About Echinacea and Echinacea Tea in Brief
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is a native North American coneflower discovered and used as medicine by the Great Plains Indian tribes more than 400 years ago. This herbal remedy has an attractive flower with pink, rose, and purple petals.
Currently, echinacea can be found in tablets, capsules, tinctures, extracts, and ointments, but one of the most common ways to use it is to drink echinacea tea.
Also called pale purple coneflower, echinacea is loaded with antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. As a result, echinacea may be able to fight the flu and colds, heal wounds, reduce inflammation, manage anxiety, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cancer, and more.
In this article, we will highlight the nutritional facts and health benefits of echinacea tea. Read on to discover how to make echinacea tea, how to dry and store echinacea, and echinacea tea side effects.
Nutrition Facts of Echinacea Tea
Echinacea tea is loaded with nutrition, including various vitamins such as vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E. From a mineral perspective, echinacea tea contains potassium, sodium, iron, and calcium.
The stem and roots of echinacea also contain polysaccharides. Other therapeutic compounds include flavonoids, inulin, glycoproteins, alkamides, and volatile and essential oils.
It’s also important to note that, although echinacea tea doesn’t contain caffeine, it does have an effect on the caffeine you ingest from other beverages. Echinacea leads the body to break down caffeine at a slower-than-normal pace. Consequently, caffeine stays in your body longer, and this can lead to side effects like anxiety, headaches, and a rapid heartbeat.
Health Benefits of Echinacea Tea
What are some important echinacea tea benefits to keep in mind? In this section, we will detail several science-backed health benefits of echinacea tea.
1. Fights Flu and Cold
You can use echinacea tea for cold and flu. A study published in the journal Current Therapeutic Research in 2015 found echinacea tea to be effective at shortening the duration of cold and flu symptoms. The tea was also deemed as effective as oseltamivir—the gold standard drug treatment for the flu.
Other research also shows that echinacea cuts your likelihood of getting a cold by 58%. When you take echinacea on a regular basis, this may also increase the effectiveness of the flu vaccine against the virus. Another study found that taking echinacea tea during the beginning of a cold or flu can effectively relieve symptoms quicker than a placebo.
2. Controls Blood Sugar
Echinacea tea benefits may extend to people with diabetes or pre-diabetes as well. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2017 found that having echinacea in the bloodstream can help control blood sugar levels in pre-diabetics and diabetics.
Echinacea can also prevent blood sugar from dropping in those with hypoglycemia—also known as low blood sugar. Compounds in echinacea like alkamides and fatty acids have been found to improve insulin sensitivity. This improves cell energy and reduces high blood sugar levels.
3. Healthy Cell Growth
The antioxidants in echinacea tea can destroy free radicals that prematurely damage cells in the body. As a result, consumption of echinacea tea benefits healthy cell growth in the body.
4. May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Echinacea tea may also act as a natural cancer treatment. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy will weaken the immune system, killing off some of the healthy cells in the body. Echinacea can help combat some of the side effects of chemotherapy.
Research published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal in 2016 has also found that echinacea slowed growth of malevolent tumor cells while blocking the spread of cancer. It has also been suggested that echinacea may help prevent breast cancer in women with a history of the disease.
5. Manages Anxiety
One study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2012 found that echinacea extract helps regulate the synapses that aid communication between your brain and body.
Although echinacea cannot turn off the “fear reflex” associated with anxiety attacks, this herbal tea can help you feel calmer and limit the physical effects of fears. As a result, for those with anxiety, echinacea tea may be a good herb to have on hand.
6. Manages Blood Pressure
A study published in the journal BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine in 2013 found that regular echinacea consumption could increase blood pressure. However, the high amounts of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in echinacea can also help reduce blood pressure levels.
More research is needed to support echinacea’s use as a blood pressure-lowering herb.
Since anxiety and stress can influence high blood pressure, echinacea’s effect on blood pressure may relate to its calming abilities.
7. Reduces Inflammation and Pain
Regular consumption of echinacea tea could effectively reverse and alleviate various types of chronic inflammatory conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, eye inflammation, Crohn’s disease, and ulcers. Echinacea may also relieve pain associated with stomachaches, bowel problems, toothaches, tonsillitis, measles, and headaches.
