While the echinacea herb extract was actually first used by Native Americans, and is endemic to North America, today it's available almost everywhere as a dried herb or capsule supplement - as well as in teas and liquids.
The flower, which can be spotted by its spiky centre and large purple flowers, is also known as the American coneflower and is believed to boost the body’s immune system and help ward off infections, such as tonsillitis and gum disease.
While some studies believe that "there is no evidence for an effect of echinacea on common cold illnesses” (that's according to Dr. Ronald Turner, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, referring to his 2005 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine), other experts say there is evidence that echinacea can be helpful in lessening symptoms.
“Echinacea is popular because it does work for at least some people,” says Kelly Kindscher, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Kansas who has written a textbook on echinacea. While some clinical trials have not shown echinacea to be effective, Kindscher says others have found benefits.
To find out more about its use, we spoke to clinical nutritionist Jessica Sepel (and owner of JS Health), who uses echinacea as one of the main ingredients in her Immune+ vitamins.
What is echinacea?
Echinacea is a medicinal herb that is an immune-boosting powerhouse! It is used to support the immune system to fight illness and support healthy immune system function.
The name “echinacea” actually refers to almost 10 species of flowering herb, and echinacea supplements use one or several of these species. They can be made using either the plant’s above-ground parts or its below-ground roots (or both).
What are the benefits?
In a nutshell, it helps your body to fight illness. Echinacea contains important immuno-protective and anti-inflammatory properties, especially to alleviate cold symptoms. It’s also antiviral and antimicrobial!
How can it be used?
The best way is to take it in natural cold and flu remedies, such as a vitamin formula.
Are there any reasons not to take it?
As always, we recommend being guided by a health professional when it comes to taking supplements to assess whether they are suitable for your individual needs and to ensure it won’t interact with any other vitamins or medications you may be taking.
What’s the max you should take daily?
We recommend for adults to take 1 Immune+ vitamin tablet twice per day with food for a maximum of 4 weeks, or as directed by your healthcare professional.
What are some other immune boosting natural remedies?
Make sure you are looking after your digestive health! Did you know that 70% of the immune system lies in the gut? The gastrointestinal tract provides essential health benefits to the individual, mainly by regulating and maintaining the function of the immune system. So, when it comes to taking care of our immunity, it’s important to support the gastrointestinal system. The JSHealth Probiotic+ contains the bacterial strains Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium longum which are both proven to support healthy immune system function.
Making sure you are practising stress relief techniques - such as yoga, meditation, spending time in nature and journaling - is also important, as stress impacts the immune system negatively. Try switching off from technology a couple of hours before bed, so you have time to unwind and prepare for a good night’s sleep, which further supports a strong immune system.