Echinacea is an herb native to North America and used as a general “cure all.”1 There are nine known species, but only three are used for medical purposes.2 Echinacea benefits range from boosting immune system to fighting cancer to improving mental health.3 People typically use echinacea for colds, but you might also take echinacea for herpes, cancer, constipation, and other medical conditions. People use both the aboveground parts of the plant as well as the roots to treat various ailments.4 You can take echinacea as a tea, juice, or extract, and you can use it for both internal and external use.4
There are many echinacea benefits, including that it boosts immune system, acts as an anti-inflammatory, alleviates pain, relieves upper respiratory issues, and fights infection.3 That means that taking an echinacea supplement may be beneficial for the following conditions.
Although taking an echinacea supplement is generally considered safe, it’s important to be aware of the echinacea side effects. Since it acts as an immune booster, individuals taking immunosuppressants, such as transplant patients, should avoid this herb.1 It may also interact with other drugs, such as aspirin, anticoagulants, anti-platelet drugs, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.5 Echinacea side effects may also occur when taking other herbs like Gingko biloba, which together may increase the risk of bleeding.5 It can also interact with caffeine, affecting the body’s ability to break it down, which means it can increase the amount of time caffeine stays in the body.1 For these reasons, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about other medications or herbal remedies you’re taking before using echinacea for herpes or taking echinacea for colds.
Other echinacea side effects include allergic reactions in some people, which may range from rashes to anaphylaxis.4 Individuals are more likely to experience an allergic reaction if they are allergic to flowers in the daisy family or if they have asthma.4 Other minor side effects may include:
People with autoimmune diseases like leukemia, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis, or people with liver disorders should not take echinacea.1 As an added precaution, don’t take the herb on an empty stomach; take it with food or with a glass of water.1
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