Echinacea is a popular herbal supplement known for its immune-boosting properties. As cold and flu season approaches, many parents consider echinacea as a natural way to help keep their toddlers healthy. Some health brands have also launched products with echinacea extract ingredients in tinctures, drops, pills and capsules specifically for children, the question arises, what are the benefits of echinacea extracts and are they safe? Are there any side effects? In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and safety of using echinacea extract for children.
The Benefits of Echinacea extract for children
Echinacea is the name for a group of flowering plants native to North America. Various species have traditionally been used by Native Americans for hundreds of years to treat infections and wounds. Today, echinacea extract remains one of the most widely used herbal supplements due to its well-researched ability to:
- Boost the immune system through increased production of white blood cells and antibodies
- Antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects. For toddlers, who have developing immune systems and are prone to catching colds from other kids, echinacea can provide a useful boost to fight off viruses.
- Shorten the duration of colds and flu. It can reduce the severity of symptoms like sore throat, cough, fever, and nasal congestion.
- Helps improve mental health. Echinacea angustifolia extract is the recommended natural remedy, and the root extract of this plant can help treat specific disorders associated with ADD/ADHD. Adults and children with ADD/ADHD have higher than normal rates of mood disorders, especially: anxiety, dejected and social phobia.
Studies on the efficacy of echinacea show mixed results. Some confirmed its benefits, and others showed no difference between echinacea and a placebo. However, the majority of research suggests echinacea extract can modestly reduce cold symptoms in adults and children when taken as soon as symptoms start.
Is It Safe Using Echinacea with Children
While echinacea is generally very safe, there are some safety considerations for using it with toddlers:
- Only give echinacea supplements made for children with proper dosing based on age and weight. Avoid adult formulations. Echinacea extract is not recommended for children under 12 months old unless prescribed by a doctor. The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advises children under 12 to be cautious with oral echinacea herbal products (commonly used to treat coughs and colds), and that children over 12 and adults should be safe to take them.
- Unless advised by a pediatrician, limit echinacea use to one week at a time, then take a break before giving it again during another illness. Give echinacea doses spaced throughout the day rather than all at once for better absorption. 2-3 doses daily are commonly recommended. Prolonged use may cause side effects.
- Look for echinacea tinctures made just for kids with proper dosing guidelines and alcohol-free or glycerites for toddlers, as alcohol content can be inappropriate.
- To avoid interaction, don’t give echinacea with any other immune-boosting supplements or medication unless approved by your pediatrician.
- Watch for allergic reactions like rash or hives, which are rare but indicate echinacea should be discontinued.
- Organically grown echinacea species like Echinacea Purpurea, this has more research supporting its benefits than other species. Products with 4-6% echinacosides tend to be ideal for children.
Echinacea extract can be a useful natural supplement to help reduce the duration and severity of toddler colds and flu when used properly. While results may vary, the research suggests echinacea provides modest immune-stimulating effects that make colds mildly shorter and easier. With pediatrician approval, using alcohol-free echinacea formulations at the first sign of illness for one week or less is generally considered safe for toddlers over one year old. Along with rest and fluids, echinacea is one more tool parents can use to help keep those inevitable toddler colds under control. Talk to your pediatrician about any special considerations based on your toddler’s health history before using echinacea.