ME/CFS and Supplements 5: Echinacea


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.


2 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!

Leave a Comment