What is echinacea?
Echinacea (say: "eck-in-ay-sha") is an herbal remedy that may help the body defend itself from the viruses that cause colds, sore throats and the flu. You can find echinacea products in most drug stores or health food stores.
How should I use echinacea?
Follow the directions on the package label or talk to your doctor before you buy an herbal product. Don't take echinacea on an empty stomach. Instead, take it with food or a large glass of water. Do not take echinacea for more than 2 weeks without talking to your doctor.
Does echinacea cause any side effects?
Minor side effects can include an upset stomach, nausea and dizziness. Serious side effects can include worsening of asthma symptoms and allergic reactions such as rash, swelling and difficulty breathing. If you have a history of an allergy to daisies, ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums or related plants, you may be more at risk of having an allergic reaction to echinacea. Talk to your doctor right away about any side effects you are having.
Who should not take echinacea?
If you are regularly taking other medicines, check with your doctor before taking echinacea. Echinacea may interact with these drugs and reduce their effectiveness or cause unwanted side effects. You should also tell your doctor if you drink beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol, if you smoke or if you use illegal drugs. These substances may affect the way echinacea works.
Echinacea may not be helpful if you have any of the following conditions: an autoimmune disorder (such as lupus), type 1 diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor before you start taking echinacea. You should not take echinacea if you are also taking immunosuppresants because echinacea may interact with these medicines.
Funding and support for this material have been provided by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff