Echinacea • Effects & areas of application of the medicinal plant

Echinacea (coneflower) is a well-known medicinal plant, there are various preparations such as teas, capsules and juice to buy in pharmacies and drugstores. How does Echinacea work and what is it used for?

The purple coneflower adorns many domestic gardens with its bright petals, but Echinacea purpurea and two of its close relatives can also be used as a medicinal plant. The natural remedy helps against colds and urinary tract infections, for example.

At a glance:

Cold?  Medicinal plants soothe a sore throat, runny nose and cough

Echinacea: origin of the medicinal plant

The medicinal plant has its origin in North America, botanically the sun hats belong to the daisy family. Echinacea was already used as a medicinal plant by the Native Americans, today three types of Echinacea are mainly used:

  • Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Narrow-leaved coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)
  • Prairie hedgehog head (Echinacea pallida)

Areas of application of echinacea

Various parts of the plant are used as natural remedies, such as the roots and flowers, which are processed into juices, drops, tablets and teas. Echinacea preparations do not usually require a prescription, they are available in pharmacies and sometimes in drugstores. The intake and dosage should always be carried out according to the package insert and, in the best case, be clarified by a doctor.

Common areas of application are:

Effects and ingredients of Echinacea

The exact mechanism of action of the coneflower has not yet been conclusively clarified, but the plant contains a variety of ingredients that are beneficial to health, including:

  • flavonoids
  • Caffeic acid derivatives (such as cichoric acid and caftaric acid)
  • Essential oils
  • Alkamide

In addition, vitamin C is mainly contained in the herbaceous plant components.

Research suggests that Echinacea strengthens the body’s defenses, prevents infections and has anti-inflammatory effects. This is due in particular to the contained alkamides, which have an immunomodulatory effect: They can both activate and inhibit the immune system.

Research has also shown that echinacea renders viruses harmless, including flu and herpes viruses, and has an antibacterial effect.

Echinacea: possible side effects of the medicinal plant

As a rule, Echinacea preparations are well tolerated and have hardly any side effects. However, digestive problems such as nausea and diarrhea are possible. In addition, allergic reactions can occur. In particular, people who are allergic to other blood plants such as arnica, marigold (calendula) or chamomile should be careful with the application or, ideally, refrain from using another ingredient.

Contraindications: When should Echinacea not be used?

The use of echinacea in infants has so far been little researched, which is why its administration is not advisable. Depending on the preparation, children can be treated with echinacea, but consultation with a doctor is advisable.

In addition, the use of echinacea preparations is not recommended for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, as the stimulation of the immune system can lead to a worsening of the underlying disease.

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Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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