Echinacea has grown in popularity in recent years, particularly in Germany where its purported uses are noted as a natural dietary aid for the common cold and other similar viral infections. However, did you know that echinacea trended once before, way back during the 18th century where Native American Indians used to treat wounds & infections like blood poisoning, malaria, and scarlet fever. "So why am I only hearing of echinacea now?” I hear you ask. Well that answer is simple; pharmaceutical drugs. As medical science improved, and antibiotics began to circulate, the use of echinacea drastically declined.

What is echinacea?

Echinacea (also known as E. angustifolia & E. pallida) is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants from the daisy family, which grows in the open wooded areas of central North America.

Does echinacea actually do anything?

If you consider ancient American history and the more present, up-to-date research of German scientists then it's hard to deny that echinacea doesn't benefit our bodies in some way. In fact, several laboratory studies have suggested that echinacea is brimming full of antioxidant-rich active substances that may relieve pain, reduce Inflammation, and offer natural Immune Support too!

Can echinacea stop a cold?

The last study into use of echinacea for cold prevention (carried out in 2006) revealed that while it doesn't appear to stop a cold it could well lessen related symptoms and the overall length that a cold sufferer experiences these symptoms.

Why is echinacea not FDA approved?

In the United States of America, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) will not approve herbal dietary Supplements as they classify them as Food and not drugs, which they state can treat, diagnose, cure, or alleviate the effects of diseases. In Germany this is not the case and herbs are regulated by their government. As a matter of fact, the German government has even approved the use of echinacea for the treatment of Urinary Tract infections, Cold & Flu symptoms, slow healing wounds, and upper respiratory tract infections.

Can I take vitamin C and echinacea together?

To date, no interactions have been found between echinacea and Vitamin C. And as both of these active ingredients are regularly touted as natural cold remedies, it's safe to assume they should have some sort of beneficial effect upon your Immune System. In any case, you should consult your healthcare provider to ensure that no potential interactions could cause you any harm.

What does echinacea do for your skin?

A Skincare product infused with echinacea, such as A.Vogel Echinacea Cream 35g, may work to boost your skin's own moisturising properties by increasing levels of ceramides and epidermal lipids. And as echinacea is also thought to possess excellent anti-inflammatory properties, Acne sufferers may benefit from regular application.

How long can you safely take echinacea?

For most people, echinacea can be used both short-term, for a period of approximately ten days, or long-term over the course of six months. Depending on how you intend to use echinacea, it is always recommended to seek the expert guidance of your GP or registered herbalist.

Is echinacea worth taking?

Let's be honest, the chances that you or a family member will go down with a cold this winter are highly likely. There's also no denying that while research into the medicinal use of echinacea may be patchy and a little inconclusive in places, echinacea supplements do appear to shorten the duration of a cold & slightly reduce symptoms.

At the end of the day it's a matter of personal opinion. Some individuals swear by echinacea at the first sign of a cold while others may take it during the height of symptoms to accelerate recovery. And as echinacea can be taken safely by most people alongside the likes of pharmaceutical drugs, such as ibuprofen and amoxicillin, what's the harm in keeping a natural alternative on stand-by within your first aid box this winter?

Written by our content writer, Mark @wellfedseasider on Twitter & Instagram.