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BACKGROUND TO USING ECHINACEA:-
For the past couple of winters I seem to have had more colds than normal. Previously it could be almost guaranteed that I would get one cold around November and another in February - they would last a week or so and then I'd be fine. However the winter of 2011 gave me cold after cold that turned to a bronchial chest complaint and it seemed like I was always in bed pumping myself with chemicals and feeling thoroughly miserable. I'm not the kind of person who goes running to the doctor at the smallest cough and sneeze, but eventually the bronchial complaint turned into a terrible continuous cough and I went to my GP who diagnosed a form of whooping cough and prescribed antibiotics - so I continued to pump more chemicals into my body.
I thought that year was a one off, but last year around November I started with another cold which, although it wasn't as bad as the previous year, just seemed to carry on and on. Eventually it did go away, but I was then dreading the New Year because I knew that all things being equal I would get another cold which would again last for ages. I'm not sure where these colds come from - I've always spent a lot of time outdoors and I'm quite healthy - I guess bugs are just attracted to me.
At Christmas, I was talking to my sister. who's into a lot of herbal and natural remedies, and she suggested that I tried Echinacea. She takes this every winter and claims that she has not suffered from a cold since starting to take them, so I thought I would try it because it couldn't be any worse than what I usually take.
SOME INFORMATION ABOUT ECHINACEA:-
Echinacea is a herbaceous plant which is native to eastern and central North America. It's part of the daisy family and was widely used by North American Plans Indians who had seen elk eating these plants when ill. It's documented that a number of tribes used the plant to ease coughs and sore throats, as well as for headaches, and even snake bites. Echinacea became more widely popular in North America and Europe in the 1930s as a herbal remedy when it was reported that a tribe in the South Dakota area used it for cold prevention - this was not true, it appears that it was only ever used to treat the symptoms. However, it was subsequently marketed as a prevention for colds. Since then, there have been a number of scientific studies conducted on Echinacea - some have claimed to prove that it is effective in cold treatment and prevention whereas others have refuted such claims. I think, therefore, it's down to the individual to try it and see if it works or not.
MY EXPERIENCES USING THIS:-
I bought a tub of Echinacea capsules in a local herbalist (they are made by Solgar in Hertfordshire) - I was told at the time that it also comes in a liquid form and as a tea. Research has shown that there are no harmful side effects but you are advised not to take this if you're allergic to the daisy family of plants (the instructions also say that it's not suitable when pregnant or for lactating women). I was told to take one capsule three times a day with meals to start with and increase the dosage over a few days to two to three. My sister said that she usually takes three capsules three times a day for three weeks then cuts it down to one a day, but I would recommend taking the dosage as advised on the instructions. You should only take the capsules for a maximum of 8 weeks and then stop for 2 weeks before taking them again (however, I have seen online where it says you should only take them for 10 days before having a break, so you do need to read the instruction leaflet or take the advice of your herbalist).
I don't have any difficulty in swallowing the capsules - the ones I bought are quite large, but unless you have problems with taking pills and tablets you should be ok with these. What I did notice, though, is that if you let the capsule dissolve in your mouth the taste of the Echinacea is awful and also they make me burp shortly after taking them (I won't expand on this).
AVAILABILITY AND PRICE:-
I've since seen Echinacea in different forms at Holland & Barretts (well I saw the labels but they'd actually sold out) and Boots, and I see you can also buy them online at Amazon and other outlets. Personally, I prefer to support our local independent businesses and I buy 100 capsules for £12.49, but I see that Boots are selling 180 tablets for £13.29 in their mix and match 3 for the price of 2 offer at the moment.
Would I recommend Echinacea? I think the answer has got to be 'yes' only because I've not suffered from any bad colds since starting to take them. I've had a few coughs and snuffles, but nothing like the lengthy colds I had last year. Now, I don't know if this is the result of taking the Echinacea or if it's just co-incidence - I really won't know until this coming winter. However, it does seem encouraging and I've not had to pour chemicals into my body.
