Scientific names: Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida

Other common names: purple coneflower, coneflower, American coneflower, Kansas snakeroot, snakeroot, Scurvy root

Description: Echinacea is a distinctive perennial herb that is native to the midwestern region of North America.1 Its nine known species are all native to North America’s Great Plains region.1 Its unique appearance, including tall stems, single pink or purple flowers, and a central cone, makes it easily recognizable.1 The flowers look like lavender sunflowers with small heads.1

The central cone, often referred to as the “cone” or “conehead,” is a notable feature of the echinacea flower.2 This cone is made up of the flower’s disc-shaped florets, which are tightly packed and form a raised, spiky structure in the center of the flower head.2 This cone is typically surrounded by a ring of ray-shaped florets that can be pink, purple, or white in color, giving the flower a vibrant and eye-catching appearance.2

The name “echinacea” actually comes from the Greek word “echinos,” which means “hedgehog” or “sea urchin,” referencing the spiky appearance of the flower’s central cone.3 

Echinacea’s physical features contribute to its attractiveness in gardens and landscapes, and its distinctive appearance has likely contributed to its popularity and recognition among both traditional herbalists and modern gardeners.3 It is important to note that different species and varieties of echinacea can vary in their flower colors, cone shapes, and other characteristics.


Echinacea’s therapeutic effects are attributed to various chemicals it contains, including polysaccharides (sugars), glycoproteins (sugar proteins in cells), alkamides (beneficial fatty compounds), volatile oils (the perfume scents in a plant), and flavonoids (naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compounds in plants).

The composition of these chemicals differs between the root and the upper part of the plant. For instance, the root has more volatile oils, whereas the above-ground portions contain more polysaccharides, which can stimulate the immune system. Echinacea’s health benefits arise from the interactions of these compounds, with research suggesting that the above-ground portion of echinacea, in particular, is the most potent.

Current form of consumption: 

Echinacea is available in various forms and formulations to cater to individuals’ different preferences and health needs. The diverse range of products allows individuals to choose the most suitable way to incorporate echinacea into their health routine. The followingHere are some common forms of echinacea products:

  • Extracts: Echinacea extracts are concentrated forms of the plant’s active compounds, usually in liquid form. These extracts can be added to water or other beverages for consumption.
  • Tinctures: Similar to extracts, tinctures are liquid preparations of echinacea that are often alcohol-based. Generally, a few drops of the tincture are diluted in water before consumption. They are usually taken by diluting a few drops in water.
  • Tablets and Capsules: Echinacea is available in tablets or capsules in forms, which provide a convenient and standardized dosage. Theyse forms are often preferred by individuals who prefer a more straightforward way of taking supplements.
  • Ointments and Topical Preparations: Echinacea ointments and creams are designed for external use. They can be applied to the skin to potentially aid in wound healing or to address skin issues like eczema and inflammation.
  • Combination Products: Echinacea is often combined with other herbs, vitamins, and minerals known to support the immune system in order . These combination products are intended to provide a holistic approach to immune health.
  • Teas: Echinacea is also available as ain tea form, which can be brewed and consumed like any other herbal tea. This provides a comforting way to benefit from echinacea’s potential properties.

When selecting an echinacea product, it’s important to consider factors such as the specific species or part of the plant used, the concentration of active compounds, and the intended purpose of the product. The quality and sourcing of the product are also crucial, as variations in production methods can affect the potency and efficacy of the supplement.

For children, use only alcohol-free forms of echinacea. Echinacea can be consumed by adults up to three times a day for up to ten days or until symptoms resolve.

