Echinacea Side Effects

Learn some of the common problems that might occur when taking Echinacea.

'Magnus' Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus')

'Magnus' Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus')

'Magnus' enhances the classic beauty of purple coneflower with deeper petals hues and a flatter, daisy-like flower form.

Some who have jumped on the Echinacea band wagon have touted the success of this traditional herbal remedy—unless they encounter some Echinacea side effects. These include a host of issues that most people don’t experience, but on occasion, a small percentage of individuals do. Learn who’s at risk and what you should look for in terms of Echinacea's side effects.

Using Echinacea to treat various ailments is documented in Native American tribes, who used the native wildflower as a remedy for many problems. The Native Americans passed the Echinacea herbal tradition to the pioneers, and eventually Echinacea was carried back to Europe. The biggest increase in Echinacea use came after German scientists did extensive studies with it in the 1920s.

Today Echinacea is used for its possible ability to treat colds and flu. Herbalists and some scientific studies report that Echinacea might help in preventing a cold or flu and might also help alleviate cold or flu symptoms more quickly. Some herbal remedy followers also use Echinacea as a wound wash for its purported ability to eliminate infection. Others have said that Echinacea might potentially treat strep throat or might operate as a general immune booster during flu season.

Before you begin taking Echinacea or any other herbal remedy, discuss your plans with your doctor.

No matter how you use Echinacea, it’s wise to understand the types of side effects you might experience when consuming it. The most important thing to know is that if you are allergic to plants in the daisy family—including sunflowers, marigolds and ragweed—you’ll likely show side effects when taking Echinacea. If you have hay fever each year, you’ll probably experience some Echinacea side effects. In these cases, the side effects are usually itchy eyes and a scratchy throat.

Others at risk for Echinacea side effects include individuals with asthma, auto-immune disorders, HIV or tuberculosis and those on immune-suppressing drugs. One of the most common Echinacea side effects is nausea or stomach upset. This may occur with or without food on the stomach when taking Echinacea. Dizziness is another Echinacea side effect, along with rashes or swelling. If your body starts to itch or swell after taking Echinacea, observe the reaction carefully. An abrupt increase in these symptoms could require a trip to your local doctor or emergency care clinic.

If while consuming Echinacea you experience any difficulty breathing, including wheezing, coughing or chest tightness, you should stop taking Echinacea immediately and call your doctor. Long-term use of Echinacea, beyond six to eight weeks, has been said to depress the immune system.

If you experience any of these side effects when taking Echinacea, it’s wise to stop taking the herb and call 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.

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