit for me starting to research nutrition on a deeper level and learning about natural remedies.

Echinacea was one of the first herbs I researched and while I don’t use it as often now, I’m grateful that it sparked my interest in healthier living.

What is Echinacea?

It is a simple flowering plant and a member of the daisy family. More commonly known as purple coneflower, many people grow this powerful herb without even realizing it! The name derives from the Greek word ekhinos (hedgehog) because the cone resembles a small hedgehog.

What is the Use of Echinacea?

Echinacea purpurea is the species most often used as a natural remedy and in folk medicine. There are 9 distinct species of this plant, though onlyEchinacea purpurea is considered a remedy. A couple of the other species are considered endangered so it is important not to harvest this plant without being certain of which species is being harvested.

The flowers, leaves and roots of this plant can all be used differently in natural remedies. In general, the leaves and flowers are the parts traditionally used in remedies

Where does Echinacea Grow?

Echinacea grows in the central and eastern United States. Native American’s used it as a remedy hundreds of years ago and it is re-gaining popularity in modern times. Those who live in these areas may be able to cultivate this easy-to-grow plant.

Benefits of Echinacea

Echinacea Uses and BenefitsModern research is still divided on the effectiveness of echinacea, and there are some contraindications (like autoimmune disease). I personally rarely use this herb anymore, but many people love this traditional remedy.

Of course, it is important to check with a doctor or medical professional before using this or any herb, especially in cases of disease, medical problems, pregnancy, or in children.

Help for cancer?

Some sources claim that this traditional herb may be helpful for those with cancer, though more research is certainly needed.

Immune Support

The immune supporting benefits are much more studied, though again, this can be a double-edged sword for those with autoimmune disease. A meta-analysis of data from the University of Connecticut showed echinacea may reduce the likelihood of getting a common cold by over half. Even more promising, it also reduced the duration of common colds by over a day on average.

The book Nutritional Herbology points out:

The proven actions of Echinacea are due to water-soluble polysaccharides. They act by sequestering the attacks of various microbes and allow the body to heal itself. Upon reaching an infected area, the polysaccharides have an immunostimulant effect, which results in the production of leucocytes (white blood cells). The resulting phagocytic action of the leucocytes effectively eradicates a number of infectious organisms.

In other words, echinacea can help encourage the immune system which may lead to faster recovery from illness, but this can be harmful for those with autoimmune disease. For those without autoimmune disease, there is some evidence that echinacea can help lessen the symptoms of milk illnesses.

WebMD reports common uses:

Echinacea is widely used to fight infections, especially the common cold and other upper respiratory infections. The people who use echinacea to treat symptoms have the right idea. Research to date shows that echinacea probably modestly reduces cold symptoms, but it’s not clear whether it helps prevent colds from developing.

It is also used against many other infections including the flu, urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, genital herpes, bloodstream infections (septicemia), gum disease, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections, syphilis, typhoid, malaria, and diphtheria.

Uses for Echinacea

How do I Make Echinacea Tincture?

A tincture is essentially an extract. Alcohol tinctures are the most common type and the easiest to make, though vinegar or even glycerin will work (here’s how to modify the recipe for a glycerin tincture).

To make an echinacea tincture with alcohol, you will need:

  • A clean pint-size glass jar with lid
  • Food grade alcohol like vodka or rum- at least 80 proof (or apple cider vinegar to make a vinegar tincture)
  • ½ cup dried echinacea leaf (of a mixture of root and leaf)

Tincture Instructions

  1. Fill the jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with dried echinacea leaf (or leaf+root). Do not pack down.
  2. Pour boiling water to just dampen all of the dried herb (a few tablespoons). (This step is optional but helps to draw out the beneficial properties of the herbs).
  3. Fill the rest of the jar (or the entire jar if not using hot water too) with alcohol and stir with a clean spoon.
  4. Put the lid on the jar. Store the jar in a cool/dry place, shaking daily, for at least three weeks and up to six months. (I usually leave for six weeks)
  5. Strain through cheesecloth and compost the herbs. Store the tincture in dark colored dropper bottles or clean glass jars.

