Echinacea has been used for many centuries as a natural remedy for multiple ailments, although today you’re most likely to know about it as a result of its ability to possibly help with recovery from the common cold or flu.
Native to North America, Echinacea‘s many surprising uses may be of particular interest if you are trying to avoid getting sick when flu season comes around. It’s most notable benefits include:
Potential Antiviral Properties
As interest in Echinacea grows and more research is conducted into its properties, one of the most noteworthy that arose was its potential antiviral activity. It is believed that Echinacea is capable of disrupting membranes surrounding viruses, causing binding receptors to fail.
It may help to support your resistance to viruses such as rhinovirus, herpes simplex, influenza, and coronavirus to name a few[i].
It is worth mentioning that its antiviral properties appear to be only effective prior to full-fledged viral infections, since it does not have much efficacy once infections have already ensued.
Reduces Excessive Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal process that follows activation of the specialized white blood cells of the immune system, in response to a potential threats. However, chronically elevated levels of inflammation can negatively impact immune function, reducing levels of lymphocytes in the process.
Studies conducted which investigate the outcome of COVID-19 infection have found that low levels of lymphocytes correlate with adverse outcomes[ii]. Echinacea can help support normal immune function and reduce excessive inflammatory processes.
May Help Lower The Risk Of Respiratory Complications
One of the major complications that accompany seemingly simple viral infections is the fact that the chances of bacterial infections occurring secondarily to the primary infection increases significantly. These include upper respiratory tract infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and even sinus infections[iii].
Echinacea may help reduce bacterial cell density, and subsequently the result is a reduction of complications.
May Improve Foreign Molecule Detection
Echinacea extract can help to make the immune system more efficient at detecting pathogens, activating the downstream cytokine production. These cytokines help to destroy foreign molecules, and also exerts anti-inflammatory properties.
Signalling also increases production of proteins that may be necessary to support the immune cell types, and lead to better outcomes.
So how much Echinacea should you be taking? A regular dose of 2400 mg taken daily in three split doses appears to be well tolerated and is effective in prevention of colds, but possibly increase to 4000 mg daily split into five doses at the first sign of a cold.
[i] Hudson J, Vimalanathan S. EchinaceaA Source of Potent Antivirals for Respiratory Virus Infections. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2011;4(7):10191031. Published 2011 Jul 13. doi:10.3390/ph4071019
[ii] Eakachai Prompetchara,1,2,3 Chutitorn Ketloy,1,2 Tanapat Palaga4,5. Immune responses in COVID-19 and potential vaccines:Lessons learned from SARS and MERS epidemic. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol DOI 10.12932/AP-200220-0772
[iii] Vimalanathan S(1), Schoop R(2), Suter A(2), Hudson J(3). Prevention of influenza virus induced bacterial superinfection by standardized Echinacea purpurea, via regulation of surface receptor expression in human
bronchial epithelial cells Virus Res. 2017 Apr 2;233:51-59. doi: 10.1016/j.virusres.2017.03.006. Epub 2017
Echinacea 4:1 extract powder
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