Echinacea – the original snake oil

As we are in the middle of cold/flu season (and there is a ridiculous virus circulating out there right now), I thought I would discuss everyone’s favourite immune boosting herb – Echinacea.


Echinacea comes in two popular forms (augustifolia and purpura), where most mixes of teas and powder capsules out there encompass both forms (although purpura is more indicated for immune enhancing and augustifolia is used more for drop dosing/energetics).  Biochemically it contains an “echinacoside” which is a triglycoside of a caffeine acid derivative, as well as polysaccharides and essential oils.  And since it is biochemically similar to caffeine, it can act similarly to caffeine (ie. high dosing echinacea will make you “wired”) and increases the effects of caffeine when taken together.  Considering sleep is necessary for replenishing your immune system, avoid taking echinacea and caffeine (ie. coffee, tea, soft drinks) together.

Echinacea is antibacterial/viral (immune stimulating),  a vulnery, an alterative, a lymphatic (moves lymph, aiding immunity) and a septic (helps cleanse and move blood).  It is effective against upper respiratory diseases, urinary tract infections,  skin diseases (aids in helping wounds heal) and other infections.  Historically echinacea was used for snake bites (because of its positive effects on blood, lymph, and wound healing) and was sold as the original “snake oil” (“snake oil” is now a phrase referring to a placebo product sold to gulable buyers…. which is not echinacea as it works!).  There is also speculation that echinacea is useful for chronic fatigue and fibryomyalgia (plausibly because these conditions typically result from a previous viral infection, or the fact that echinacea is very stimulating and has “caffeine-like” effect), yet more research is needed on the subject.

For more information on whether echinacea is right for you (in order to protect yourself against this mutant cold/flu strain flying about) consult with your neighbourhood friendly naturopath!  If you plan to take echinacea as an immune enhancer, please keep in mind that it should only be taken for 6-8 weeks (at most) as it loses its effect and decrease the natural robustness of your immune system.  Also, echinacea is part of the asteracea family, so people with rag weed and pollen allergies should be cautious taking echinacea as they may have a sensitivity reaction.

Stay healthy everyone!

Energetics Note: So for you electics out there – here is a fun thing about echinacea.  One of the energetic side effects of echinacea is energetic/intuitive enhancement (in addition to immune enhancement).  It makes sense considering that echinacea is a purple flower, purple relating to the crown chakra and intuition/spiritual connection.  Taking echinacea as a cold/flu preventative may make you energetically “heightened” if you are sensitive to begin with, so take care to keep you energetic barriers up.


About healthyhappynaturopathy

I am a board certified and licensed Naturopathic Doctor working in Newmarket and Maple, Ontario I am an advocate of individualized and specialized medicine, about treating individuals as a whole, and evoking our own healing properties. To me, being happy is being healthy, and health flourishes with a positive mindset.
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