Echinacea Cautions

As I mentioned, I rarely use this particular remedy anymore. Those with autoimmune disease should be careful in using echinacea, astragalus, or many other herbs. Chris Kresser explains:

Why? Because autoimmune disease is not only extremely complex, but also highly individualized. Hashimoto’s in one person is not the same as Hashimoto’s in the next person. In one person, Hashimoto’s could present as a Th1-dominant condition. In another, it may present as Th2 dominant. In still another, both the Th1 and Th2 systems might be overactive, or under-active. And each of these cases requires a different approach. For example, botanicals like echinacea and astragalus stimulate the Th1 system. If someone with Th1 dominant Hashimoto’s takes these herbs, they’ll quite possibly get worse. On the other hand, antioxidants like green tea and Gotu Kola stimulate the Th2 system, and would be inappropriate for those with Th2 dominant Hashimoto’s.

I only use echinacea if absolutely needed with my Hashimotos and usually turn to vitamin C and garlic instead. If you suspect an autoimmune condition, make sure to only use immune stimulating herbs under a doctor’s care.

Echinacea should also not be used by pregnant women without a doctor’s recommendation, as there is not adequate research about its safety and since it can cause immune reactions. Nursing moms should also be cautious with echinacea and children should not use echinacea without a doctors care.

Have you ever used echinacea? Did it work for you?


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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


53 responses to “Echinacea Benefits: A Potent Natural Remedy (+ a Caution!)”

  1. Richard Washburn Jr. Avatar
    Richard Washburn Jr.

    The type of medicines that stimulate the immune system are called “adaptagens”.

    The auto immune problem is why I like the adaptagen chaga mushrooms, as it is an immune modulator as well as an immune enhancer.

  2. Sara Avatar

    Kate, I am a herbalist and am wondering who told you to tincture echinacea with water and then alcohol and no measurements?
    To be specific and improve the efficacy of your tincture I recommend you do NOT use water at all unless you are diluting a higher proof alcohol ie 95% to make a 40-60% etc tincture.
    Fresh tinctures require no water and if you are already using an alcohol at a reduced percentage you already have water in it. From a clinical medicine making stand point you’re not doing it correctly and watering down your tincture. 40% alcohol has the right ratio of water to alcohol and this is a standard go to. Ideally echinacea should be tinctured at 60%. With a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio.
    I love what you share, but see so much miscommunication about herbal remedies it’s bothersome.
    Folk tincture is easy to make but you need to dry fresh plant matter for 2 days or so to get as much water out of the plant as possible. Then this would be macerated in alcohol for a maximum of two days, the pressed to tincture.

    When made with ACV or glycerine they are not called tinctures but acetates and glyrecites.

  3. Joseph Avatar

    You should be cautious in claiming your first experience of Echinacea ‘worked’. Many other factors can be at play. Be more skeptical.

  4. Antonia Avatar

    Hi, naturally sweet mamas, kids, babas etc..
    I’m enjoying your articles since a long time and thanks for being a part of the global true-dream, Katie!
    Just to add a little correction to your text above: the word “echinacea” comes actually from the greek word ekhinos = ?????? in ancient, ?????? [akhinos] in modern greek. And it does look like a hedgehog too, but the real translation is sea urchin. 😉
    Warm wishes from Greece!

  5. Jenna Avatar

    Do you use elderberry with your Hashimoto’s? I see you rarely use echinacea, but I love using elderberry and was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s . . .

  6. Tricia Avatar

    Hi Katie, if you don’t take echinacea anymore due to an auto-immune disease, would this also not be the same for elderberries? Do they not have the same immune-boosting properties?

  7. Michelle Avatar

    If I feel like I am becoming sick, I take Ener-C. It is dissolves in water. It contains Vit C along with electrolytes and some vitamins and minerals. If things are bad, I use a product called Airborne but it has Echinacea in it. I do detox baths like you. Sometimes I use dulse instead of salt. It helps the thyroid. I did discover that Vitamin D can send me into a thyroid storm so I don’t use it anymore either. I also use lemon, ginger, honey and garlic along with homemade soups.

