What is Echinacea?
Echinacea is a plant whose roots and leaves have been traditionally used for medicinal purposes. Echinacea plants are also called “purple coneflower,” and three species of plants in the Echinacea classification are used as herbal supplements. Echinacea plants can be found in eastern and central North America as well as Europe.
Echinacea has been identified as having anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties and as an immune-strengthening agent. This makes it a very popular herbal supplement that’s available in many commercial products. One of the common ways to use Echinacea is to drink it in tea.
The amount of Echinacea tea you need to drink to reap its benefits varies depending on the tea itself and how strongly you brew it. Echinacea can also be found in liquid tincture, tablets, ointments, capsules, and extracts. It’s important to only buy Echinacea from a reputable and established company and to verify its quality.
Forms and dosages
Echinacea is available in tablets, tinctures, ointments, capsules, extracts, and, of course, tea. Four grams (two teaspoons) of dried Echinacea root boiled in eight ounces of water is considered a “serving” of Echinacea tea by the Mayo Clinic. Two to three servings per day are recommended to keep the immune system healthy; up to five servings are acceptable when you’re already sick.
If you’re taking Echinacea to help with blood sugar, blood pressure, or anxiety, a cup or two of tea per day should be enough to see results. You may also want to experiment with dried Echinacea root in its tablet form, which enables more control over how much Echinacea you actually ingest.
Some people that take Echinacea do experience side effects. The most common side effects are nausea and mild stomach pains. There are people that are allergic to Echinacea. The benefits of drinking Echinacea tea don’t outweigh the risks of an allergic reaction for people with known allergies to the Echinacea plant. People with autoimmune diseases are discouraged from using Echinacea, because Echinacea has such a strong effect on immune reactions.
It’s generally considered safe for children over the age of 2 to take Echinacea supplements and drink Echinacea teas, and studies have even been conducted on the efficacy of Echinacea in strengthening children’s immune systems. It’s also thought to be safe for pregnant women. If you’re nursing or pregnant, you should always consult with your medical professional before you start experimenting with supplements like Echinacea.
Making Echinacea tea is fairly simple. Dried Echinacea root can be purchased in tablet form at almost any drugstore or ordered online. You may even opt to grow your own Echinacea and harvest and dry the leaves for your tea. Once you have the dried Echinacea leaf on hand:
- Measure out two teaspoons into an empty tea satchel or your favorite tea diffuser.
- Steep in eight ounces of boiling water for 2–3 minutes before removing the Echinacea and letting the water cool.
- Add local honey for a super-immune boost and enjoy.