Echinacea is a type of herb that has been used to treat symptoms of the common cold and other changes in the immune system, including some as serious as cancer; however, the available research does not support the efficacy of this herb for any therapeutic application.
In this article we will analyze the uses, side effects, and therapeutic efficacy of echinacea according to studies conducted around this natural remedy.
What is Echinacea?
Plants of the genus Echinacea are native to North America. Since ancient times, they have been attributed various healing properties; thus, the Pawnee Indians used Echinacea for headaches and Lakotahs as a general pain reliever, while the Kiowa and Cheyenne tribes used it for colds and sore throats.
There are nine plant species classified in the genus Echinacea. The two most commonly used as food supplements are Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia; Echinacea pallida, paradox, simulata, atrorubens, laevigata, sanguinia and tennesseensis are also found.
Oral consumption (mainly in the form of tea and juice) and the use of echinacea as a medicine is from the preparation of its roots and flowers, or extracts from other parts of your body. Sometimes the segments of the plant are left to dry, while in other cases fresh, finished extracts are used.
What is this for?
Echinacea is currently used to treat different types of physical ailments. The most common applications of these herbs include the treatment of colds, although various other properties have also been described. In this way Echinacea is consumed as a nutritional supplement or applied to the skin in topical format.
For example, some echinacea drugs are used to treat skin problems; It is common for this type of product to be applied to prevent infections in recent wounds, among other uses. There are even those who have gone so far as to claim that Echinacea can be used as remedy for very serious immune disorders, especially cancer.
This latter application is linked to the belief that Echinacea has stimulating effects on the immune system, making its activity more effective in fighting all types of infections, including those associated with colds and flu.
On the other hand, some species of echinacea are also used quite frequently for decorative purposes, especially in gardens. Echinacea is also planted for the purpose of rehabilitate damaged or impoverished natural areas, in particular grasslands; they are plants that reproduce quickly and with flowers very resistant to bad weather and seasons.
Does it really have any therapeutic effects?
Much of the research on the effectiveness of echinacea as a medicine has been conducted in relation to its most common application: the treatment of the common cold. However, we still need more scientific studies to be able to reliably assess the possible therapeutic effects of echinacea on other alterations.
The results of the available studies reliably indicate that echinacea it does not reduce the duration of cold symptoms once they have occurred. In this sense, the effectiveness of echinacea in the treatment of the common cold would be similar to that of a placebo.
It is not known at this time if this herb can be useful in preventing colds; some research suggests that this effect may have some degree, although it has not been definitively demonstrated. The possible active components and the action of echinacea bacteria on the human immune system are currently being analyzed.
On the other hand, the British foundation Cancer Research UK stated in a 2012 study that there is no evidence of the effectiveness of echinacea in treating cancer. The same goes for using this herb to minimize the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Side effects and adverse reactions
The effects of products containing echinacea can vary widely depending on different factors. Not only the species or part of the plant used is relevant, but also the other components that make up the product in question.
Research suggests that Echinacea is safe enough for most people in the short term, although the long term effects have not been studied. When side effects do occur, the most common affect the gastrointestinal system; for example, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain are relatively common.
In some cases, allergic reactions appear which can have a significant degree of severity. These types of physiological responses are more common in predisposed people who have other, different allergies.
It should be noted that in many cases, dietary supplements and echinacea cures or drugs have not been manufactured regularly, and it is also very common that they have not been tested on humans. before being marketed. So, caution should be exercised when using products containing echinacea.