Thank you for reading my review and I hope you found it useful
I used to suffer with colds constantly, and it was incredibly draining as they would leave me feeling run down and under the weather for weeks at a time. Even though I know it's irrational, I have a mental block around swallowing medicine in tablet form, so I am often on the look out for alterative treatments to help alleviate my symptoms when I'm ill. Although there is no actual cure for the common cold, echinacea is a wonderful product that can in fact give positive results to help reduce the effects, or prevent against colds.
I remember being forced to drink echinacea mixtures as a child because my mum had read about it somewhere and though it would help out our poor little immune systems. We would mix this nasty looking brown liquid with a glass of cold water and then down it. The stuff tasted absolutely awful and it was one of those things that I begrudged having to do. My brother and I hated it and complained so much that mum eventually gave in and stopped giving us the echinacea. Back then I don't really recall if it gave us any results, we were more pre-occupied with avoiding the stuff rather than focusing on what good it would do.
Moving on to my now grown up state, and I have now re-considered my opinion of echinacea. I have since learned that it is available in a variety of different forms, including the dreaded liquid extract, dispersible tablets, capsule tablets, chewable tablets, and herbal tea. I wanted to give echinacea another chance, but shunned the liquid and tablet forms in favour of trying the herbal tea. I am a tea drinker anyway and like to drink a range of teas including, fruit, herbal and green as well as my usual milk and 2 sugars black tea. I found the echinacea tea bags in Holland and Barrett, and I expect that they are also available in most health food shops and even some supermarkets. They were reasonably priced and I have been using them for the past two winters to held my immune system ward off and recover against my usual colds. The tea is easy to prepare, only requiring hot water, a few minutes brewing time, and a little something to sweeten if required. This is a great improvement upon the taste of the liquid extract and it is actually really enjoyable. I would not have even had a single clue that it was the same ingredients if I was given this without any prior knowledge.
It is recommended to take Echinacea for no longer then 10 days at a time, as the effects will then wear off. I have taken to drinking this at work, and will have one cup of Echinacea tea per day over two weeks, which covers 10 working days. It certainly seems to have had excellent results, as I am no longer getting cold after cold, and I think that it does help my defences even when there are colds going round the office and when everyone else you know seems to have a cold at exactly the same time. I feel like I have been spared from a good number of colds that I might have otherwise caught. The only down side is that although I have had just two colds over the past 2 years, each time they have been absolutely monstrous, lasting for several weeks and giving me heavy symptoms that made me feel very unwell. I know that echinacea is not a complete preventative measure, and I accept that even with my best efforts I'll still be susceptible to catching colds. Overall I am very happy that in general I seem to be coping much better and my immune system seems better protected than before I started using the echinacea.
I would definitely recommend giving echinacea a try as it is a natural treatment that can really help to ward off colds. Anything that reduces the discomfort and inconvenience of a cold is a winner in my book, and I have seen that this seems to work well for me. There are different types of echinacea products available so you can choose one which best suits your tastes and requirement, and for me the organic echinacea tea is my preferred option and I will continue to use it to help me through the winter months. In my opinion this is a worthwhile alternative treatment to prevent against the cold virus, especially as there is no cure!
A few months ago just before Christmas I got a mild cold that wasn't really a problem, but right at the end of the cold - just as I managed to budge it - my voice vanished. Totally gone. Nothing. Not a squeak. A week or so later it came back, and in that time I decided I need to look after myself a bit better.
My girlfriend was taking Echinacea tablets at the time and recommended I did too. Usually skeptical about most things I was especially skeptical about a 'herbal' remedy - I'm usually of the belief its mainly psychological.
As she had a massive box she bought from Boots (we are still going on that one same box) of 72, I though it wouldn't hurt to try - so I started popping them everyday. However, for almost £13 it seemed like a lot to pay for something I'm not sure will work - so I'm happy for someone else to buy, while I try.
