Echinacea is a perennial flowering plant in the daisy family. These tall and beautiful purple flowers grow wild on the great plains of North America, east of the Rocky Mountains, but are widely cultivated elsewhere around the world.
Native American tribes used echinacea for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years, particularly as a remedy for colds and flu and as a treatment for snake bites and venomous stings. Knowledge of its benefits was exported to Europe in the 17th century.
Echinacea has been widely studied in the modern era, and is known to have antibiotic, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Some studies have shown that echinacea can reduce the chances of catching a cold quite significantly, and can reduce the length of time symptoms last once a cold is in progress. Other studies have shown no notable effects, but echinacea remains a very popular over the counter remedy and preventative measure.
The plant does contain a number of phenols with antioxidant properties, and it also contains alkamides which are known to have an immunity boosting effect.
Echinacea can be bought as a tea, tablet or capsule, and also in drop form.