History of use as medicine: 

Throughout history, echinacea has been used to treat a wide range of ailments, including infections, wounds, and fevers.2 More than 400 years ago, Native American tribes were among the first to utilize the plant for medicinal purposes.2 

During the 1700s and 1800s, echinacea gained popularity in the United States due to its anecdotal healing properties.2 However, with the advent of antibiotics in the mid-1900s, the use of echinacea and other traditional remedies started to decline in the U.S.2

Echinacea preparations continued to be popular in Germany, however, throughout the 1900s.2 Germany became a hub for scientific research on echinacea, contributing significantly to our understanding of its potential benefits and mechanisms of action.2 This research has helped shed light on echinacea’s effects on the immune system and its potential to reduce the duration and severity of cold and flu symptoms.2

Americans began turning back to echinacea around 1995 following increased research. Modern-day uses include echinacea supplements or teas as treatment for cold-related symptoms such as sore throat, cough, and fever.2 While the scientific community’s views on echinacea’s effectiveness have varied, there is some evidence suggesting that certain echinacea preparations might have a mildly beneficial impact on reducing cold symptoms.1

Current Uses and Scientific Literature Review: 

Note: Before reviewing the literature, it is important to note that many peer-reviewed studies may be biased because of industry-funded research to promote product sales, and a conflict of interest is not always disclosed (see information from biologist and nutritionist Marion Nestle on sponsored research here). In this article, we have done our best not to include any industry-funded studies. As discussed in the Food as Medicine Report (on page 158, specifically), there is a need for more government funding for food as medicine initiatives. 

Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties: Echinacea contains various bioactive compounds, including alkamides, glycoproteins, and essential oils, which are believed to contribute to its potential antifungal effects.

  • Antimicrobial Properties: Askari et al. (2020) demonstrated that echinacea extract, particularly at a concentration of at least 0.195mg/mL, exhibited significant effects against Escherichia coli, a type of bacteria, when tested for its antimicrobial properties. This suggests that echinacea has potential in combating bacterial infections, indicating its possible therapeutic value.
  • Antibacterial Properties: Mehdi et al. (2018) studied the chemical composition to confirm echinacea’s antioxidizing and antibacterial properties in both the flower and the extract. Researchers found it was safe and its healing powers worked on a molecular level to anti-oxidize chemicals. 
  • Antifungal Properties: Bachir et al. (2018) investigated the anti-fungal properties of echinacea extract within the concentration range of 10 parts per milliliter, or ppm, to 100 ppm. They found that extracts derived from echinacea exhibited phototoxic, or light-induced damaging effects, against fungus. These phototoxic effects hindered the growth of pathogenic yeasts, particularly in extracts from the echinacea plant root. Notably, even when excluding phototoxic effects, the extracts retained their protective activity against the yeasts, indicating potential non-phototoxic anti-fungal properties as well.

Anti-Inflammatory & Antioxidant Properties: Echinacea contains compounds like flavonoids that function as antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, oxidants that can damage any part of the body. Some studies have indicated that echinacea might have anti-inflammatory properties. 

  • Promote Immunity: Vieira et al. (2022) revealed that various concentrations of echinacea, beginning as low as 4.95 mg/mL and extending up to 250 mg/mL, triggered the stimulation of macrophages, immunity-promoting cells, to produce pro-inflammatory cytokines, proteins that signal inflammation throughout the body. This suggests that extracts from Echinacea purpurea have the potential to be utilized in novel therapeutic solutions for conditions involving an excessively active or compromised immune system.
  • Inflammatory Response: Choi (2022) observed that echinacea extract reduced inflammatory response in damaged skin. Moreover, the extract exhibited a significant inflammation-inhibiting effect of approximately 51.07 percent at a concentration of 200 μg/mL. These findings underscore the potential of echinacea extract to be utilized in skincare applications.
  • Histamine Inhibition: Zorig et al. (2021) demonstrated that taking echinacea petal extract in doses ranging from 0.2mg/mL to 0.4mg/mL had the effect of reducing histamine levels, which are inflammatory compounds associated with allergic reactions. Specifically, extracts from echinacea petals and leaves were observed to significantly inhibit the release of histamines from stimulated cells during allergic responses, suggesting a potential anti-allergic property of echinacea petal and leaf extracts. 
  • Immune Response: Xu et al. (2021) tested echinacea extract and found echinacea, functioning as an immunomodulatory agent, or a substance that helps the immune system work more efficiently, along with its active components, has demonstrated noteworthy antitumor effects on both rat and human liver cancer. 