I get lots of mild cough and colds and have had flu badly once- I'm usually dipping into illness. Nothing that serious - but as I never take time off work and I have a less than healthy lifestyle I'm never feeling 100%. As a result I have in the past relied on quick remedies - Red Bull if i'm tired rather than sleep, Asprin for tooth ache rather than the dentist and paracetamol when I feel a cold coming on, or even if I'm a bit groggy. I've grown so used to this the thought of taking something each day that might eventually make me feel a bit better was off putting. The only real draw being it was a much healthy option - no sugar or side affects and its all perfectly natural. As I was looking to get healthy generally, I thought talking them wouldn't hurt.
That was until I took 3 at once, and it was only a mild problem - giving me a bit of stomach ache for a couple of hours. When I mentioned this to my girlfriend she pointed out one a day, no more. So I kept taking them - little white pills that are coated and easy to swallow and pretty much taste free. I could sense a little taste once, similar to many herbal tablets - a slight gritty taste that's unpleasant but not that full on.
That was about two months ago and I've been taking them daily - and I've not had a cold since, despite many people around me having one. They haven't made me feel and better generally, and I don't leap out of bed everyday. I still bash my alarm through 5 rounds of snoozes and stumble to the door before racing to work. But when I am there though I'm one of the few not suffered a cold recently.
However, I'm still reluctant to say the work. All the evidence points to them giving my immune system a little lift, but I would say I generally have been healthier - these may have just added to it. However that is a contradiction to medical trials I've read about that have stated scientifically that they work - reducing the number of colds people get.
I mentioned they are natural - these tablets are made from the echinacea plant and the Boots ones I'm using don't contain anything synthetic - they are a herbal remedy.
I'll keep using them, then in a month or so when we run out and if I'm still cold free I'll splash out the £13 for another couple of months worth. If you are planning on buying then this is the way i'd recommend - its cost effective as it something your going to be taking daily and long term it makes sense to buy in relative bulk. A note, if you are taking these regularly then there are some restrictions such as not to use such as breast feeding or if you have certain skin problems, and as with all herbal remedies some people, albeit very few have allergic reactions - so always check to see if they are safe for you first
I was first introduced to Echinacea by my grandmother some years ago, and I have to say I've sworn by it ever since. I take it during the winter months when people around me are complaining of colds etc. to boost my immune system and help prevent me from catching colds, coughs, flu etc. and I do find it works very well at either preventing me from getting the viruses, or at least at limiting how badly they affect me if I do get them. - Advice that I've read says that you shouldn't take it for more than 8 weeks at a time.
Echinacea is extracted from the Echinacea Purpurea flower, and can be found in drops, tablets, or powders - I personally prefer to go with a tablet as the powders and drops can taste rather nasty, and this way I don't taste it at all.
The tablets that I take are high strength and designed to be taken 1 per day, but some versions/brands are lower strength and suggest you take them 2, 3, or even 4 times per day. The ones I have are a 500mg dose. Generally, if people around me are getting colds, I start taking these and continue to do so until a few days after everyone else seems to be recovered, or until I myself am recovered if I do get the cold. They don't prevent me getting EVERY cold going, but they do appear to prevent me getting quite a number of them, and as I say, those which I do catch tend to be less extreme than other people around me who don't take Echinacea get.
Prices for Echinacea vary as much as the product itself does, mine came from an online pharmacy and cost me £8 for 200 tablets which I think is quite a good price as I've seen similar strengths sold in stores on the high street at around £5 for 50.
I do find it very frustrating that the medical profession here in the UK pooh-poohs anything that is herbal because it's herbal and for no other reason - after all most medicines we get from them have their backgrounds in the herbal remedies of the past, so why shouldn't we turn to nature instead of synthetic products if we can. I'd rather take a herbal remedy and see if that helps me, than turn to synthetically produced drugs every time I sniff - especially as most colds etc. are caused by viruses which the drugs won't help anyway. Having said all this, it's still worth consulting your doctor/pharmasist before you begin taking anything like this because some herbal remedies shouldn't be used if you have certain health conditions, or if you're taking certain drugs.
So, if you're looking to try Echinacea I'd say first check with your GP or pharmacist that you're safe to take it, then choose one which is high strength and which will suit you in terms of the method you take it, and then start taking it the moment people around you start sniffling. Hope it works for you as well as it does for me!
