A herb that grows wild in parts of North America, echinacea is used to reduce the symptoms and duration of colds and flu.

What are its health benefits?

The echinacea plant has been used traditionally by Native Americans to treat ailments ranging from toothaches to snake bites. It is now commonly used to support the immune system.

According to literature, echinacea stimulates infection-fighting cells and it is therefore helpful in assisting in the management of a range of infections including viruses and bacteria. It reportedly increases the ability of white blood cells to destroy invading microorganisms. It also boosts the strength of T-lymphocytes, which are crucial to the immune system.

Some studies have shown it can assist in the management of upper respiratory tract infections.
Other uses include:

  • Supports the wound healing process
  • Assists in the reduction of pain associated with throat ache
  • Aiding in the management of eczema and other skin conditions
  • Assisting in the management of killing germs
  • Reducing pain

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

You can buy echinacea as capsules to swallow with water or in liquid form (as echinacea drops, or tincture) to dilute and drink in water, or as echinacea tea. Dosages vary because a variety of different species are used in tinctures, tablets and liquids.

You can also buy echinacea cream to help heal skin wounds. Echinacea injections are available in some countries.

If you are considering taking echinacea, first talk to your doctor or Clicks pharmacist about whether you should be taking it and the correct dosage if so. 

Warnings

If you use echinacea for longer than eight weeks at a time, it may reportedly damage your liver or suppress your immune system. It is also recommended that you don’t take echinacea if you are taking medicines known to affect your liver.

It’s advisable to avoid its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Possible side effects

 Echinacea is considered safe and serious side effects are rare. If they do occur, they include:

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

This medicine has not been evaluated by the Medicines Control Council. This medicine is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in September 2015