8. Heals Wounds and Infections
Echinacea tea is also able to enhance the healing after an injury or extended illness. This is partly because the antioxidants in echinacea can help prevent oxidative stress, eliminate viruses, and stimulate new cell growth.
Echinacea is also known to help with urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, bloodstream infections, and gum disease.
9. Treats Skin Conditions
The vitamin C and other antioxidants in echinacea tea help eliminate symptoms of skin conditions. The vitamin C is important for collagen production, and this can help with the formation of new skin cells.
Various Native American tribes have used echinacea to treat skin problems like boils, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and stings and insect bites. You can also use echinacea to regenerate the skin and prevent scars and stretch marks.
How to Make Echinacea Tea
In this section, we will detail how to make echinacea tea with dried or fresh echinacea roots, leaves, or flowers. The following is a quick echinacea tea recipe. It also has ginger, lemon, and honey, which have additional immune-boosting benefits.
- 1 tsp dried or fresh Echinacea roots or flowers
- Juice of lemon
- 1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tsp raw honey
- 2 cups boiling water.
- Place echinacea and ginger in a teapot, and pour boiling water inside, cover, and let steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add lemon juice and honey, and stir. Strain and serve in your favorite mug.
Drying and Storing Echinacea
Rather than purchase echinacea tea, you can make the tea fresh from echinacea leaves and roots. However, before you make echinacea tea, you will need to dry the echinacea. It will take about two weeks to dry echinacea for making this tea.
Here is how to properly dry and store echinacea:
- Rinse echinacea roots and cut them into half-inch lengths. Place the roots on a non-metal screen, then put the screen in a well-ventilated area. Leave the echinacea roots here to dry for two weeks, while turning the pieces over daily.
- Cut the echinacea plant 10 inches from the top of the plant with a pair of scissors, and discard the lower section of the echinacea stem. Tie a 12-inch-long string or yarn securely to the bottom of the cut echinacea plant. Hang the echinacea plant upside down in a well-ventilated, dark area, and let it dry for two weeks.
- Place the dried echinacea root and plant into separate freezer bags, and store them in a dark, cool place like a cupboard.
- Dried echinacea can be used for up to a year. You can place a tablespoon of dried echinacea root in a tea infuser, and let it steep in eight ounces of hot water for five minutes. You can also crumble a tablespoon of dried echinacea plant into one-eighth-inch pieces, place them in a tea infuser, and steep for three minutes in eight ounces of hot water.
Side Effects of Echinacea Tea
Although there are many health benefits, there are a number of echinacea tea side effects to consider as well.
High doses of echinacea can cause dizziness and nausea, especially in people with allergies. Those with a history of allergies or asthma, or who are allergic to members of the daisy family, may also be allergic to echinacea tea.
Echinacea is also not recommended to treat seasonal allergies. Possible allergic reactions include mild skin rashes and life-threatening conditions like anaphylaxis.
Immune System Side Effects
Echinacea tea may stimulate the immune system, and this can interfere with the effects of drugs used to suppress an overactive immune system. You should not consume echinacea tea if you suffer from progressive systemic or autoimmune disorders, including lupus, tuberculosis, and connective tissue disorders.
Long-term echinacea consumption may also reduce white blood cell count, which can have a negative impact on the immune system.
Possible Drug Interactions
Echinacea may also increase the side effects and reduce the effectiveness of certain medications, including muscle relaxants, antipsychotics, immune-boosting drugs, and blood pressure medications.
Echinacea is thought to be safe during pregnancy. That being said, you should always consult your doctor before taking herbal remedies like echinancea tea.
Other Side Effects
Echinacea side effects can also include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, diarrhea, disorientation, fever, dry mouth, joint and muscle aches, insomnia, unpleasant taste, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, sore throat, and numbness of the tongue. Echinacea may also cause kidney, heart, and liver problems.
Final Thoughts on Echinacea Tea
Echinacea has been used for hundreds of years as herbal medicine. Today, research suggests echinacea tea benefits those with colds or flu; high blood sugar; high blood pressure; anxiety; infections; skin conditions; and inflammatory conditions like eye inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcers.
Echinacea tea is also loaded with nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C, and E, and potassium, iron, and calcium.
The amount of echinacea tea you need to drink depends on how strong it is brewed. This herb can also be found in tablets, capsules, extracts, and liquid tinctures. But it is important to only purchase echinacea from trusted and established echinacea brands.
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