Echinacea is a must for us herbal junkies! I tend to have quite a weak immune system and end up really run down through the winter months. I have to take various measures to keep healthy and myself boosted to avoid being miserable and incapable of much through the cold bleak season. Can you tell I am not a fan of the winter?!
One of the things several people recommended to me was to try echinacea. Since I have tried it and become a regular user I have heard and know of so many other people who take it. It's almost like there is a little underground addiction going on!
Echinacea can be bought from many different high street shops, supermarkets and online retailers. One of the things I would look out for when chosing where to purchase is not how many tablets you get in a pack, but what strength they are. That is how you get the real value for money.
The tablets I have found most often come in capsules which are quite easy to swallow. The insides looks like light brown herbs. The tablets seem easy to digest and never leave me with an upset tummy or anything similar. I have never read any bad side effects of it, and have never been told to stop taking it for a while by the doctor etc, like you can hear of with things like St Johns Wort and people being told to stop taking it before operations.
When I am ill I take three tablets per day. In the winter when I feel like my immune system is compromised I take 1-2 per day. When I feel well, I like to have a break, as one day I read somewhere that echinacea works better for you when you do not take it constantly.
Admittedly I do take echinacea as a cocktail of various herbal remedies and vitamins, but I really do feel better when I take it. I feel like I am less likely to get infections, and when I do they are cleared up much quicker.
There have been times when I have felt like I was about to come down with something, but I start taking echinacea, or up my dose, and end up never coming down with it.
Anyone that wants a healthier life style or a boosted immune system- I would recommend this to.
I am an avid consumer of herbal teas, and have been for around five years now. It began when I became aware of how caffeine may be having a detrimental effect on my sleeping pattern, and how I began looking for an alternative to caffeinated tea. One of the first herbals teas I experimented with was chamomile, and it is an acquired taste to say the least. I have heard many people liken the taste and smell of these kind of alternative drinks as being akin to the liquid old socks are stewed in, and although I enjoy them on a daily basis, I can understand why they would say this. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free and easy to prepare, and have shown in some studies to have beneficial effects on your health.
Echinacea is also known as coneflower, and in reflection of this it has a large central bud with charming purple flowers surrounding it. It most often grows in meadows and lowlands where the soil is moist. It is said to aid:
- Respiratory system
- Immune system
- Contain anti-tumour properties
Echinacea is available in many forms, including tea bags, capsules and herbal liquid. I have only ever used Echinacea in tea-bag form, so cannot comment on the other manifestations of the product. The tea is usually available in supermarkets from the liked of Twinings, who combine the Echinacea with other flavours, such as raspberry. Iloathe raspberry infusions of any kind, as I find it very sour and unpalatable without the addition of a lot of sweetner. Thus, I usually buy Dr Stuart's Echinacea Plus tea bags, which are available in larger supermarkets, but more readily available in health food stores. The tea is very easy to prepare: you simply place a tea bag into a clean cup, add hot water and leave to brew for 2 - 3 minutes. Given the 'stewed sock' smell of this tea and its unique flavour, some may find it helpful to add some kind of sweetner, such as honey. It is best not to add milk. I most often take the tea on its own, without the addition of other ingredients.
I would not say I find the tea delicious, but its slightly earthy taste is very refreshing and great for cleansing the palate. Being naturally caffeine free, it is great in the evening and before bed, too. I have a lot of boxes of herbal teas, so chop and change my preferences daily. I would say I drink 3 - 4 cups of the tea weekly, and I doubt this is sufficient to have any real impact on my body in terms of the benefits outlined above. I continue to use the tea because I believe it is healthier than caffeinated tea. Dr Stuart's Echinacea Plus tea bags are available in boxes of twenty tea bags, and I purchase mine from my local independent health food shop for £2.10 a box.
