Botanical name(s):

Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, E. pallida. Family: Asteraceae

Other name(s):

black sampson, purple coneflower, rudbeckia, sampson root

General description

Echinacea is a flowering plant. It comes from North America. It’s also known as purple coneflower. The plant is harvested at flowering time. The roots and aboveground parts of the plant are used.

Echinacea refers to a mix of two plants that have pharmacological effects. They include E. angustifoliaE. angustifolia and E. purpurea. A broad spectrum of chemical compounds in the plants stimulates the immune system. These compounds include caffeic acid glycoside and chicoric acid. It also has anti-inflammatory effects.

Medically valid uses

There are no quality studies that support the use of echinacea for upper respiratory infections. Many studies have shown that it doesn’t help prevent or treat a cold. Other studies have shown only a small benefit. For instance, some studies showed it decreased how long cold symptoms lasted by a half day.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

American Indians used the leaves and roots of the plant to treat many issues. These include toothaches, snakebites, insect bites, and other skin wounds.

Many people say it prevents and treats upper respiratory infections. It’s also said to aid in wound healing.

Echinacea has also been used as an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent. This means it helps the body destroy or resist germs that cause illness. It’s also been used to treat fever, colic, coughs, and bronchitis. It may also treat urinary tract infections, sore throats, and the flu.

Dosing format

Echinacea comes in many forms. These include fresh, freeze-dried, dried, alcohol-based extract, liquid, tincture, tea, capsules, and salve.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Echinacea can cause side effects. These include fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Echinacea isn’t safe for everyone. Some people shouldn’t use it. This includes people who: 

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

  • Have a progressive systemic disease, such as tuberculosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis

  • Have HIV or AIDS

  • Are allergic to plants in the sunflower or daisy family

  • Are undergoing therapy for cancer

  • Have recently had eye surgery or have a history of dry eye

  • Are taking immunosuppressant medicines

There are no known food or medicine interactions linked with echinacea.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bianca Garilli MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Tennille Dozier RN BSN RDMS
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023