As the weather becomes more unsettled it is wise to turn our thoughts to supporting the immune system. My last blog noted the potential benefits of Turmeric and Ginger. Another herb that is well recognised for its immune supporting properties is Echinacea. Prior to 1950 and the introduction of antibiotics, this herb was used medically more widely. Echinacea is a native North American plant that was used as a traditional herbal remedy for more than 400 years.
The University of Connecticut performed a meta-analysis study evaluating 14 studies and determined that:
Craig Coleman, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice was the lead author of the study. He commented “The take home message from our study is that echinacea does indeed have powerful cold prevention and cold treatment benefits.”
The benefits of echinacea may be increased if taken as a supplement at the first sign of a cold. Warning signs might be a headache, sore throat or increased fatigue. Along with this, the diet should be as immune-supporting as possible. Including plenty of antioxidant-rich, strong-coloured veg, and avoiding all sugars and refined carbohydrates is a good start. Adding in additional immune supporting supplements may also contribute to warding off an impending cold. Vitamin D, zinc and vitamin C are key nutrients to consider. (Do book a consultation with me if you would like to know suitable therapeutic levels of supplementation). Failing a full avoiding of the infection, echinacea might either cut short or reduce the severity of symptoms.
In the fight to prevent infection it may be helpful to take echinacea as a tea on a daily basis. Drinking Echinacea tea proactively may be particularly beneficial when under stress . Likewise if you are working/living with those going down with colds, keep up this tea. Echinacea tea is light and very slightly fragrant, making it an easy drink for any time of the day. If you like an added kick, sprinkle with dried ginger before serving. 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.
As with all herbs, it is possible that side-effects may be experienced. Although not usual, the most common would be nausea or stomach ache. It is not recommended for those with autoimmune diseases, because Echinacea has such a strong effect on immune reactions.