As a flower, echinacea is commonly know as purple coneflowers. However, this little bit of info may have no importance for many of you, who only know it as the herbal remedy and system boost it's often used for. My parents constantly have a supply of it in their medicine cupboard, and always have, as far back as I can remember. As a child, whenever I was ill, they would give me a glass of water with a few drops of it in liquid form, put into it. You can also get it in tablet form, and ultimately, it's designed to prevent colds and boost your immune system. So, does it work, and how can you get hold of it?
I have hayfever, so at this time of year, I find it hard to discern between having a cold and having a bout of hayfever. What this means is that, by the time I turn to having a few drops of echinacea, it might be a bit too late for it to have the preventative effects it's famed for. My folks are constantly berating me for taking it too late.
However, when I'm on it, and feel something coming, I have a couple of glasses of water with a dozen or so drops of this in it a day, and this ultimately seems to do the trick. I'm unsure whether this is a psychological thing, or whether it's a combination of being aware of something like a cold coming and being careful and not overdoing it, or whether the echinacea actually does the bulk of the hard work.
Studies suggest that there is no clearly defined level of medicinal assistance that echinacea supplies, but that there are healing and preventative measures that it helps with. I shall continue to use it, and try to do so before it's too late. It may reduce the length I have a cold for, it may not. The thing is, every time you catch a cold, it's different to the last, as your body develops an immunity against it when you have it. Echinacea can combat the signs and help your body get rid of a cold by boosting your defences, but isn't an instant cure such as the Lemsip products, to name but one.
It's available in tablet or liquid form. I have never used the tablets, although I'm led to believe they're rather powdery. The liquid form comes in bottles, of various prices depending on the brand and size of bottle and application. Throat sprays are also available, although I prefer the drops in the bottles. Generally, expect to pay between £3 and £10, depending on how much or what form you buy it in. Either way, it should last you a long time if you use it correctly, and ultimately, I would say it's worth getting. I can't rave about how good it is, as I'm never sure exactly how much help it gives me, but I do know that I feel somewhat better when I use it. Recommended, but not exactly the best cure or preventative measure.
I was introduced to this weird and not so wonderful product a few years ago by my Granny. It is a very Granny-ish thing to take. The herb is supposed to boost your immune system and fight off nasty bacteria. It is not too far removed from St John's Wort. So why am I going to be scathing about it...here is why.
The herb can be taken in dry or liquid form. Mine was in dry form, small dusty tablets. I used to have a tub of this stuff and I took about three little tablets a day to fight off colds and flu. My Granny swore by this product! The tablets had a weird and not altogether foul taste. Kind of like eating chalk crossed with dust and flour. You can let them dissolve on the tongue or you can swallow whole, but it is best to let it dissolve so it absorbs into the digestive tract properly.
The results then of taking a tub of them. That is about 80 odd tablets if I recall. Well, really no difference whatsoever. I still got colds, I still had sniffles and headaches in the winter months. I can honestly say they made no difference to my overall health. I do not doubt for some people that they can aid a quick recovery, but for me it was a non starter. Whether or not it's all psychologic I am not too sure.
A tub of tablets will cost anything from three to ten pounds depending on who you buy from. Most health food shops sell this stuff now in ready supply. On a similar note, when I had a verruca, I was told by my chiropodist to take this stuff. I did. Did it help shift them in a period of a year? No.
I don't want to totally put people off, as I reckon the right biological body could benefit from this herb. However, there are other herbs and remedies that are a lot more effective for treating colds and illness. A simple dash of ginger, lemon or vinegar for instance works better for me. My advice, think carefully before parting with money because you can achieve better health from better and cheaper products.
Even the most cynical sceptics of herbal and alternative remedies should give Echinacea a try. My mum buys it religiously, and so I have been using it to stave off colds for years.
About ten drops, two or three times a day is reccomended. You can take them in water, but this does not disguise the unpleasant taste of the drops. I find putting them in fruit juice is the best option, as this totally hides the taste. You can actually drop them directly onto the tongue, but this stings, so only for the brave.
Echinacea has saved me from many a cold. Just start taking them as soon as you feel a cold coming on, and 8 times out of 10, it will go away again. It's even worth taking them when a cold has already started, as it'll help the cold leave your system quicker. A really helpful product, especially in winter.
