Nursing mothers often use herbal and dietary supplements to ensure that they are at their healthiest for their growing baby. At the same time, you need to be aware of what is in those supplements you are taking, because some foods and medicines can contain harmful substances that will enter your breastmilk. Others can interfere with milk production. That is why many women opt to use remedies like all-natural echinacea, which is present in a number of wellness teas and tinctures. But is echinacea safe? Can you use echinacea while breastfeeding?
We’ve compiled useful information to help you decide whether you should use echinacea or not.
What Is Echinacea?
Native to North America, echinacea is an herb that gathered from a plant with a cone-shaped center and pink or purple colored petals. There are several species of echinacea, each with a unique appearance, including Echinacea pallid, Echinacea purpurea, and Echinacea Angustifolia. The herb is ground into a powder and can be taken as a tincture or in capsule form or sometimes even as a tea.
How Does Echinacea Work?
Echinacea is generally used for its anti-inflammatory and immunostimulating effects on the body. It is thought to be beneficial in boosting the activity and growth of immune cells, including antibodies (T-cells), white blood cells, and macrophages. Another compound in the herb called echinacoside has been seen inhibiting hyaluronidase, which increases permeability in tissues. This means that echinacea can promote faster wound healing by preventing the spread of bacteria through the skin.
What Are The Benefits of Echinacea?
Let’s have a look at some of the advantages of using echinacea:
- Contains numerous antioxidants. Echinacea contains flavonoids, rosmarinic acid, and cichoric acid. This helps defend against oxidative stress. Echinacea also contains alkamides, which can renew old antioxidants, giving them a second wind.
- Stimulates the immune system. A meta-analysis of 14 studies  found that echinacea reduces the risk of getting the common cold by 50 percent and can also shorten the duration of the cold.
- May lower blood glucose. Some studies have shown chemicals in echinacea extracts suppressing the enzyme used in carbohydrate digestion. This reduces the amount of sugar entering your blood and can also make cells more sensitive to insulin [2, 3, 4].
- May reduce anxiety. The same antioxidants mentioned earlier can also lessen the feelings of anxiety.
May help with skin conditions. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of echinacea can prevent the growth of bacteria that causes acne. Echinacea may also improve skin conditions like eczema .
Does Echinacea Have Side Effects?
Yes, there are side effects that you need to take into consideration. Generally, echinacea products are safe to use and most people will tolerate short-term use.
However, there have been reports of individuals experiencing side effects, like:
- Itchy skin
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach pain
If you are someone who has allergies to flowers, including chrysanthemums, marigolds, ragweed, and daisies, then you may also be allergic to echinacea.
Furthermore, echinacea is known to stimulate the immune system. While this is usually a positive effect for most people, those who have autoimmune disorders or those taking immunosuppressive drugs will have to discuss taking herbal supplements with a doctor first.
Can I Use Echinacea While Breastfeeding?
Although side effects may occur, echinacea has been deemed non-toxic for nursing mothers. However, because of the lack of research on echinacea as a whole, as well as missing data on the effects of the herb on breastfeeding mothers, it is best to discuss using the herb with a doctor first. While echinacea can be present in your breastmilk, the amount is usually too low to affect your baby.
Keep in mind that, if you have an autoimmune disorder, you should not use echinacea, since it can boost T-cell growth and activity, resulting in more flare-ups. That said, if you are currently using echinacea to ward off the common cold and have not experienced any side effects, you can continue using it.
Dosage of Echinacea
If you choose to use an herbal supplement containing echinacea or an extract while breastfeeding, then you should take the recommended dosage for only up to 10 days. The typical dosage is about 300mg, three times a day. If you use an echinacea tincture, take 1-3ml, three times a day. Never take more than the recommended amount for longer than 7-10 days, as this can result in negative side effects.
Final Thoughts: Echinacea & Breastfeeding
So, can you breastfeed and take echinacea supplements or drink tea with the herb in it? You can. If you have used echinacea in the past without any issues, then there is no reason you cannot continue with using it. However, if you haven’t tried it yet and are breastfeeding, you should either wait until your baby is weaned or discuss your options with a medical professional.
Looking for more information about breastfeeding and herbal supplements? Check out our other fascinating blogs.
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