National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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Echinacea

Common Names: 
echinacea, purple coneflower, coneflower, American coneflower
Latin Name: 
Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida

echinacea_foster.jpg

Echinacea

© Steven Foster

On this page:

  • Sources
  • Introduction

    This fact sheet provides basic information about echinacea—common names, what the science says, potential side effects and cautions, and resources for more information.

    There are nine known species of echinacea, all of which are native to the United States and southern Canada. The most commonly used is Echinacea purpurea. Echinacea has traditionally been used for colds, flu, and other infections, based on the idea that it might stimulate the immune system to more effectively fight infection. Less common folk or traditional uses of echinacea include for wounds and skin problems, such as acne or boils.

    The aboveground parts of the plant and roots of echinacea are used fresh or dried to make teas, squeezed (expressed) juice, extracts, or preparations for external use.

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    What the Science Says

    • Study results are mixed on whether echinacea can prevent or effectively treat upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold. For example, two NCCAM-funded studies did not find a benefit from echinacea, either as Echinacea purpurea fresh-pressed juice for treating colds in children, or as an unrefined mixture of Echinacea angustifolia root and Echinacea purpurea root and herb in adults. However, other studies have shown that echinacea may be beneficial in treating upper respiratory infections.
    • NCCAM is continuing to support the study of echinacea for the treatment of upper respiratory infections. NCCAM is also studying echinacea for its potential effects on the immune system.

    Side Effects and Cautions

    • When taken by mouth, echinacea usually does not cause side effects. However, some people experience allergic reactions, including rashes, increased asthma, and anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction). In clinical trials, gastrointestinal side effects were most common.
    • People are more likely to experience allergic reactions to echinacea if they are allergic to related plants in the daisy family, which includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Also, people with asthma or atopy (a genetic tendency toward allergic reactions) may be more likely to have an allergic reaction when taking echinacea.
    • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary and alternative medicine, see NCCAM's Time to Talk campaign.

    Search the scientific literature for potential herb-drug interactions

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    Sources

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    For More Information

    NCCAM Clearinghouse

    The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on NCCAM and complementary health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

    Toll-free in the U.S.: 
    1-888-644-6226
    TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 
    1-866-464-3615
    E-mail: 

    PubMed®

    A service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals.

    Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    ODS seeks to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, supporting research, sharing research results, and educating the public. Its resources include publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know), fact sheets on a variety of specific supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements), and the PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset.

    PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset: ods.od.nih.gov/Research/PubMed_Dietary_Supplement_Subset.aspx

    E-mail: 

    NIH National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus

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    This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

    NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCAM.

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    NCCAM Publication No.: 
    D271
    Created: 
    July 2005
    Updated: 
    April 2012