ME/CFS and Supplements 5: Echinacea

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Echinacea is thought to boost the immune system and to have antiviral and anti-fungal properties. General research into the benefits of taking Echinacea has had inconsistent results, with the strongest evidence suggesting that it is most beneficial when taken during the early stages of an infection. So far there is no evidence of it being of particular benefit to people with ME/CFS. However, from early on in my illness I was convinced that my immune system wasn’t working as it should and it seemed to make sense to try and support it. I took this supplement religiously whilst suffering from ME/CFS the first time, taking a couple of weeks off every couple of months, as recommended. This time I decided to follow an alternative plan, more in line with the research. I took it regularly only at the beginning of the illness (acute stage) and then decided to only take it whenever my symptoms suggested a new fight with infection. Although I also took it as a precautionary measure when someone in my household had a cold or flu, and on the rare occasion I took a flight.

However a few months ago, I seemed to be suffering one viral crash after another, so I decided to have a bit of an Echinacea blast, taking it 3 times a day until I started doing well and had no longer had a sore throat. (For me, a sore throat seems to be a reliable indicator that my body is struggling with something). However, Instead of desisting altogether, I decided to experiment with taking it once a day for a little longer, just to make sure I didn’t immediately pick something else up. It’s possible that it’s a coincidence, but ever since I’ve been feeling remarkable well. I’ve had a few low energy days, as you do, but I’ve not had an all-out crash. Today I do have a bit of a sore throat, so I’m going to take it 3 times again today as a precautionary measure. I’ve decided that I’m going to continue with it as a daily supplement instead of an ‘as and when’ and see where it leads. Perhaps it did contribute to my original recovery after all? It is suggested that if you do take it continuously that you take a break every couple of months for a couple of weeks to ensure its continued effectiveness. It’s probably about time I did that now, but I think I’ll wait until my sore throat is better.

Echinacea is not recommended if you have a confirmed autoimmune aspect to your illness. If your immune system is attacking your own cells, Echinacea might just strengthen that attack!

Please remember that this post is not intended as a recommendation. We are all different and different supplements are likely to have a different value for each of us. Finding supplements that work for us is very much an experiment. We must each take responsibility for our own decisions about which ones might be worth investing in, making sure that they are adequately informed. If in doubt consult your doctor or alternative health practitioner, and always consult your doctor if you have any other conditions and/or are taking any kind of medication.

Again, I would recommend that when you choose to take a supplement you introduce each new one, one at a time. I would also suggest that you record your symptoms and general state of well-being before and after to observe if and how they make a difference. Every few months, if you are well enough to experiment with not taking it, it’s a good idea to cut it out for a few weeks and see if there are any ill effects. If there are you can resume taking it with confidence, if not you might want to economise.

 

6 thoughts on “ME/CFS and Supplements 5: Echinacea”

  1. Hi, thanks for the helpful post. Do you still recommend the echinacea for general immunity and what else helped you during a viral crash? Seem to keep having them now and also found my white blood cell count was low.

    • HI David, Yes I’m still taking echinacea daily with a break every couple of months. My health has improved quite dramatically in the last year or so and I have far fewer ‘viral crashes’. I also take quite a high level of vitamin C which I think helps with the whole immunity thing (I’ve also written a post on that). I’ve also found that getting my ferritin levels up (they were ridiculously low) has helped stabilise me in this respect too. Generally when I do have a viral crash, apart from upping my echinacea, my main approach is lots and lots of quality rest, trying to make myself as comfortable as possible until is passes, and being careful not to add meaning with the low mood that often accompany’s it. Sorry it’s taken me a while to respond, I somehow didn’t see you comment come in! I hope things are already a lot better for you now!

  2. Hello an dthank you for your article.
    I came down with some virus 10-11 weeks ago and haven’t completely come out of it 100% yet. (no flu feelings now but a lingering eye-twinging and occasional mild nausea with some fatigue) So I guess I have some form of post viral syndrome.
    I took Echinacea at first 4 times a day, then 3 times a day. The virus kept coming back week after week with fluey feelings (heavy malaise). I added raw garlic and Astragalus tea. Thise helped a lot and the fluey feelings passed but some other symptoms such as shakiness, some nausea, eye twinges, tiredness are still with me.
    I am on week 10 nearly 11 now and am still not cured but don’t have full blown CFS symptoms. Just don’t feel quite well yet.
    I am still taking Echinacea tincture and often feel a little better after it but it doesn’t seem to be 100% busting this. I can’t quite return to my normal healthy self.
    Do you think I should keep taking it? Some friends of mine have told me to stop taking it, that the Echinacea might be making me feel queasy! It never did before when I took it for infections, and in the past it cured me of snakebite and a bad bacterial systemic infection with no bad side effects at all..
    But it doesn’t seem to shift this virus completely!
    Been to the doc. He found no abnormalities in blood results/urine tests/heart exam/blood pressure/etc etc.

  3. Hi Sylivia,

    Sorry to hear of your post viral fatigue. I’m not really qualified to advise on supplements only share my own experience and research. My understanding is it is recommended to take a couple of weeks off every couple of months. That could be an experiment for you to see if it’s what’s making you queasy. If your queasiness doesn’t get better you’ll know its not related to the echinacea, and after a break it might just work a little better again.

    What I would stress though is that no supplement is going to be the be all and end all. If you’re in a post viral state, please make sure that you give your body the peace and rest it truly needs to be able to recuperate.

    I understand how frustrating it is and how strong the desire is to get better, but taking a patient relaxed approach will keep you in a better state for healing!

    Good luck! Julie

  4. Hi Julie, are you finding the one a day maintenance dose still helpful?
    What do you think of the reports that taking it long term can actually suppress the immune system?
    Hope this finds you well,
    Jackie

    • Hi Jackie,

      Thank you, I’m doing really well at the moment!

      I’m not presently taking echinacea daily, although I did during the winter after experiencing one viral crash after another again. Now that I’m doing well again, I’ve decided to take some time off it, to see how I go (as I do with most of my supplements from time to time) and as there have been no ill effects from stopping it this time so far, I’ve decided to go without for a while longer.

      When health improvements level out and supplementation seems to be just about maintenance I try and do what I can to minimise the toxic load on my body, by minimising what it doesn’t seem to be benefiting from. I now energy test each of my supplements daily to see what message I get from my body about whether it’s needed or not.

      Good luck with finding what works for you,

      Warm wishes,

      Julie

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