Démystifions l'échinacée

Echinacea is a wild plant native to North America belonging to the Asteraceae family. Different parts of this plant containing several biologically active substances are used. It is found in several forms: fresh or dried roots, tea, powder, extract, tablet, etc. It is often used to prevent or treat upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. Let's take a look at what the research observes on this subject.

Echinacea and upper respiratory tract infections

A systematic review with meta-analysis published in 2019 assessed the safety and efficacy of echinacea in the prevention, duration and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections. The study found a significant effect in preventing upper respiratory tract infections, but no impact in terms of the duration of symptoms. The study also found no short-term safety risks. Finally, in the treatment of these infections, the evidence for the efficacy of echinacea is limited. In conclusion, this review suggests that echinacea may have a preventive effect on the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, but not on the duration or treatment of these infections. Finally, regarding safety, echinacea appears to be safe in the short term. However, these observations are limited by the heterogeneity of the included studies (eg: use of different echinacea preparations).

Possible side effects of echinacea

Echinacea can cause mild, transient side effects such as fatigue, dizziness, headache, and digestive symptoms. Additionally, people who are allergic to certain plants, such as daisies and marigolds, may have an allergic reaction to echinacea. In general, echinacea is contraindicated in individuals with autoimmune disorders, AIDS, tuberculosis and multiple sclerosis, as well as organ transplants. Finally, echinacea supplements are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Possible interactions of echinacea with drugs

Echinacea can interact with certain drugs, such as immunosuppressants. Individuals who are immunocompromised or have an autoimmune disease should consult their doctor before consuming echinacea.

Cold prevention

Although studies suggest that echinacea may have a preventative effect on the incidence of colds, it does not prevent you from catching it. Adopting good health habits, such as frequent hand washing, is one of the best ways to minimize your risks. The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) suggests some habits to adopt to reduce the risk of contracting and / or transmitting the common cold virus:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Cough and sneeze into the crease of his elbow or use a tissue and throw it away immediately after
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Avoid bringing your hands to your face (mouth, nose, eyes)
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces likely to be contaminated
  • Maintain physical distance between people (e.g. 1 to 2 meters, teleworking, etc.)


Article written by:

Marie-Noël Marsan, Nutritionist


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