I was first introduced to echinacea in a waiting room of a doctors office while I was studying abroad in Denmark. It was in the form of a deliciously sweet, aromatic blend of licorice – a Danish staple – and echinacea root. Considering the fact that I despise black licorice in all forms, I felt a bit of self betrayal at enjoying such a beverage. “It must be the echinacea” I thought, and when I returned home to the States, I sought out every echinacea flavored tea I could get my hands on. However, after ordering organic echinacea root from my favorite sustainable tea brand, I discovered that echinacea in its purest form had a much more bland, earthy flavor profile than I had expected. So what was this echinacea anyways? I assumed that it must be good for me if it had a natural flavor reminiscent of dirt, to be frank, so I looked into it further.
The National Institute of Health, associated with the US government, has a whole pillar page on echinacea, its origins, the studies that have been conducted regarding its effects on human health, and its safety, among other things. From this I learned that echinacea is a beautiful flowering plant that is native to North America, and was historically used by Native Americans in traditional forms of medicines. The website actually concludes that “taking echinacea might slightly reduce your chances of catching a cold.” I mention this because, after writing these posts on health and wellness topics for almost three years now, I have learned that most websites, especially those affiliated with the government or health organizations, do not make statements like this lightly. In fact, they hardly ever make statements like this at all, and typically stay away from acknowledging inconclusive research. This was followed by the emphasis that research is inconclusive on other health fronts, suggesting that echinacea might only help slightly in protecting the immune system from common colds. The NIH also notes that some people can have mild to severe allergic reactions to echinacea in the form of supplements, and encourages users to proceed with caution, and discourages users from using echinacea long term due to inconsistent research on the effects of such habits.
While echinacea might reduce chances of getting the common cold, and potentially minimize symptoms, many health and wellness companies cite other benefits as well. However, these should be taken with a grain of salt, considering the lack of substantial peer reviewed research surrounding these topics. The echinacea plant is laden with antioxidants, which are inherently good for your health. Other possible health benefits include reducing inflammation, treatment of topical ailments, and possible reduction of anxiety.
If you happen to make your own tea blends, I suggest adding some echinacea in with chamomile, lavender, or other herbal teas for a relaxing, soothing evening experience. I personally prefer not to drink echinacea tea on its own, but considering it’s fairly non existent flavor, it is always a good option for me to help soothe my nerves before bed.
Is tea not your thing? Well, luckily for you, health and wellness companies distribute echinacea in a multitude of different supplemental forms, including tablets, chewables, pills, ointments, teas and more. As always, do your research before taking any supplements!