Health and beauty benefits of echinacea

A member of the daisy family and native to North America, echinacea had been used for its medicinal qualities long before it became popular in Europe in the 17th century. It was discovered when the Native Americans noticed that elks were seeking out the plant when they were injured or ill to aid their recovery, later naming it ‘elk root’. Although widely thought of as a fantastic herbal remedy for the common cold, there is a lot more to echinacea than that.

The above-ground parts of Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia have many health benefits including helping to fight infections, relieve pain and boost the immune system. It is also thought that it can be used to treat upper respiratory problems, urinary tract infections and slow healing wounds. It shares the ability of treating and preventing colds with its cousin Echinacea pallida, although it is the roots of this species that we use. Due to its complex compounds, it is thought that it is more difficult for harmful bacteria to become resistant to echinacea.

Health and beauty benefits of echinacea

Boost your immune system

Benefits of Echinacea from Liz Earle WellbeingStudies show that polysaccharides, which help to boost the activity of white blood cells and fight infection, are one of the main compounds that make up echinacea. As well as giving our bodies a helping hand with fighting infection, it is also used by some cancer sufferers to boost their white blood cells and help their body battle the disease. So whilst not a cure, it could be a potentially helpful tonic.

Fight infection

Echinacea is often used to treat the common cold but also contains properties that could aid other infections including septicaemia and urinary tract infections. It is also thought to ease the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines and indigestion.

Added to a daily glass of water, echinacea tincture may well give your body a hand in fighting possible infections, or mix it with honey to make a soothing drink when suffering from a cold.

Relieve pain

A great way to take advantage of the pain-relieving power of echinacea is to make a throat spray of echinacea extract, honey and warm water. This sweet mixture will help those of all ages to soothe sore throats.

Treat acne

Certain acne creams contain organic echinacea extract and some find this effective in fighting troublesome skin. Echinacea activates chemicals in the body that can decrease inflammation, fight the harmful bacteria that can cause spots and help prevent further outbreaks.

Health and wellbeing benefits of Echinacea from Liz Earle WellbeingSmooth skin

Being rich in tannins, echinacea is also useful for smoothing the skin. These compounds have a shrinking effect on the skin cells, potentially leading to tauter skin and fewer visible signs of wrinkles.

Soothe cuts and grazes

Used as a tincture or a cream, echinacea can work as an excellent disinfectant to treat small cuts and grazes. The immune system-boosting polysaccharides may also lead to a quicker healing process due to their promotion of cellular regeneration.

Grow your own echinacea

Despite being a hardy perennial, echinaceas are infamous for not lasting the winter in the UK. It has been said that this is down to the damp and mild British winters, rather than the dry, freezing temperatures of their native Mid-West America, where temperatures can drop to as low as -20°C.

To grow echinacea plants, you will need to sow them in a sunny spot with well-drained soil early on in the year, and avoid heavily mulching over the plants in winter.

Whatever form you buy or whether you grow your own, echinacea certainly earns its place as a flower of beauty and wellbeing.

Wellbeing Wisdom

  • Added to a daily glass of water, echinacea tincture may well give your body a hand in fighting possible infections
  • Echinacea can decrease inflammation, fight the harmful bacteria that causes spots and help prevent further outbreaks