Natural Immune Booster

Antiviral, Antifungal, & Antibacterial Echinacea Benefits

Echinacea has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects.

Research suggests that echinacea can help battle different types of infections. Many compounds in echinacea have antioxidant, immune boosting, and antimicrobial effects. However, study results are often conflicting.(99-102)

This can be due to doses used in studies, or differences between compounds found in each echinacea species. For example, studies suggest Echinacea purpurea could be effective in treating staph infections, while E. angustifolia shows no benefit.(99-102)

Levels of active compounds can vary even within plants of the same species depending on growing conditions. This indicates the need for testing extracts that have been standardized to certain levels of active compounds. In clinical studies standardized echinacea extracts have shown promising results.(99100)

Echinacea's Antibacterial and Antiparasitic Effects

Lab studies demonstrate that Echinacea purpurea has antimicrobial effects against a number of common infectious agents, including:(1725103)

  • Escherichia coli. Commonly referred to as E. coli, a large group of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The bacteria that causes swimmer's ear
  • Staphylococcus aureus. S. aureus is the most common type of some 30 different Staph bacteria that can cause infection of various organs (including the skin) and a number of related diseases (e.g., sepsis, pneumonia).
  • Trichomonas vaginalis. A microscopic parasite that causes a common STD.

Sometimes the effects of E. purpurea can be indirect, but still highly beneficial. For example, MRSA is a serious staph infection resistant to antibiotics. The damage from inflammation caused by MRSA can be severe and even deadly. Although E. purpurea has minimal direct toxic effect on staph, in lab tests it was very effective in reducing inflammation caused by the bacteria.(103)

Echinacea angustifolia also shows antibacterial activity against some bacteria — especially Gram positive types. Clinical studies suggest both E. purpurea and E. pallida may help treat upper respiratory infections caused by bacteria.(7399)

Echinacea's Antifungal Effects

Lab studies show all 3 echinacea species have antifungal effects. They may also help improve the effectiveness of conventional antifungal treatments.(99)

For example, when applied with UV light, E. purpurea's fungicidal effects were enhanced. Echinacea may also synergistically enhance the effects of econazole, a pharmaceutical agent typically used to treat yeast and fungal conditions (i.e., athlete's foot).(925)

Echinacea's antifungal effects could also be useful for food preservation. When E. purpurea extract (made from aerial parts) was added to cake mix, it proved to be more effective at preventing mold than synthetic preservatives.(102)

Echinacea's Antiviral Effects

Experiments have shown that viruses, including those that cause upper respiratory illness (i.e., the common cold), cause the body to produce inflammatory proteins called cytokines. Although a necessary immune system response, high levels of cytokines are linked to the symptoms of these conditions.(104)

Lab tests show that a commercial extract of Echinacea purpurea (Echinaforce®) blocks the production of these cytokines by the viruses that cause:(73104)

This extract used both root and aerial parts of echinacea.(104)

Echinaforce® also demonstrated the ability to kill viruses with membranes and inhibit the reproduction of seasonal, bird, and swine flu strains. It did so without inducing resistant variations of the viruses. In fact, it worked against already resistant strains.(104)

Lab and animal studies indicate that E. purpurea could be useful for the following infectious conditions:(973104105)

  • Listeria infections
  • Sinusitis
  • Stomach virus
  • Urinary tract infections

Echinacea pallida and E. angustifolia may also have antiviral benefits. Lab studies show E. pallida is potent against by HSV-1 and HSV-2, and E. angustifolia potently blocks seasonal flu virus.(2599106)

Clinical studies in humans suggest that the 3 primary medicinal species of echinacea may offer preventive and therapeutic benefits against viral infections:(73100)

  • Common cold and seasonal flu (E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida)
  • HIV (E. purpurea and E. angustifolia)

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Acronym for sexually transmitted disease.
Acronym for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Acronym for respiratory syncytial virus.