What is Echinacea?
Echinacea – also sometimes referred to as the purple coneflower or the pale coneflower – is a flowering plant most commonly grown in the U.S. and Canada. It can grow up to two feet tall and produces vivacious pink blossoms with a large, spiny head (it’s prettier than it sounds).
Everything from the leaves to the stems, flowers, and roots are used to make supplements, extracts, and teas that harness its healing powers. Echinacea has primarily been used for the prevention of illnesses and as a natural infection fighter. This includes the undesirable common cold and flu that we’ve all probably battled at one point or another. In fact, a review of 14 studies found that taking echinacea may lower the risk of developing colds by more than 50% and shorten the duration of colds by one and a half days. Some research has even proven it to be just as effective (if not more so) as Tamiflu. Sounds pretty promising, right?
One of the greatest echinacea benefits is that it is very high in antioxidants, which help to naturally defend the body against oxidative stress. Basically, they entice the immune system to make more white blood cells which engulf and kill troublesome pathogens like bacteria, germs, and dead cells.
Additionally, echinacea has strong anti-inflammatory properties, which help to prevent and reduce inflammation that can cause major harm within the body. To summarize, "it works as an immune system stimulant," says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of the National Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers.
While more and more studies continue to reconfirm echinacea’s benefits, this wonder herb is definitely one to consider stocking up on and incorporating into your daily diet for the basic prevention of illness and infection. Today, you can find echinacea in many forms including capsules, tinctures, and teas.
What is Elderberry?
Elderberry is also sometimes referred to as the American black elderberry or the common elderberry. It is the fruit of the Sambucus tree, which is widely grown across Europe and North America. Almost all parts of the plant are poisonous, except for its beautiful white flowers and dark purple berries. Traditionally, both are used to make delicious treats like drinks, pies, jams. and syrups. The taste of the fruit is often described as sharp and tart yet refreshing and slightly bitter.
Elderberry health benefits
For centuries, the various health benefits of elderberry have made it a commonly used ingredient in medicine due to its therapeutic properties. In medieval times it actually had the reputation of being a “holy” plant. That’s because the superfood elderberry is packed with powerful vitamins and minerals and key nutrients that promote general wellness and strengthen immunity. For example, just one cup of elderberry contains:
- 870 mg of vitamin A
- 406 mg of potassium
- 52.2 mg of vitamin C
- 9 mg of folate
- 55 mg of calcium
- 2.32 mg of iron
That’s not all. Elderberry is also rich in fiber, which supports the digestive system, and a variety of antioxidants (like anthocyanidins, flavonols and vitamin C). In fact, the anthocyanins found in the berries have 3.5 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E.
Elderberry for flu
Most commonly, elderberry is known for its ability to fight symptoms of viral infections like the common cold and flu. It’s important to note here that it won’t completely rid you of a cold or flu if you already have it, but the health benefits of elderberry may help your body kick the sickness faster.
Who doesn’t want that?
It does so by attacking the virus at the source and decreasing bronchial inflammation, which aids in reducing the severity and longevity of the bug’s course. One study of 60 people with influenza found that those who took 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times per day showed symptom improvement in two to four days, while the control group took seven to eight days to improve. So, next time you’re feeling under the weather, look to elderberry for relieving flu symptoms to help get you back on your feet faster. Sure, you could take the traditional route of drugstore medicines, but why not try something a bit more holistic first? The most potent form of elderberry is as a raw syrup, but you can also find it in other forms such as gummies, lozenges. and teas.
Which herb is best: elderberry vs. echinacea
When it comes down to which herb is best to build immunity, fight off infections, and boost overall health, the answer isn’t so simple. Elderberry and echinacea are both great! The pair can be used in different ways but can also work in conjunction with one another as natural infection fighters – and more.
Echinacea benefits make it best for preventative measures, while elderberry is best for when an illness is already present. Each of these herbal supplements are available at most pharmacies, health stores, supermarkets, and, of course, online.
You can also look to Dose for Immunity shots for an easy (and more convenient) way to consume more whole plant foods like these on a regular basis. Containing potent, always-organic ingredients like elderberry, zinc, acerola, ginger, and lemon, they’re brimming with vitamin C and other impressive nutrients that bolster the body’s defense system.
Other general tips to improve immunity
You want – no, need – your body to stay healthy and functioning. In addition to incorporating elderberry and echinacea into your routine, here are a few other tried-and-true ways in which you can improve immunity and fight harmful pathogens and disease-causing organisms:
- Minimize your intake of fried foods, processed sugar, alcohol, and simple carbohydrates.
- Stay hydrated to continuously flush germs and virus out of your system.
- Embrace friendly bacteria (AKA probiotics). These natural infection fighters can be found in food and drinks like kombucha, sauerkraut, yogurt, and raw apple cider vinegar
- Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
- Get outside and soak up some sun and fresh air, even when it’s cold out.
- Aim for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Stay active and raise your heartrate each day.
- Keep a positive mindset, practice mindfulness, and minimize stress.
- Rest and take time off when you do get sick – it happens to the best of us!