Echinacea: The Prickly Answer to Boosting Your Immune System

One of the most popular traditional herbal remedies in use today, Echinacea is widely used as a traditional way to reduce the severity of the effects of colds and flu. But it might surprise you to learn that this little purple plant has had a colourful history.

The name Echinacea comes from the Greek word ‘echino’ meaning prickly or spiny, as the centre of the daisy-like plant looks rather like a sea-urchin. Some species are also known as coneflowers. There are nine distinct species of Echinacea plant, which is part of the Asteraceae family, although Echinacea purpurea is the only one used as a traditional herbal remedy.

A Little History

North American Indians are believed to have used the plant to cure everything from burns and snake bites, through to toothaches and throat infections. In the late 19th Century, the herb was sold in various different forms, one of the most famous of which was a preparation called ‘Meyers Blood Purifier’, which was widely sold as a popular cure for rheumatism, neuralgia and rattlesnake bites throughout the USA.

Echinacea as a Modern Herbal Medicine

Chemists and pharmacologists have long been fascinated by Echinacea’s antioxidant properties and its apparent ability to help stimulate the immune system. It is now most commonly sold as a traditional herbal medicine for lessening the severity of symptoms of colds and flu and is popular as a way of fighting off cold viruses.

There is an ongoing debate as to what exactly is in Echinacea that makes it such a popular choice for people worried about catching colds. Four classes of bioactive compounds have been identified from Echinacea extracts – alkamides, caffeic acid derivatives, ketones and polysaccharides – and it seems that it is the combination of these substances which deliver its antioxidant and immune-boosting effect.

In 2007, scientists from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy conducted a meta-analysis of 14 studies examining the effects of Echinacea on people’s risk of catching a cold and concluded that it could reduce your chance of catching a cold by around 58% and reduce the duration of colds by 1.4 days. For those who caught their cold naturally, rather than being injected with rhinovirus, the report showed that the Echinacea reduced cold incidence by 65 per cent.

How Could Echinacea Help You?

Some people take Echinacea all year round to prevent colds and flu, whilst other users only take it during the winter or for a couple of weeks when they feel the first signs of a cold coming on.

If you want to find out more about reducing the likelihood of catching a cold or flu, read our Top Five Tips on Avoiding a Cold or Flu.

HRI Cold & Flu Echinacea™ tablets contain 56mg of extract from Echinacea purpurea root equivalent to 338-450mg of Echinacea per tablet. It is a traditional herbal medicinal product to relieve the symptoms of Colds & Flu based on traditional use.