Echinacea is often at the head of the pack when it comes to herbal supplements. So, what is echincaea? The herb comes from the purple coneflower—a plant, endemic to North America, that was used by Great Plains Indian tribes for over 400 years. Highly esteemed for its health-supportive value, echinacea fell out of favor in the 1950s when antibiotics hit the health scene. It was resurrected in the “herbal renaissance” of the late 20th century—and proceeded to blossom into a $28 million industry.
Much of its appeal is due to the fact that it’s rich in a number of health-enhancing compounds, including vitamin C, polysaccharides, flavonoids, essential oils and the prebiotic fiber inulin, all of which can nurture overall wellness.
Intrigued? As you should be. Here are five ways the herb may enrich your health, and five ways to take it.
5 Notable Echinacea Benefits
1. Supports digestion
Few matters slow down a life like digestive issues—particularly (and quite literally) constipation. Echinacea has long been prized for its potential ability to naturally support digestion, specifically in terms of a blocked-up GI system. How? It may help relax the gastrointestinal tract and helps things move along.†
Take it: …in an organic alcohol extract (no, not of the whiskey kind). Nature's Answer's Echinacea extract uses water, a low amount of alcohol, and coconut glycerin to yield a “holistically balanced” standardized extract (to note: “holistically balanced” ensures that the constituents of the extract are in the same synergistic ratios as in the plant).
2. May help support healthy white blood cell production
As the University of Rochester Medical Center frames it, “Think of white blood cells as your immunity cells.” While they account for only approximately one percent of your blood, their affect is immense, helping you fight off bacteria, viruses and other foreign trespassers. According to research, Echinacea may help support the production of these cells, in part through its phenolic compounds—plant-derived composites with known therapeutic benefits.†
Take it in...capsule form. Vitacost Echinacea is efficient and easy to take, and supplies 1,200 mg of echinacea per serving. It’s also free of common allergens, such as milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, crustacean shellfish, soy and gluten.
3. Helps maintain normal respiratory function
A properly-functioning respiratory system is central to overall wellness. Echinacea—a member of the daisy family—naturally promotes this part of the system, according to research.†
Take it in...a syrup. Echinamide's Active Defense Honey Lemon Syrup is a 100% natural syrup that’s made with Echinacea’s three key active compounds—alkylamides, polysaccharides and cichoric acid—which have been shown to stimulate the immune system.† With the addition of Wild cherry bark, peppermint and eucalyptus oil, it also provides a soothing effect on bronchial passages.
4. Fosters seasonal wellness
Come winter, echinacea practically flies off the shelves, due to its reputation for organically facilitating seasonal wellness. This is thanks to its high content of free radical-fighting compounds.
Take it in…an herbal tea, which will warm your body and soothe your soul. Traditional Medicinals' Organic Echinacea Plus promotes immune function and, with West Indian lemongrass leaf and spearmint woven in, packs a refreshing, minty punch.
5. Eases sore throats
There’s a reason Echinacea lozenges have surged in popularity: the herb may help address symptoms of a sore throat. Indeed, those aforementioned Native Americans used the herb to alleviate pain from an itchy throat.
Take it in…exactly that: a lozenge. ZAND Echinacea Zinc Herbalozenge blends echinacea with several soothing herbs, including hibiscus flower, orange peel, lemon peel, rosehips and lemongrass. The cherry-flavored lozenge — which is sweetened only with brown rice syrup — also contains zinc, a nutrient found throughout the body that plays a role in everything from metabolism to immunity. In other words, this product does double — even triple — duty.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.