Cold, COVID, & Flu Symptom Relief: Echinacea has been investigated for its potential to alleviate symptoms of the common cold and flu, such as sore throat, cough, and fever. While research results have been mixed, some studies suggest that echinacea might help reduce the duration and severity of these symptoms.

  • COVID Infection: In a study by Ogal et al. (2022), children aged four to 12 years (N = 203) were administered either echinacea extract (1200 mg) or a control over a four-month period. Echinacea intake led to a reduction in the incidence of COVID virus infections from 47 to 29 cases (p = 0.0038), while no significant change was noted in other coronavirus infections. Respiratory symptoms during coronavirus infections were significantly decreased. Particularly noteworthy, viral loads in nasal secretions were remarkably reduced by 98.5 percent in the echinacea group. Clinical results align with echinacea’s observed antiviral efficacy in vitro, encompassing respiratory pathogens including coronaviruses. These findings suggest a potential preventive role against SARS-CoV-2 infections, in line with the broad antiviral activity of echinacea extract.

In a separate study by Signer et al. (2020), echinacea extract demonstrated in vitro inactivation against four human coronaviruses (HCoV-229E, MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV-1, and SARS-CoV-2). This reinforces the potential of echinacea as a preventive treatment for various respiratory viruses, including those causing both severe pulmonary conditions and common colds. The mode of action of echinacea extract suggests it could also work against new zoonotic coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV-2. 

Mesri et al. (2020) discovered that echinacea supplementation was notably beneficial for COVID-19 patients who had been hospitalized. The intervention group (n = 50) showed higher levels of improvement in symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), and muscle pain compared to the control group (n = 50).

  • Respiratory Aid: Bax et al. (2022) found clinical trials have provided evidence that different formulations of echinacea can lead to the reduction of both the duration and intensity of upper respiratory infections.
  • Reduce Inflammation: Aucoin et al. (2021) discovered that echinacea supplementation has the potential to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, IL-8, and TNF, while also potentially increasing the levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. This results in alleviation of pain, swelling, and tissue damage that are often linked to inflammatory responses in the body.

Immunity: Echinacea has been popularly used to support the immune system and help the body fight off infections, particularly during cold and flu seasons. Some studies have suggested that certain echinacea preparations might have a mild effect in enhancing immune function and reducing the severity and duration of cold symptoms.

  • Enhanced Immunity: McNeil et al. (2023) (animal study) found administering a daily supplementation of echinacea extract at a dosage of 3 g was linked to observable changes in blood markers suggesting decreased inflammation and enhanced immune system activity in calves. These effects were more prominent when the supplementation was maintained throughout the entire milk feeding period.
  • Macrophage Development: Sudeep et al. (2022) (animal study) discovered that a standardized echinacea extract, tested at concentrations of 200 micrograms per milliliter, or mcg/mL, and 400mcg/mL demonstrated the ability to improve immune function in macrophages and mice with immunosuppression induced.
  • Autoimmune Response: Bone et al. (2021) conducted a study involving 51 patients diagnosed with low-grade autoimmune diseases. Among these patients, 32 received echinacea as an additional therapy. After a follow-up period of nine months, it was observed that 87.5 percent of patients treated with echinacea were in clinical remission, while 82.3 percent of the control group achieved remission. This suggests that echinacea, when used as an adjunct therapy, may contribute to a comparable or even slightly enhanced rate of clinical remission in patients with low-grade eye inflammation compared to those following conventional treatment alone. 

Wound Healing: Traditional uses of echinacea include topical application to wounds and skin inflammation. Some research suggests that echinacea ointments might aid in wound healing and skin regeneration.

