Side effects of echinacea

Echinacea is one of the most common herbs used for medicinal purposes and has been for a long time. The flower of echinacea has a large conical and prickly seed head. It is commonly known as the coneflower for this reason. The flowers are either purple or yellow. Despite the many healing benefits of echinacea, there are also many side effects and interactions to be aware of when using this plant.


Echinacea is popular because of its ability to act as a cure-all against infections and wounds. It was used by Native Americans more than 400 years ago. It was later used for malaria, blood poisoning, scarlet fever, syphilis and diphtheria until antibiotics became more widespread in 1940. Echinacea has received renewed attention because of its immune- enhancing benefits. More people have become interested in preventive disease measures rather than using antibiotics that solve the symptom and not the cause of a disease or illness.


Echinacea stimulates the white blood cells and improves the body's immune defence against illness. It is often used for respiratory infections, as well. Typically, echinacea is used to relieve the effects of a cold. Its use triggers fibroblast development, which helps to heal wounds. Its antibiotic properties can help prevent infections from occurring in wounds. It is also used for cold sores, herpes and eczema. The herb contains copper, iron, iodine, potassium and vitamins A, C and E. Echinacea can help to reduce inflammation. It is also used for yeast infection, athlete's foot, hay fever or urinary tract infection.

Side Effects

Echinacea may cause negative side effects such as vomiting, nausea, fever, heartburn or dizziness. Other possible side effects may include a dry moth, sore throat, muscle and joint pain or insomnia. Typically, side effects are due to an allergic reaction. People with asthma and allergies are at greater risk of having a reaction. Also, echinacea is known to stimulate the immune system. This can have a negative impact on those with an autoimmune disease. It isn't recommended for those with diabetes, HIV or AIDS, liver disorder, leukaemia or multiple sclerosis.


Echinacea shouldn't be used with immonosuppressant medications. Immunosuppressants are prescribed to individuals who need an organ transplant. It is necessary to suppress the immune system in this instance so that the transplant is not rejected by the body. Immunosuppressants are sometimes used to treat cancer, as well.

In contrast, echinacea is beneficial with Econazole, which is used to fight athlete's foot and other yeast infections. The combination helps to decrease the risk of a recurrence of the infection. It may also be useful in combination with the cancer treatment drug cyclophosphamide; however, this theory has not been fully tested.


Strengths of oral echinacea products often vary, and the dosage is specific to each one. It is best to consult the label for specific dosages of oral versions of echinacea. In tea, a teaspoon of the dried root or herb is used per cup. Typical dosage for a homemade tincture extract is about 1/2 teaspoon. Echinacea can also be taken as a juice. About 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of the juice is used. Ointments and creams of echinacea are applied to wounds as needed.

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About the Author

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for more than 15 years. Coe has worked on environmental health and safety issues in communities across Ohio and Michigan. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University. She has also received training and experience as a nurse aide.