I have battling through the stress of Christmas, survived the arctic weather and finally when I think I am back on track, bang, I'm almost knocked insentient by the common cold, this rotten aliment that claims over 1 million working days every year in the UK. I know I am not the only one who has hauled themselves through the festivities and have come through slightly worse for wear. I watch my fellow shoppers trudging around the supermarket coughing and spluttering into tissues as I dodge yet another sneeze projecting towards me at 100mph.
If you too have been struck down with a common cold or are just feeling run down in general, don't despair. Contrary to popular belief there is help for most of us and it comes in the form of Echinacea which is a popular herbaceous perennial plant found in America. The root is used to produce Echinacea extract, capsules and tincture; it is also available as a tea and juice which are made from the above ground parts of the plant.
Echinacea is said to boost the immune system and fight upper respiratory tract and urinary tract infection. Septicemia, syphilis and other blood impurities are also thought to benefit from taking Echinacea.
Most people take Echinacea internally and are unaware that it is also fantastic for treating skin infections as it is an antiseptic. It can treat burns, boils, abscesses, eczema, skin ulcers and other skin wounds. I always dab a drop on my cold sores and they clear up quicker than when I use lip sore creams.
Many years ago my mum introduced me to Echinacea for my sore throat. I took regular doses of the tincture unaware that I had glandular fever. It was amazing and helped me recover very quickly, when I felt exhausted I just dosed up and felt the benefits almost immediately.
I have a friend who was advised by her local herbalist to take Echinacea for her Psoriasis, there was a noticeable difference within a week, it has almost cleared up completely after 3 months of treatment. Her husband also commends the aphrodisiacal properties in Echinacea which positively affect her libido.
Echinacea is thought to stimulate the body's immune system which activates the white blood cells and so fights infection. It is also believed that Echinacea has antifungal and antiviral properties.
The negative side of taking this herbal remedy is the taste. It is bitter, vile and will make you shudder. The capsules are tastless but take longer to get into the system. You can take the extract mixed in with a drink but you should be aware that some makes can't be used in hot drinks. I have 3 teenagers who all are prepared to brave the horrors of swallowing this disgusting extract, they know it works and makes them feel better so quickly that they are prepared to put up with the taste.
It is advised that you take Echinacea over a period of about 2 to 3 weeks then stop for a while. Continual use of this remedy reduces the impact that it has on your immune system. The doses vary from make to make so you will have to follow the maker's instructions. You should store most tinctures and extracts in the fridge after opening.
If you suffer from multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, leukemia, AIDS, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis then you mustn't take Echinacea. If you are pregnant you should also consult with your doctor.
Echinacea extract costs around £8-10 for a 50ml bottle. My brand advises you to take 1ml 3-6 times daily so my bottle would last you for 8 days if I took the full dose. You might think this is expensive but I usually stop taking it after a couple of days for a cold as I have fully recovered by then. The capsules are cheaper but I would recommend the extract for faster results. I know some people say that this doesn't work for them but if you are among the 65% of people who it is effective on, I would say try it.
To be honest, I really don't know what state my health would be in if echinacea did not exist. This might sound extreme but if you saw me 10 years ago, you'd be shocked at how poor my health was.
In October 1999, I contracted the flu. All the symptons disappeared in around 3 days except for the cough. I literally had this cough daily for the next 3 years. I was put on an inhaler, as my doctor thought this might get rid of my cough, instead I had an asthma attack. My inhaler was changed but I still coughed. I had a chest x-ray, a lung function test, everything looked normal, but I caught every cold and chest infection I came in contact with.
I decided to become pro-active, to try and improve my own health in a natural manner. I tried acupuncture, chinese herbal medicine and breathing techniques. I finally came across echinacea when visiting a Jan De Vries health shop and was advised to try Echinaforce - Echinacea drops. These drops are of high quality, using freshly picked Echinacea purpurea.
