Echinacea purpurea is a herbaceous perennial plant native to eastern part of North America and certain regions of the United States. It is a drought tolerant plant mostly found with cone-shaped, purple-colored flowers. It belongs to the daisy plant family Asteraceae and is commonly known as the Purple coneflower or Eastern purple coneflower. Other species of the genus Echinacea are also grown in the gardens as an ornamental plant due to its bright and beautiful flowers. E. purpurea is a common herbal plant that is believed and clinically approved to have various medicinal properties. Native Americans of North America are known to use this plant for its beneficial effects on various health-related problems. Echinacea purpurea has been taken through various clinical trials to ensure its extracts have medicinal properties without any side-effects. In the UK, Echinacea purpurea is being used as the most popular herb with great health benefits. The three different species of Echinacea purpurea that are widely used for different medicinal purposes include E. pallida, E. angustifolia, and E. purpurea. The medicinal products made from the extracts of Echinacea may contain one or more of the species depending on their purpose.
Echinacea purpurea shows multifold health benefits. It is used to reduce the effects and symptoms of cold, flu, sore throat (also known as pharyngitis), fever, and cough. According to some scientific researches Echinacea purpurea is highly recommended for treatment against infection as it boosts the immune system in our body. In addition, the uses of the herb are also extended to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. The extracts of this plant impart hormonal, antiviral, and antioxidant effects on human body and therefore is highly effective for many of the health-related problems such as infection in the urinary tract, sinusitis, hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis), infection in ear (Otitis media), athlete’s foot and wounds.
Clinical Trials with Echinacea
In general, the most beneficial uses of Echinacea extracts include treatment of common cold and upper respiratory tract infections (URIs). There have been various clinical studies and placebo controlled trials with the herbal plant to understand its effects on various health-related problems. A few studies have strong evidences on the efficacy of Echinacea in the treatment of URIs. In a randomized controlled treatment of children, this medicinal plant showed significant impact in reducing the symptoms of cold. In comparison to placebo-controlled trails, Echinacea has also delivered promising results in the time taken for the relief of common cold symptoms. In a typical study, 80 adults having the symptoms of cold were identified and considered for the trial to compare the effectiveness of the plant. Based on the results from earlier studies, it has been found that the herb when taken for 8 to 10 days with a consistent dosage helps improvement in the symptoms of cold by approximately 35%.
In one of the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, patients were given 100 mg of E. purpurea thrice daily for around 14 days. The changes in their symptoms of cold, such as nasal discharge, nasal congestion, sneezing, scratchy throat, headache, hoarseness, and cough were recorder. In the study, Kaplan-Meier curves were introduced to track and estimate the time taken for the herb to show its effectiveness. The results of this trial were surprisingly positive showing remarkable improvements in the patients.
Medicinal Properties of Echinacea Purpurea
This herbal plant is most common among doctors and healthcare professionals due to its various medicinal properties. It has antimicrobial properties that help in reducing the symptoms of poisonous snake bites. The antiviral and antibacterial properties the herbal plant is very effective in the treatment of cold or flu by shortening the disease duration and lessening its severity. The plant extracts are also helpful in fighting against gingivitis. Due to its medicinal effects, it is also used to improve the resistance power of the immune system thereby protecting the human body from many other viral and bacterial infections. The herb also provide nutrient supplements – iron, vitamin C, copper, iodine, vitamin A, sulphur, vitamin E, potassium, etc. – to our body which helps boost immunity.
This herbal plant is one of the most popular and clinically tested medicinal herbs. From the safety perspective, there are no reported side effects of Echinacea. In some cases, this herbal plant can be allergic to people and can cause numbing of the tongue. People or patients already on medication should however avoid intake of the extracts. Therefore, it is always recommended that one should consult a healthcare provider before taking any of the Echinacea purpurea herbal products.