Health Benefits of Echinacea

Discover the benefits of Echinacea—beyond its beautiful blooms that are perfect for gardens and bouquets.
'Kim's Knee High' Dwarf Purple Coneflower

'Kim's Knee High' Dwarf Purple Coneflower

'Kim's Knee High', as the name suggests, is a dwarf purple coneflower  that maxes out at a height of 1 to 2 feet. Like its taller cousin, it features rose to purple petals that fall away to reveal a spiny, copper-orange cone.

Curious about the benefits of Echinacea? This perennial herb native to North America was a common herbal remedy among Native Americans for centuries, often used for a host of maladies as well as to strengthen the body and to prevent diseases. Native Americans used Echinacea externally for wounds and insect bites and internally for various pains and stomach cramps. The herb was used medicinally in the United States and at the beginning of the 20th century was the most commonly used plant preparation. But with the advent of antibiotics, Echinacea largely fell from favor as a popular herbal remedy. However some contemporary herbalists continue to tout Echinacea’s potential benefits as a remedy for everything from snake bite to migraines. Echinacea advocates have supported its possible beneficial use as a treatment for the common cold and flu. Are Echinacea's benefits real? Read on to find out more about some of the claims for Echinacea's reported health benefits.

The term Echinacea derives from the Greek word for hedgehog, echinos, because of the spiky scales on the plant’s large seed pod. The herb is available commercially in tablets, capsules, in tinctures, extracts and ointments and can often be found in various preparations containing other herbs, vitamins and minerals.

When used medicinally, Echinacea can be used in both dried—in tea or capsule form—and fresh forms, using the petals, flower heads and flower buds of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) or narrow-leaf coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) or Echinacea pallida.

Health Benefits of Houseplants

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Anthurium

“Flowering houseplants like anthurium help decrease our stress levels, which is becoming increasingly valuable as our lives get crazier,” says Justin Hancock, digital specialist at Costa Farms. “While we’ve always felt this was true, we were excited to see the 'Journal of Environmental Psychology' prove it.”

Photo By: All images courtesy of Costa Farms

ZZ Plant

The ZZ plant is easy to care for, which is just one less thing for our to-do list. “Research shows that having plants around can help us feel better and heal faster from injuries,” Hancock says.

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Majesty Palm

“While plants make us happier in general, they can specifically improve our job satisfaction,” Hancock says. “Majesty palm is an ideal piece of décor for your desk—and it also makes a wonderful living privacy screen.”

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Peace Lily

According to Hancock, NASA named peace lilies one of the most efficient natural filters. “Houseplants scrub indoor air pollutants, making our air fresher and safer,” he says. “This is especially important as our buildings get more energy efficient and we end up trapping those pollutants inside.”

Photo By: Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Pothos

“I’ve always thought gardeners are some of the nicest people around and science is starting to back me up,” Hancock says. “A University of Texas study showed folks who spend time around plants like pothos are more likely to help others, be more caring and empathetic.”

Photo By: Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Croton

According to Hancock, colorful houseplants like this croton amp up our creative juices.

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Snake Plant

This is one snake you’ll actually want in your house. “A perfect plant for bedrooms, the snake plant is practically indestructible—tolerating low light and long bouts without water—and is especially good at adding oxygen at night,” Hancock says.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Red Aglaonema

Need some extra energy? Get a red aglaonema. “From appetites to energy level, the color red is stimulating,” Hancock says.

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Lucky Bamboo

Can plants really make us smarter? The folks at Costa Farms think so. “Studies from the American Horticultural Therapy Association hint that having houseplants can help us concentrate better,” Hancock says. “Add some lucky bamboo to your home office!”

Photo By: Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Dieffenbachia

“Most houseplants release moisture into the air as part of their breathing process,” Hancock says. “Big-leafed plants like the dieffenbachia are especially helpful in winter, when forced-air heaters transform indoor humidity to desert-like levels.”

Photo By: Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Dracaena

Dracaenas are particularly easy to grow and efficient air cleaners, especially for chemical compounds like xylene, which is released by floor coverings, photocopiers, paint and other household compounds,” Hancock says.

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Orchid

Much easier to care for than most people think, orchids add a touch of exotic elegance to any area. “As an added benefit, they’re also great at filtering indoor air pollution,” Hancock says.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Bromeliad

“Colorful bromeliads look a bit like exotic living flower arrangements,” Hancock says. “They’re perfect for offices where their colorful blooms can help extend our attention spans and keep us focused on tasks.”

Photo By: Image courtesy of Costa Farms

The claims for Echinacea’s health benefits are myriad. Some herbalists claim that Echinacea is one of the most effective treatments for strep throat. Others have championed its purported antibacterial properties and have suggested the herb may help to kill germs on open wounds. By far the most often cited value of Echinacea is its possible role in fighting colds, flu and other infections, as well as its claimed benefits in boosting the immune system. Some herbalists routinely use Echinacea to either ward off or lesson the symptoms of cold and flu. Noted herbalist Steven Foster, the co-author of the National Geographic Society’s Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine and author of Echinacea: Nature’s Immune Enhancer has written that he often treats the onset of a cold with regular doses of Echinacea. Some believe that Echinacea can prevent a cold if caught early, or that the herb may even lessen the symptoms of a cold if taken regularly. Debate continues over Echinacea’s effectiveness in treating or lessening the symptoms of the common cold.

The National Institutes of Health warn that Echinacea can have side effects. Echinacea has been known to cause allergic reactions in some, as well as a possible host of gastrointestinal side effects. Like other herbal medications, Echinacea may also interact with other herbs, supplements and medications. Before using any herb for medicinal purposes, be sure to check with your doctor.

Editor's Note: This article is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a professional healthcare provider before trying any form of therapy or if you have any questions or concerns about a medical condition. The use of natural products can be toxic if misused, and even when suitably used, certain individuals could have adverse reactions.