By Jill Levy
If you’re looking for an immune-supporting herb to add your wellness routine, echinacea should be at the top of (or near the top of) your list. This herbal flower (also known as Zi Zu Hua) is generally known for its immune-boosting properties and is often found in immune-supporting supplements.
Overall, it can be helpful for supporting a healthy gut and healthy immune system, in addition to healthy cognitive function and healthy skin.
Since most people don’t grow echinacea flowers in their gardens at home (although it’s possible to do this), one of the best ways to benefit from this plant is to sip on a traditional tonic in the form of echinacea tea. Another convenient option is supplementing with echinacea extract, whether in capsule or tincture form.
What Is Echinacea Tea?
Echinacea refers to a family of perennial flowers related to daisies and asters. This plant has long been used to make herbal mixtures — including echinacea tea, fresh-pressed echinacea juice and echinacea extract (also sold as echinacea tincture or echinacea drops).
Echinacea tea is a caffeine-free, herbal tea made from steeping echinacea flowers, leaves or roots. It’s generally used to help support healthy respiratory function and for general immune support.
The type, or species, of echinacea that is most commonly used is the “purple coneflower” (scientifically known as Echinacea purpurea). It is native to the eastern and central U.S., spanning from Texas to New York.
There are many traditional echinacea uses, but, while more studies need to be conducted, the strongest scientific evidence available currently supports echinacea use — whether as echinacea extract or echinacea tea — as a way to help support the healthy functions of the upper respiratory tract and digestive system.
Every part of the echinacea plant — leaves, flowers and roots — contains a range of useful bioactive compounds. The exact compounds and how much of each is present varies from part to part of the plant, from season to season, and from species to species.
In fact, Ancient Nutrition’s new Ancient Herbals Echinacea + Astragalus formula provides immune system-supporting benefits, plus promotes healthy gut function and microbial balance thanks to inclusion of 2 billion CFUs* of Bacillus subtilis, a type of soil-based organism (SBO) probiotic.
What are the benefits of echinacea tea?
- Generally speaking, this herb possesses antioxidants such as flavonoids, cichoric acid, caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid that can help support overall healthy cellular functions, a healthy immune response and healthy, normal aging.
- Consuming this herb can help to promote overall health. It does this by generally supporting the immune system and your body's defenses.
- While more studies need to be done, there’s evidence that echinacea also supports metabolic health.
- For those who may be interested in additional support, echinacea can have calming effects and support restful sleep and healthy energy levels.
- Echinacea can also be an excellent herb for promoting healthy cardiovascular functioning in general.
Echinacea Tea Recipe
Making traditional echinacea tea with fresh flowers is a lengthy process that can take six hours to brew from start to finish; however it can be worth it if you’re patient because the tea contains a very wide range of potentially active compounds.
To speed up the process, you can also make echinacea tea using dried leaves or roots, or you can choose to supplement with echinacea extract instead, although there are differences between teas and supplements, of course.
Want to grow your own echinacea at home to make homemade tea or extract? Here are some pointers:
- Plant echinacea seeds or small plants in a sunny area of well-drained soil.
- In late spring or summer, gather enough young echinacea leaves to fill a glass jar of your choice, chop them coarsely and pack them loosely into a clean, sterilized jar.
- Cover the leaves with vodka, screw on the lid and place the jar in a cool, dark area where you will remember to give it a shake every day.
- Wait at least a month for your Super Echinacea Extract to be ready to use. Strain and store in a cool, dark place.
Here’s how to make echinacea tea at home:
- To make one serving, use about two teaspoons of dried leaves/roots. Put the roots and leaves in a tea diffuser and steep in eight ounces of very hot water for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the diffuser and let the tea cool. While the tea should have a pleasant taste on its own, you can sweeten it with a bit of raw honey and add fresh lemon juice for some additional flavor if you’d like.
Depending on why you’re using echinacea, you have a choice between many forms — including tea, ointments, capsules, tinctures and extracts.
Echinacea and astragalus are generally identified to be overall health supporters and are amongst the top trending ingredients for immune support, which is why both are featured in Ancient Nutrition’s new Ancient Herbals Echinacea + Astragalus formula.
This unique product couples together two powerhouse ingredients used for decades in traditional Chinese methods (TCM) with soil-based organism (SBO) probiotics for targeted immune support.
Astragalus (also known as milkvetch root and Huang-qi), a herb rooted in Chinese herbalism, pairs well with echinacea as it acts as a balancer. It’s considered an adaptogenic herb that serves as an overall health and energy supporter.
While echinacea is a strong-acting herb that is best used intermittently, astragalus is generally safe to use for longer periods of time to help promote harmony and balance within the immune system.
Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to embarking on any dietary or lifestyle routine, including taking supplements.
Why include SBOs, particularly the type called Bacillus subtilis? Because SBOs offer support for a healthy immune response, immune defense, healthy digestion, nutrient absorption and much more. SBOs also stand out among probiotics because they are known to withstand heat, bile and stomach acids, meaning they actually make it to your gut where they can go to work.
As long as you stick with recommended amounts, this herb is generally well-tolerated. However some people may experience side effects if they consume too much. Again, that’s why you should always consult your healthcare professional.
Speak to your doctor about your consumption of herbal tea if you’re currently taking any medications, are pregnant or nursing.
If you’re using echinacea extract rather than tea, be sure to read the product’s directions and ask your healthcare professional before starting any dietary or supplement use or routine.
The directions for suggested use of our Echinacea + Astragalus formula is for adults to take two capsules daily with 8 ounces of water, coffee, tea or juice.
There are many traditional echinacea uses, but the strongest evidence available (while more studies need to be conducted) supports use of echinacea tea and extract as a way to help support a healthy immune system, including by promoting healthy immune activation and a healthy immune response.
Other echinacea uses include generally supporting digestion, cognitive health and skin health.
You can grow your own echinacea flowers and make your own homemade tea; however, a convenient way to consume this herb is in extract or capsule form.
Jill has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.
*at time of manufacture