Echinacea Uses for Colds and Flu

Echinacea Benefits and Uses

Echinacea benefits and uses are widely known among herbalists and non-herbalists alike. It has become one of our most popular herbal medicines.

Echinacea is also called purple coneflower and is common to many ornamental gardens. The large showy purple blooms are quite attractive and they’re very easy to grow. It’s often grown just for its beauty alone.

Echinacea is native to the North American prairies from Texas up into Canada. These plants prefer full sun and warm weather. They are also tolerant of droughts.

The species Echinacea purpurea is the largest and most beautiful of the echinaceas. Echinacea angustifoilia and Echinacea pallida are also a good medicinals. The purpurea species needs a richer soil and angustifolia prefers a poorer soil.

It’s important to grow echinacea yourself or purchase plants that are organically grown. This is because plants in the wild are at risk of being over harvested due to popular demand.

Discover the echinacea benefits which are well known in the practice of herbalism. It helps to boost the immune system for colds and flu as well as respiratory infections. Learn how to take a tincture or tea.

The flowers bloom from mid to late summer. Prolong blooming by removing any dead flowers. They are perennial, growing for multiple years and will self propagate on their own by seed.

Medicinally, you can use all parts of the plant. Many herbalists simply make a tincture of the root. However, this does take the life of the plant. To use all parts of the plant, the leaves and seeds can be harvested during the second year of growth. During the third year, the flowers and roots can be harvested.

Echinacea Benefits and Uses

Echinacea has a long traditional use by Native Americans. Today, it is one of the top immune enhancing herbs. It raises the body’s natural resistance to infection when the immune system is temporarily weakened.

Specifically, echinacea helps to lesson the incidence, severity and duration of colds and flu. You can use it for bronchitis, sore throats, oral infections, laryngitis, tonsilitis or excess mucus in the sinuses.

Echinacea works by increasing the macrophage and T-cell activity which is the body’s first line of defense against foreign antigens. It’s antibacterial and antiviral.

Echinacea’s ability to prevent or treat wintertime illness has been quite controversial. While many studies point to its efficacy, there are other studies that state otherwise, usually due to insufficient dosing. To get to the bottom of echinacea’s effectiveness, a meta-analysis was performed on the studies. It concluded, “Based on the analysis, the likelihood of experiencing a clinical cold was 55% higher with placebo than with Echinacea.” [1]

You can take it as a tincture or a tea but you want to take it in frequent doses at the first sign of a cold or flu for any respiratory infection. Sprays and lozenges can also be made for these purposes.

If taking Echinacea for prevention, take ½ teaspoon of tincture twice daily. This is for short-term prevention only. Do not take for longer than 8 weeks and do not use in place of building and nourishing a healthy immune system. If taking Echinacea once a cold or flu hits, be sure to start taking the tincture frequently at the very first signs of the infection. This would be ½ teaspoon every two hours for the first 24 to 48 hours.

Echinacea is an also exceptional detoxifier by helping to cleanse the blood and the lymphatic system. It is what herbalists call an alterative. For this purpose, take the standard dose of ½ to 1 teaspoon twice daily.

Topically, Echinacea is anti-septic for sores, cuts, bites, stings, boils, acne and fungal infections. It is also used for any type of inflamed skin condition. Use it both internally and externally for best results.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. If you would like to learn more about herbal medicine, check out the Home Herb School at


[1] Schoop R, Klein P, Suter A, Johnston SL (2006). Echinacea in the prevention of induced rhinovirus colds: a meta-analysis, Clinical Therapeutics, doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2006.02.001

9 thoughts on “Echinacea Benefits and Uses”

  1. Hello,
    Thank you for your blog. I am in my fourth year of training as an Oriental Medical practitioner, which also has a very heavy herb training component. One thing I wanted to add is that Echinacea is contraindicated for all autoimmune conditions and can actually make them much worse. It stimulates the Th-1 immune pathway which can aggravate some of our most common autoimmune conditions, including Hashimotos thyroiditis, which is rampant in the United States. Anyone with an autoimmune condition (and many many people are undiagnosed) should be extremely cautious about taking herbal immune boosters. In these cases its better to stick with an immune modulator like Ganoderma or Cordyceps mushrooms.