I started by taking 15 drops, 3 times a day in a small amount of water, but now only use it twice a day. After 6 months I noticed that I was no longer catching colds and that regular visits to the doctors had ceased. Unlike many people, I do take my drops every day through the winter, but don't use them at all in the milder months. I find this works for me.
On the odd occasion when I do catch a cold it is very minor and I have never had the flu since I started taking echinacea. I have also went from taking my inhaler twice a day to one puff every two days.
To me echinacea is a miracle medicine and I would never be without it. Even if you do not suffer from any chronic illnesses, I would advice you to have it in your cupboard for when you feel a cold coming on. It really will cut down on the symptoms and you will feel better again much more quickly.
A friend gave me Enchinace because I have a mild case of lack-tose and tollerant and thought it might help! And it did, it gives me energy and now I can eat dairy products without worring about getting sick! Completely recommend.
As a doctor, it is almost within my nature to assume that anything that involves the word 'herbal' is to be ignored. It is a fact that in the medical profession, the majority of us just don't like herbal remedies. They don't have evidence behind them, and we cannot prescribe them, so they cannot work. Yet Echinacea is one of the few things that I always keep stocked in my otherwise relatively empty bathroom cupboard - next to the paracetamol, Ibuprofin, and rennie. So why? Let me first tell you the basics, then tell you about the medical evidence for it, and then say why I take it!
Please note that the information below is mainly taken from research papers - regardless, as with all herbal remedies, it is taken at your own risk as it has not been through thorough safety testing.
What is it supposed to help with?
Mainly for prevention & treatment of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections - ie Colds & Flu, but there are also many claims for different uses of it such as wound infections.
What is it?
Its basically an extract from a flower native to North America. The echinacea you buy in the shops come from one or a combination of 3 species: Echinacea Angustifolia, Echinacea Pallida, and Echinacea Purpurea. It is only the Purpurea variety that that have any remotely convincing medical evidence.
What is it supposed to do?
It is supposed to "boost" your immune system. There is some evidence to suggest it increases the amount of TNF-alpha & interleukins (infection fighting bits of the immune system produced by cells called macrophages).
What forms does it come in?
Tablets - this is the only form I've tried
Root extract (add the drops to water and drink)
Any side effects?
There are reports of GI disturbance, headaches, rashes. These are all rare (about 1% at most).
Don't take for more than 8 weeks due to theoretical effects it could have on immune system. I usually just take it when I think I'm likely to get a cold, or feel like I'm starting to get one and then stop once I'm over it.
Check side of packet for each preparation - some say once a day, some 4 times a day.
Contraindications? Ie if you have these you probably shouldn't take it:
Systemic progressive illnesses such as HIV, collagen disease, MS, TB, and autoimmune diseases.
How much does it cost?
Many different prices but expect to pay about £6 for 60 tablets. Check doses of actual echinacea in the tablet though - my current ones are 500mg, some ones you can buy are only 60mg so you'd need to take about 8 tablets to get the same amount down your throat.
How is it made?
This is part of the problem - it is made in different ways (dried, pressed, extracted with alcohol), from different parts of the plant (herb, root, combination of both), from the 3 different species I mentioned earlier. Thus depending which one you buy, you might get different results. None of this helps medical researchers look into it properly.
Why do you keep mentioning "evidence" and how much of it is there?
The world of medicine is supposed to follow "Evidence Based Practice" - in essence, meaning that we should treat people only with things that have been proven to work in a proper medical study. If the wealth of "evidence" suggests we should use a certain drug, then we should use it unless we know of a good reason why it wouldn't be right, or if its too expensive - that's when we get on the front page of the news of the world.
There have been quite a few studies on it Echinacea though - enough for a Cochrane review (basically considered the don of medical research, a Cochrane review reviews all the different studies that have been performed on something, chucks out the ones that don't have good methodology behind them, and then puts whats left together to see if something works or not). It looked at 16 clinical trials - the conclusion? There is some evidence that if taken once symptoms start, it decreases the duration & severity of upper respiratory tract infections (ie colds). There was no "significant" evidence that taking Echinacea daily as a preventative treatment actually worked,, although its always worth remembering that "Significant" is an important word in medical studies. It doesn't mean there wasn't any difference between the group of people on placebo and the group on Echinacea, it just means that the difference wasn't great enough to rule out the idea of chance just causing it. The Echinacea groups did quite well compared to placebo groups, but the difference wasn't quite enough. But the evidence is not consistent and some studies don't find any difference- but then they didn't all use the same form of Echinacea so it all becomes a little difficult to compare.
