Echinacea preparations can be made from the stems, leaves, and roots of the plants.
Echinacea is a flowering plant that is native to North America. It is a member of the daisy family of plants.
- are available in various forms (tablets or liquids)
- are available in various strengths
- can be made from different parts of the echinacea plant (e.g. the stems, leaves and/or roots)
- may be made in different ways (e.g. as the dried herb, extracts of the plant juices in alcohol or fresh juice pressed from the plant)
- sometimes also contain other ingredients (e.g. other types of plant extract).
Does taking echinacea help a cold?
It is not known whether echinacea really can prevent or treat colds or flu (influenza). This is because most echinacea preparations have not been tested in reliable clinical trials. Therefore, there is no reliable information on how much echinacea you would need to take, how long you should take it for, or which form is the most effective (dried, fresh juice or extracts in alcohol).
What are the side effects of echinacea?
There is also limited information about the safety of echinacea preparations. One clinical trial in children with colds found that the children taking echinacea experienced more rashes than the children taking a placebo (an inactive substance).
Who can I ask about side effects?
If you’re concerned that you or someone in your care may have had side effects related to any medicine, seek medical advice. To report and discuss possible side effects, call the Adverse Medicines Events Line on 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia (Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm).
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking
It is important that you tell your health professional about all the medicines you or anyone in your care is taking — including prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (‘herbal’ or ‘natural’ medicines and vitamin and mineral supplements). This is because all medicines, including herbal and natural medicines, can cause side effects and may interact with other medicines. The benefits and risks of herbal and natural medicines may not have been tested.
Phone for medicines information
Call the NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) to get information about your prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (‘herbal’ or ‘natural’ medicines and vitamin and mineral supplements) from a pharmacist. Your call will be answered by healthdirect Australia.
- Linde K, Barrett B, Bauer R, et al. Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006;(1):CD000530.pub2. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000530.pub2/abstract (accessed 21 March 2012).
- National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Herbs at a glance: echinacea. nccam.nih.gov/health/echinacea/ataglance.htm (accessed 18 February 2012).