echinacea and ginger improve symptoms in people with suspected COVID-19

Echinacea is probably the most popular herb for supporting the immune system. Echinacea enhances your immune system’s response to viral infections. So, could it enhance your response to COVID infections?

A new study set out to see. The study is a little bit strange because the hundred people in it had “suspected COVID-19” and not confirmed COVID-19. But every little bit helps!

The people in the study were identified as having suspicious COVID based on positive CT scan/X-ray and clinical symptoms of COVID.

The study gave fifty people standard treatment consisting of hydroxychloroquine and fifty people the same standard treatment plus a herbal combination of echinacea and ginger. Both treatments lasted for seven days.

What difference did the herbs make? The people in the herbal group had significantly greater improvement in coughing, shortness of breath and muscle pain. Coughing was alleviated in 97.6% of the echinacea/ginger group versus 78.8% of the standard treatment group. Shortness of breath improved in 91.17% of the herb group versus 69.23% of the standard treatment group. And muscle pain improved in 96% of the herb group versus 76.47% of the standard care group.

Though it did not reach statistical significance, fewer people in the herbal group had to be hospitalized: 6% of the control group (three people), but only 2% of the echinacea and ginger group (one person) had to be hospitalized.

The authors conclude that combining the efficacy of the herbs with their safety suggests that echinacea and ginger should be recommended for the “alleviation and control of clinical symptoms in COVID-19 outpatients.”

Why did the researchers choose ginger and echinacea? They say they chose ginger because of its proven ability to suppress proinflammatory cytokines, which is important in managing the exaggerated inflammation of the cytokine storm. In addition to its anti-inflammatory affects, ginger also recommended itself because of ability to ease coughing and chest pain. They also point out that in China, where herbs are routinely given to COVID patients, a herbal combination that includes ginger and licorice has led to a positive response in 90% of COVID patients (Chin J Nat Med 2020;18:226–30).

They say that Echinacea is used for upper respiratory infections and inflammation and that it improves immunity on many levels. While the authors of this study don’t mention it, components of echinacea known as alkamides have been shown to bind to cannabinoid receptors in a way that may be able to reduce the exaggerated inflammatory response in COVID patients. And, promisingly, a recent cell study found that a readily available Echinacea purpurea herb and root preparation demonstrated antiviral activity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus (Virology Journal 2020;17(1):136).


J Complement Integr Med 2021 Mar 31. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2020-0283


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