To summarise all that evidence bit then:
There probably is some evidence it works at preventing colds, but its not impressive enough for the Cochrane people to endorse Echinacea. It is rare for herbal remedies to have any evidence whatsoever though, so thats not bad really.
Why do I use it?
Simple - the darn stuff works for me. Regardless of what I've just written about evidence, if I start taking this the day I think a colds coming on, it really does hit it on the head. I've taken it a few times when my girlfriend has a cold as I know I'm bound to catch it - sure enough, I do catch it but when she's had a week off work, I've had a snuffly nose for 3 days and then been fine. I do usually still get a cold once I've taken it, but it seems to go away a lot sooner and not be as bad when I've got it. I also take vitamin C as well as Echinacea when I think I'm getting a cold - I'm not sure the vitamin C helps as much, but I just quite like the effervescent tablets it comes in.
In my eyes, this is a hidden secret - I am forever telling my patients with a viral infection to give it a go. Word of caution though - its not recommended for children.
Having always suffered from terrible colds, that last weeks and complete depress me, I was given a tub of echinacea by a friend. I always take vitamin c drinks, but though they have some help they never taken a cold away, just made it more bearable, so i wasnt expecting much.
The echinacea themselves are a tiny little tablet, and it is suggested to take one a day. Anyway, one day im feeling abit low and i can feel my throat sore, and i think what the hell lets try it out, by the next day I was fine, and whenever i have had the feelings of a cold, if i take one of these tablets everyday until i feel normal, the cold never develops, it is quite amazing actually.
If you suffer from colds, my advice would be to get some of this tablets. They are very cheap, i can buy mine from holland and barrett for about £4 for 30. They have really helped me, and though i dont take these everyday as i know some do, they work a treat when my immune system is down.
So these are big thumbs up. well worth it.
If you have M.E. or simlpy suffer from exhaustion then I strongly recommend that you take an Echinacea supplement. If you are constantly tired, then your immune system is not going to be functioning properly, and you will be much more prone to colds and infections. Before taking Echinacea, because of my M.E I would frequently be stuck in bed with a cold - any illness that was going around school I would seem to pick up and take twice as long as everyone else to recover. However, after taking Echinacea for three weeks at a time (a one week break inbetween to prevent the body becoming immune to the effects of Echinacea) I began to notice that I got ill less. Eventually, I reached the point where it was rare for me to be ill with anything other than M.E, and its been that way for a year! It makes life so much more manageable. Echinacea also has the added advantage of improving Acne - though in my case not clearing it, just a mild improvement. So if you find yourself tired and constantly sick, please give Echinacea a try. You can buy Echinacea in many forms, but I have tried capsules, tea made from bought teabags (though these only have 5% Echinacea in them, so i would not advise you to use these if taking Echinacea for medical purposes) and the pure root decocted to make a tea. I mainly use the capsules simply because they are quick to take! I bought the capsules (400 capsules, 400mg Echinacea in each) for £9.99 from Holland & Barrett - they were on sale though, so I'm not sure of their usual price. The teabags were also bought from Holland&Barrett, costing around £1.50 for 20 bags. If you wish to buy the pure root, try contacting a local stockist of herbs - or you can order from the internet. The local shop I bought my Echinacea Root from (Sacred Earth, Ipswich - they also allow you to order goods from the internet:- www.sacredearth.org.uk) sells it for £2.90 for 25 grams. An end note: If you suffer from M.E.
then i strongly recommend that you take an additional supplement of Ginseng to give you extra energy!
A herb widely revered and used for its immune-stimulating, anti-bacterial, and antiviral activity