    1. Hi April,
      That may be the case with “injectable” echinacea but not with teas, tinctures, sprays and lozenges. Below is a direct quote from the German Commission E Expanded Monograph for Echinacea (posted online from the American Botanical Council).

      “There has been some confusion regarding the contraindications and side effects listed in the monographs, most of which are for injectible preparations. The contraindications noted below for echinacea preparations in cases of HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, leukosis, collagenosis, and multiple sclerosis have been misinterpreted to mean that echinacea use can exacerbate such conditions; however, there is no clinical evidence to support this concern. The reason for the Commission’s caution was based on theoretical concerns and because such conditions are not amenable to self-medication. A cogent argument by an Australian phytotherapist suggests that there is no rational basis for this contraindication and in fact, current clinical practice, previous prolonged use by Eclectic physicians in the United States in the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and proper evaluation of modern scientific data support long-term use of echinacea preparations for autoimmune disorders (Bone, 1997–1998).

      Regarding the issue of Commission E’s contraindication of echinacea preparations for various types of autoimmune disorders, Professor Bauer, the world’s leading researcher on echinacea, writes, “As far as I know, these contraindications have only been included because of theoretical considerations. There is a paper by Shohan (1985) in which the possible risks of immunostimulating agents in general are discussed. These recommendations for Echinacea are as far as I know not based on any reported adverse effect in such indications. There is a recent paper by Parnham (1996) which reports that long-term treatment, e.g., with the expressed juice of E. purpurea, is well-tolerated” (Bauer, 1999b).

      It should also be noted that in Germany, physicians previously had access to injectable (parenteral) drug products made from either a monopreparation of E. purpurea herb juice or a fixed combination that contained E. pallida. Thus, the monographs for E. purpurea herb and E. pallida root both note adverse side effects associated with injectable forms of these echinacea products.”

  2. Very well written and useful article. Echinacea is a super plant and is good to read info such as this to spread the interest in cultivating it in our gardens. Thank you Elisabeth!

  3. Hello, I´ve recently discovered Echinacea and it is a very powerful remedy for colds. I´ve never taken a medicine that would get me over a cold so fast.
    Therefore, I thought it would be great if my children could take it too because my older son is quite prone to catching every bug that flies by. In the UK it is not recommended to children under 12 years, but I know that in some other European countries it is ok for all children over 3 years.
    The pharmacist says it´s because it´s anti-inflammatory and it could trigger auto-immune diseases. But also that these products are not medicines and anything that is not officially a medicine does not get tested on young children.
    So the question is – does anybody actually know what can happen if I give this to my children who are 5 and 7? Is it just bureaucracy or is there some possibility it´s harmful?

    1. Hi Tereza,
      There are no age restrictions for the use of Echinacea included in the German Commission E Monographs (the highly respected scientific advisory board). In fact it refers to some pediatricians using Echinacea for middle ear infections. Regarding Echinacaea and auto-immune issues, please see my response to April in this thread.

  4. Wonderful Post and very informative as always Elizabeth.
    I have seen Echinacaea in pots here in Cyprus and have managed to get hold of some seeds which are hopefully going to grow to fruition.
    Now comes the wait.
    I was interested to note the confusion re research over usage, It is sold here in all pharmacies as a soluble effervescent with no contraindications at all that i can see.
    I have used it in this form for a while until i discovered Mountain Rose Herbs and others that stock it.
    I shall definately be using mine when it is ready

    1. Hi Myra,
      You would extract echinacea with alcohol of your choice. If you are not familiar with making tinctures, I do have a course on medicine making within the Home Herbs School Membership. It is really quite simple to do.

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