Echinacea is an herb with bright pink flowers. It has been used to ease cold and flu-like symptoms. It can be taken as a pill, powder, extract, or made into a tea. Echinacea can also be applied to the skin as an ointment or cream. It has been used to promote healing and ease swelling in skin problems, such as wounds and eczema.


400 milligrams 2 to 3 times daily

What Research Shows

Likely Effective

  • Recurrent respiratory tract infection —likely to reduce number of illnessesB1

May Be Effective

  • Sore throat —may ease symptoms when used as a spray D1

Not Enough Data to Assess

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe for most adults to use echinacea on the skin or to take it in small doses for a short time. Some people may have allergic reactions to Echinacea. Children may have more severe reactions.C1, C2

Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. It is also not known whether it is safe to take by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse such as:

  • People taking medicine to ease swelling should talk to their doctor before taking echinacea. It may interact with the medicine.
  • People with autoimmune disorders or cancer should talk to their doctor before taking echinacea. It may interact with their medicine.
  • People taking medicine to improve sleep or ease anxiety should talk to their doctor before taking echinacea. It may interact with the medicine.


A. Common Cold

A1. Nahas R, Balla A. Complementary and alternative medicine for prevention and treatment of the common cold. Can Fam Physician. 2011;57(1):31-36.

A2. Karsch-Völk M, Barrett B, et al. Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(2):CD000530.

B. Respiratory Tract Infection

B1. Schapowal A, Klein P, et al. Echinacea reduces the risk of recurrent respiratory tract infections and complications: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Adv Ther. 2015;32(3):187-200.

C. Safety

C1. Taylor JA, Weber W, et al. Efficacy and safety of echinacea in treating upper respiratory tract infections in children: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2003 Dec 3;290(21):2824-2830.

C2. Huntley AL, Thompson Coon J, et al. The safety of herbal medicinal products derived from Echinacea species: a systematic review. Drug Saf. 2005;28(5):387-400.

D. Sore Throat

D1. Schapowal A, Berger D, et al. Echinacea/sage of chlorhexidine/lidocaine for treating acute sore throats: a randomized double-blind trial. Eur J Med Res. 2009;14(9):406-412.

Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC  Last Updated: 5/27/2020