  • Would Closure: Fahimirad et al. (2023) discovered adding echinacea extract to bandages greatly enhanced their effectiveness. The echinacea dressing inhibited MRSA bacterial growth by 100 percent in colony count assay. Additionally, it exhibited up to 88.28 percent antioxidant potential and posed no cytotoxicity to human dermal fibroblast cells or cells that help regulate the body. The synergistic effects of echinacea extract achieved wound closure of approximately 98.1 percent within or by the fifteenth day of treatment.
  • Healing Capabilities: Burlou-Nagy et al. (2023) confirmed the interplay of echinacea extract’s antioxidant, antimicrobial, and wound healing capabilities at a concentration of 200mcg/mL by testing bandages dressed in the extract.

Ciganović et al. (2023) noted pronounced wound healing effects of echinacea within the concentration range of 2.5mcg/mL to 250mcg/mL. The study underscores the substantial potential of Echinacea purpurea extracts as valuable components in cosmeceuticals, offering properties such as anti-aging and wound healing.

  • Echinacea in Bandages: Bulus et al. (2020) found that wound healing can be accelerated by incorporating echinacea extract into bandages. Production of wound healing bandages infused with echinacea has been shown to produce faster healing results.

Potential Side Effects:

Always consult a doctor before using echinacea if taking prescription medications, undergoing surgery, or using certain substances. Notable interactions include:

  • Immunosuppressants: Echinacea’s immune-boosting effects clash with immunosuppressive medicines used for cancer treatment or post-organ transplant. 
  • Caffeine: Echinacea might slow down caffeine breakdown in the body, leading to extended effects of caffeine intake.

Potential Negative Effects: 

Individuals with certain conditions (including tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders), and those taking medications that suppress the immune system should avoid taking echinacea. Rare allergic reactions, from mild rashes to severe anaphylaxis, are possible, particularly for those with allergies or asthma. Minor effects include upset stomach, nausea, dizziness, and dry eyes. There has been one case of a painful skin reaction linked to echinacea used for flu treatment.

Echinacea can cause temporary numbness and tingling on the tongue when ingested. 

While there is limited evidence regarding the use of echinacea during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it is not recommended. 

Cooking tips/Recipes:

Selecting a high-quality echinacea supplement is crucial.

The most commonly prepared form of echinacea is tea. To prepare echinacea root tea, simmer one tablespoon of dried echinacea root in one cup of water for 15 to 20 minutes. Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until simmering. This will yield one mug of echinacea root tea.



Medicines & Home Remedies:

Learn more:

News articles: 

Peer-reviewed articles: 

Antioxidizing & Immunity Benefits:

COVID & Echinacea:

Chemical Properties of Echinacea:

Echinacea & the Liver: 

Respiratory Effects:



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1. Sudeep HV, Gouthamchandra K, Ramanaiah I, Raj A, Naveen P, Shyamprasad K. A standardized extract of Echinacea purpurea containing higher chicoric acid content enhances immune function in murine macrophages and cyclophosphamide-induced immunosuppression mice. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2023;61(1):1211-1221. doi:10.1080/13880209.2023.2244000

2. Aucoin M, Cardozo V, McLaren MD, et al. A systematic review on the effects of Echinacea supplementation on cytokine levels: Is there a role in COVID-19? Metabolism Open. 2021;11:100115. doi:10.1016/j.metop.2021.100115

3. Bachir R. Antifungal Properties of Some Essential Oils against Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Current Trends On Biotechnology & Microbiology: Open Access Publishers. 2018;1. doi:10.32474/CTBM.2018.01.000102

4. Burlou-Nagy C, Bănică F, Negrean RA, et al. Determination of the Bioactive Compounds from Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench Leaves Extracts in Correlation with the Antimicrobial Activity and the In Vitro Wound Healing Potential. Molecules. 2023;28(15):5711. doi:10.3390/molecules28155711

5. Echinacea. NCCIH. Accessed August 23, 2023.

6. Nicolussi S, Ardjomand-Woelkart K, Stange R, Gancitano G, Klein P, Ogal M. Echinacea as a Potential Force against Coronavirus Infections? A Mini-Review of Randomized Controlled Trials in Adults and Children. Microorganisms. 2022;10(2):211. doi:10.3390/microorganisms10020211

