Echinacea is an immune-boosting plant. It contains a number of substances, including polyphenols and alkamides, which can have a positive effect on your immunity. Different active ingredients are found in different species of echinacea and in different parts of the plant. Many Echinacea supplements contain only one species, with 80% of products relying solely on Echinacea purple.
To maximize Echinacea's full immune-boosting potential, look for supplements containing extracts from different parts of the plant as well as more than one plant species - e.g. Life Extension Echinacea Elite
This herb has traditionally been used as a natural remedy for the prevention and treatment of colds. Many people also use it during the cold winter months when they are more prone to respiratory infections.
What is Echinacea?
The flower of the Echinacea plant, which was used in folk medicine. Echinacea is a plant native to Central and Eastern North America. As a folk medicine, it was used by Native Americans to relieve cold symptoms and treat coughs, sore throats and headaches.
Today, Echinacea extracts are used to boost immune function and treat flu, colds, and other upper respiratory infections. It is also anti-inflammatory.
The effects of echinacea are derived from its bioactive compounds, including phenolics, polysaccharides, alkamides, caffeic acid derivatives and others. These active ingredients are found in different parts of the plant (roots, flowers, leaves and others) and in different species of Echinacea.
How does Echinacea work?
The compounds in Echinacea work in various ways to boost immune function and provide other benefits.
Phenolic compounds provide antiviral, antitumor and antioxidant activity.
Polysaccharides have immunomodulating and anti-inflammatory effects. They stimulate macrophages (immune cells that destroy harmful microorganisms), which in turn secrete signaling proteins that strengthen natural killer (NK) cells to kill viruses.
Alkamides provide immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and antifungal effects and protect NK cells from compounds that can inhibit their activity.
Cold Prevention: Many people use echinacea as a preventative measure during periods when there is an increased likelihood of exposure to infections such as colds and flu.
Treatment of colds: If a cold already occurs, echinacea can help shorten the duration and ease the symptoms.
Immune System Support: Some people use Echinacea regularly as part of their overall health regimen to boost their immune system.