Echinacea Tea Benefits and Side Effects

Cup of echinacea tea on wooden table
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Echinacea tea is a popular remedy for colds, flu, and other infections. Some people also believe that echinacea can alleviate pain, prevent cancer, improve mental health, and relieve skin problems. But the scientific community does not agree on the benefits of echinacea tea and some have expressed concerns regarding echinacea side effects.

What Is Echinacea Tea?

Echinacea tea is an herbal drink most commonly made from the Echinacea purpurea plant. Other varieties, including E. angustifolia and E. pallida, may also be used as an ingredient in some teas and extracts. Usually, the purple, cone-shaped flower of the plant is dried or cut fresh to make tea, but echinacea roots and leaves may also be used.

Echinacea is a perennial plant commonly grown in North American and Europe. The species is closely related to sunflowers, daisies, and ragweed.

The taste of echinacea tea is often described as tongue-tingling. In fact, some herbal product makers regard this quality as evidence of the herb's effectiveness. Echinacea is commonly combined with mint or with other ingredients such as lemongrass to make a more pleasant-tasting tea.

If you don't like the taste of echinacea tea, many cold and flu sufferers consume echinacea plus tea to gain greater benefits. Traditional tea may provide health benefits, that when combined with echinacea may give the tea drinker some relief from symptoms.

There is no caffeine in echinacea tea as some might expect. The herbal tea is not made like traditional tea, which is manufactured using leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant.  When you drink this herbal tea, you are not likely to get the boost of energy that you're likely to get from drinking caffeinated teas.

How to Make Echinacea Tea

You can purchase loose leaf echinacea tea or tea bags online and in many health food stores. Prepare these beverages according to package instructions. This is going to be the easiest way to make echinacea tea.

However, you have no guarantee of the quality of the ingredients when you buy echinacea from a vendor. For that reason, some consumers make echinacea tea at home using fresh or dried flowers, leaves, and roots. 

5 Steps to Prepare Echinacea Tea

  • Place flowers, leaves, and roots of an echinacea plant in a teacup. Be sure that the plant parts are free of dirt. 
  • Heat water to 90-95º Celsius or 194-205º Fahrenheit. If you don't have a temperature-controlled teapot, bring water to a boil and then let sit for a minute to reduce the temperature just slightly. 
  • Pour eight ounces of water over the plant parts.
  • Let the tea steep for as long as desired. It will usually take longer than steeping traditional teas and may take up to 15 minutes. 
  • Remove the flowers, roots, and leaves and flavor to taste before drinking.

Many echinacea tea drinkers enjoy adding honey, ginger or other flavor enhancements to their tea. Experiment with different flavors to find a combination that you enjoy.

Echinacea Tea Health Benefits

Echinacea has a long history of being used as an herbal treatment. American Indians were known to have used the treatment for a wide range of ailments before western settlers began using it in the 1800s. Because it has a long history of use, researchers have been studying the herb for decades with mixed results. 

Keep in mind that there are other purported benefits of echinacea that you won't gain by drinking echinacea tea. For example, echinacea is occasionally used to treat skin infections, but to gain that benefit it must be applied directly to the skin. Similarly, studies on using echinacea to treat conditions including herpes, ear infections, anxiety, HPV, and other conditions were performed using extracts which are more concentrated than tea.

Drinking echinacea tea may provide some limited benefits.

  • Reduce or prevent cold symptoms. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of echinacea to relieve the severity of cold symptoms, although some research suggests that the herb may reduce the length of the illness and may help to prevent colds if echinacea is taken before you are exposed. 
  • Flu treatment or prevention. Some evidence suggests that drinking an echinacea beverage like tea may provide relieve some flu symptoms.
  • Boost immune health. Some lab and animal studies have shown that echinacea contains chemicals that may help boost inflammation. But there is no evidence that the benefit occurs in humans.

Lastly, it is important to note that most studies investigating the effectiveness echinacea generally use an extract form of the herb, not tea. In addition, researchers are able to verify the quality of echinacea when they use it in research. Unfortunately, consumers can't verify the integrity of the herbal supplements or teas that they purchase in stores. In fact, some investigations have revealed that herbal supplements sold in stores don't always contain the ingredient or the level of ingredient claimed on the package.

Echinacea Tea Side Effects

According to the National Institutes of Health, echinacea is probably safe for most people, although some people experience side effects such as stomach pain, nausea, headache, dizziness. In rare cases, severe allergic reactions may occur, especially in those allergic to ragweed, mums, marigolds, or daisies. 

Some people should avoid echinacea, including those taking immunosuppressant medications, those using tamoxifen, if you have allergies or asthma, if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you are undergoing eyelid surgery. In addition, echinacea may interfere with certain medications. Talk to your doctor if you are taking medication or currently managing a medical condition to make sure that drinking echinacea tea is safe for you.

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