7. Xu W, Zhu H, Hu B, et al. Echinacea in hepatopathy: A review of its phytochemistry, pharmacology, and safety. Phytomedicine. 2021;87:153572. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2021.153572

8. Echinacea Information | Mount Sinai – New York. Accessed August 23, 2023.

9. Sharifi-Rad M, Mnayer D, Morais-Braga MFB, et al. Echinacea plants as antioxidant and antibacterial agents: From traditional medicine to biotechnological applications. Phytother Res. 2018;32(9):1653-1663. doi:10.1002/ptr.6101

10. McNeil BK, Renaud DL, Steele MA, Keunen AJ, DeVries TJ. Effects of Echinacea purpurea supplementation on markers of immunity, health, intake, and growth of dairy calves. Journal of Dairy Science. 2023;106(7):4949-4965. doi:10.3168/jds.2022-22862

11. Ciganović P, Jakupović L, Momchev P, Nižić Nodilo L, Hafner A, Zovko Končić M. Extraction Optimization, Antioxidant, Cosmeceutical and Wound Healing Potential of Echinacea purpurea Glycerolic Extracts. Molecules. 2023;28(3):1177. doi:10.3390/molecules28031177

12. Hostettmann K. [History of a plant: the example of Echinacea]. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2003;10 Suppl 1:9-12. doi:10.1159/000071678

13. Askari H, Ghaedi M, Naghiha R, Salehi A. In Vitro Antibacterial and Antifungal Studies of Pulicaria undulate and Echinacea purpurea Extracts in Combination with Nanowires (Ni:FeO(OH)) and Nanoparticles (NiS). Jundishapur J Nat Pharm Prod. 2020;15(2). doi:10.5812/jjnpp.64358

14. Signer J, Jonsdottir HR, Albrich WC, et al. In vitro virucidal activity of Echinaforce®, an Echinacea purpurea preparation, against coronaviruses, including common cold coronavirus 229E and SARS-CoV-2. Virology Journal. 2020;17(1):136. doi:10.1186/s12985-020-01401-2

15. Buluş E, Buluş GS, Akkaş M, Çetin T, Yaman E, Altındal T. Nanotechnological Wound Healing Bandage Production from Polymer Solutions Containing Tea Tree Oil, Echinacea, Spider Web and Aloe Vera. JOURNAL OF MATERIALS AND ELECTRONIC DEVICES. 2020;6(1):19-23.

16. Vieira SF, Gonçalves VMF, Llaguno CP, et al. On the Bioactivity of Echinacea purpurea Extracts to Modulate the Production of Inflammatory Mediators. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2022;23(21):13616. doi:10.3390/ijms232113616

17. Choi IJ, Choi IJ. The Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Activities of Echinacea angustifolia Hot Water Extract. Asian J Beauty Cosmetol. 2022;20(3):373-381. doi:10.20402/ajbc.2022.0064

18. Mesri M, Esmaeili Saber SS, Godazi M, et al. The effects of combination of Zingiber officinale and Echinacea on alleviation of clinical symptoms and hospitalization rate of suspected COVID-19 outpatients: a randomized controlled trial. J Complement Integr Med. 2021;18(4):775-781. doi:10.1515/jcim-2020-0283

19. Bax CE, Chakka S, Concha JSS, Zeidi M, Werth VP. The effects of immunostimulatory herbal supplements on autoimmune skin diseases. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2021;84(4):1051-1058. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2020.06.037

20. Fahimirad S, Satei P, Ganji A, Abtahi H. Wound healing capability of the double-layer Polycaprolactone/Polyvinyl alcohol-Chitosan lactate electrospun nanofiber incorporating Echinacea purpurea extract. Journal of Drug Delivery Science and Technology. 2023;87:104734. doi:10.1016/j.jddst.2023.104734

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