You’ve most likely heard of echinacea, also known as coneflower, and the many potential health benefits that it can provide. A member of the Asteraceae family,1 along with lettuce, artichokes, dandelion and sunflower, echinacea has been used for over 400 years by Native Americans to ease infections, help wounds heal and as a "cure-all" for different illnesses.2 There are many ways to use echinacea — dried herb, liquid extracts, capsules and pills3 are some products you can buy today. However, have you ever heard of echinacea tea? Let’s take a closer look at this beverage to see what it may do for your well-being.
What Is Echinacea Tea?
Made from the leaves and flower buds (and sometimes roots) of the plant,4 echinacea tea has been used for hundreds of years as a remedy for a wide range of ailments.5 There are three species that are popular as herbal remedies and can be made into tea, which are:6
• Echinacea angustifolia
• Echinacea pallida
• Echinacea purpurea
In the U.S., echinacea tea’s healing properties became popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, but this shifted with the increased use of antibiotics. Today, however, people still drink it in order to ease infections and improve their immune system — and more.7 Some enjoy only using the plant parts, while others make use of other ingredients like honey and lemon to give the flavor a boost.
Echinacea Tea Benefits
The notable benefits of echinacea come from its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. It’s also identified as an immune-strengthening agent.8 Hence, drinking a cup of echinacea tea may provide these benefits, and more:9
• Helps fight off the common cold and flu. Drinking echinacea tea may help shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms, and to reduce risk of complications, according to a study in Current Therapeutic Research, Clinical and Experimental journal.10
In a meta-analysis published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the herb is found to reduce the risk of developing a cold by 58 percent and to shorten its duration by 1.4 days. Researchers noted, however, that these benefits may occur only with a high-quality echinacea supplement.11
• May help control blood sugar levels. According to a 2017 study, prediabetics and diabetics can help manage both hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and high blood pressure by taking an echinacea extract. It also provides additional antioxidant properties.12
• May help ease anxiety. The extract from the herb was found to have anti-anxiety properties14 by helping regulate the excitatory synaptic transmissions in the hippocampus, potentially lessening feelings of anxiety in your brain. Tea preparations may impart this benefit, too.
Echinacea Tea’s Nutrition Facts and Caffeine Content
Echinacea tea contains vitamins A, B complex and E, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, sodium and potassium.15 It also has polysaccharides, which is found in high concentrations in the stem and roots of the plant ,16 and may have immune-boosting properties. Other therapeutic compounds found in Echinacea tea include alkamides, glycoproteins, volatile oils and flavonoids.
While this beverage does not contain caffeine, take note that it has an effect on the caffeine you ingest from other foods. The herb may cause your body to break down caffeine at a pace that’s slower than usual. As a result, the amount of time caffeine stays in your system becomes extended, resulting in side effects such as rapid heartbeat, headaches and anxiety.17
How to Make Homemade Echinacea Tea
You can use either dried or fresh Echinacea leaves, flowers or roots to make homemade tea. Here’s a recipe from Genius Kitchen you can try — it adds ginger and lemon to the brew for a richer flavor:18
Hot Ginger Echinacea Lemon Tea
1. Place the Echinacea and ginger in a teapot.
2. Pour the boiling water, cover and let steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Add honey and lemon juice and stir. Strain into two mugs and serve.
How to Dry and Store Echinacea Tea
If you want to have a ready supply of echinacea, then you can grow the plant in your garden. Check out “Echinacea: The All-American Flower” for tips on how to grow this plant. Once you have flowers and leaves ready, you can harvest them and dry them for later use. Here’s a guide from SFGate on drying echinacea and storing it properly:19
1. The flowers can be harvested in the second year of the plant, while you can pick leaves anytime during the flowering cycle. Wait until the buds are just beginning to open before harvesting the flowers.
2. Use a sharp pair of shears to cut through the stem. If harvesting the leaves, you should cut just above the lowest set of leaves. If getting the flower buds, select those that are above the topmost leaf set.
3. Cut off the buds just behind the flower head and then dispose this remaining stem. Meanwhile, strip the leaves from the stem.
4. On a drying screen, make sure that the buds and leaves are evenly spread out. Place in a warm, dry room that has good circulation, but do not expose them to intense heat or light. It will take five to seven days for these to dry. Check until they feel papery and brittle.
5. Once dried, place the flowers and leaves in a sealed container. Store in a dark, cool and dry place until they’re ready for use.
Potential Side Effects of Drinking Echinacea Tea
The echinacea herb has been linked to several side effects, which may be passed on to the tea. According to WebMD, upset stomach is the most common adverse reaction to this herb. Those who have allergies to plants belonging to the daisy family should also skip echinacea, as it may lead to reactions such as:
• Worsened asthma symptoms
• Anaphylaxis (having trouble breathing, which can be life-threatening)
Echinacea can also interact with certain medications like antifungals and prescription drugs for heart problems like amiodarone. When taken in combination with this herb or herbal tea, these drugs can put you at risk of liver damage.20
The Native Americans Valued This Tea — Why Not Give It a Try?
Used for centuries, echinacea has long been known for its healing and immune-promoting properties. It’s not difficult to find — it’s actually a favorite of many garden enthusiasts. So if you’re looking for a new way to enjoy tea, try to make a delicious brew using this plant. Echinacea tea may not be as popular as other herbal teas, but it can surely provide you with a boost of health.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Echinacea Tea
Q: Where do I buy echinacea tea?
A: You can buy echinacea tea from health stores or online shops. You can also grow the plant at home, so you can have a ready supply at all times.
Q: Is Echinacea tea safe during pregnancy?
A: A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that echinacea did not pose any risks to pregnant women.21 However, because of the limited studies done about this herb, this may be inconclusive. It’s best to avoid drinking echinacea tea if you’re pregnant, unless approved by your health care provider.
Source: mercola rss