  8. Michelle Avatar

    Thanks for posting the warnings. I have a thyroid condition and I already knew about the problems using Echinacea, but most people push it for everyone to use.

  9. Michelle Hill Avatar
    Michelle Hill

    Hi! I don’t have a thyroid (thyroid cancer), but I took echinacea the past few days for a cold, and I do think it made me feel worse!!! I was shocked! Thanks for the info! Love all of your stuff;)

  10. Mary Avatar

    I have found that Echinacea does well by blood type! The O’s of my family do not seem to benefit, but the A’s, AB’s do. Not everyone believes in the blood type diet (BTD) but we have found it is an super helpful blueprint for what works best for our bodies (almost…frustratingly so!). Echinacea, coincidentally, is an avoid for O’s. Curious, eh? For me – Echinacea is a silver bullet!!

  11. EL Avatar

    I read this is a possible way to boost the immune system towards getting rid of HPV Has anyone else heard this?

  12. Rebecca Smith Avatar
    Rebecca Smith

    Hi. Just wondering what the dosage of the tincture that you described above is? Adults and Children please. Many thanks

  13. Noel Nicole Avatar
    Noel Nicole

    Does anyone know if Echinacea is effective in preventing Influenza? I work in a hospital and will not be getting the flu vaccine, as I question its effectiveness and have been told by a friend (who is a nurse practitioner) that from her research, the flu vaccine in not much more than human experimentation. Due to hospital policy, I must wear a mask from September to April, so I am not concerned with spreading any Influenza, but I’m curious as to if there are any known herbal remedies that help in preventing an Influenza infection.

    1. Becky U Avatar

      My recommendation is to take a high dose of Vit D. I used to take between 5,000-10,000IU during the flu seasons More info about vitamin D and preventing the flu is on: Vit C and Zinc are also very essential and cutting out sugar and processed food from your diet. Please do your research and check with a health care practitioner to monitor Vitamin D levels, since it is fat-soluble and can accumulate in the body overtime.

  14. Noel Nicole Avatar
    Noel Nicole

    Hi! What would the dosage be for an adult if you are using the tincture? How many ml per day? For the last three years I have gotten a cold in the fall following a long and irritating bout of seasonal allergies. I am determined this year to do what I can to not get a cold! Part of it may be because I was not yet diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, which I have since then realized and my allergies have significantly reduced! Hoping and praying I don’t get sick this fall!

  15. Erika Avatar

    I love echinacea for boosting my family’s immune systems. I have (mild) hashimoto’s and didn’t even consider that echinacea could affect it – thank you for the head’s up! I also love your tincture recipe! I always buy the ready-made stuff but would love to try my hand at making it. Now I can! 🙂

  16. Barbara Avatar

    I have used echinacea for 5 years now. I make my own tincture and start taking it in September until May or earlier ( depending on how early spring comes) I have never gotten a cold in five years, except for last year when I share some with a friend and ran out in February. In March I got sick with a cold. Made plenty for the up coming 2 years.

  17. Terry Marrero Avatar
    Terry Marrero

    How about Golden Seal.? Is it good for eliminating phylum ? Is the combination of echinacea & golden seal a good mix for colds & eliminating phylum?

    Thank u

  18. Kristine Avatar

    Katie, I must ask….why were you walking across the country? Inquiring minds want to know! 😉

  19. maryam Avatar

    I have given echinecea Q to my father for one year along with different constitutional remedies . he is a patient of COPD and patient of 20 years chronic Asthma. after he went through his prostate cancer surgery. Echinacea has saved him from many complications no doubt it has decreased his urea and cratenine level to normal .this homoeo drug has an ability to purify blood and helps our body to flush out waste products.

  20. Katrina Avatar

    I have used Echinacea for years, along with many other herbs. I like it in teas, but I also use the capsules whenever my kids, my husband or myself get sick. Before they were old enough to take capsules, I gave my children tinctures with echinacea and other cold/flu fighting herbs. My children have had antibiotics only a very few times, both my daughters only once or twice, and they are almost 12 and 13. Using herbal and natural remedies is always better than medications. Just always do your research and feel comfortable with what you decide. Or find an herbalist or naturopathic doctor if you need further assurances.

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