I recently came across a question in an herbal forum where someone wanted to know how echinacea versus elderberry compared action-wise for their use during cold and flu season, including which herb should be used for prevention and how much of each herb should be used.
I shared my thoughts with them, but I also wanted to come here and share with you — because, well, you’re my people, and I want you to have this information too.
Okay, here’s my disclaimer. I’m not sure it’s needed, but here it is anyway. Like all health information on my site, please keep in mind that this is my personal opinion which is the result of my own research. Other herbalists may think differently than me on this topic, and that’s okay. No one agrees on everything, and ultimately, it’s up to you to do your own digging and come up with your own conclusion.
Echinacea Versus Elderberry for Infections
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
Echinacea mainly works to increase phagocytosis (Buhner, 2012). Basically, the phytochemicals in echinacea stimulate the immune system to make more white blood cells (macrophages) which engulf and kill bacteria, dead viruses, and dead cells in our bodies. Echinacea also has some anti-enzymatic activity against some bacteria, preventing them from infecting more cells. It’s not thought to have much action against viruses themselves, but it does help the clean the body of dead viruses. Also, according to herbalist Steven Harrod Buhner, echinacea may have some astringent action in the tissues it touches, decreasing a virus’s ability to infect cells (Buhner, 2012).
If you’d like more specific information on how echinacea works in the body and how to properly use it during cold and flu season, check out my mini-course: How To Use Echinacea Correctly During Cold & Flu Season. It’s short and sweet. It won’t cost you a lot of money. It comes in video and text format. It also gives you practical information that you can put to use right away.
Also, if you’re interested in learning how to use echinacea for active skin infections or infected wounds, check out this DIY recipe for echinacea paste.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberry, on the other hand, doesn’t do much for bacterial infections, but it does work well for viral infections like the common cold virus and the influenza virus. This is because elderberry phytochemicals are thought to inhibit viral replication within cells. This helps you to not get as sick seeing how the virus is less able to spread, and it can also help you get over an illness quicker since the fewer viruses you have in your body, the faster your immune system can destroy them (Buhner, 2013).
How I Use Echinacea Versus Elderberry During Cold & Flu Season
When it comes to using these herbs during cold and flu season, specifically echinacea versus elderberry, I do so in two different ways. The first way I use these herbs is as a preventative, and the second way is when an active infection is present.
As a preventative, I take a dose of Fire Cider (DIY or buy) each day throughout cold and flu season. If I’ve heard of viral illnesses going around locally, I add in daily doses of elderberry syrup (with a bit of echinacea root added to my recipe) to further support immune function before I get sick.
For active infections, as soon as symptoms show up, I increase the frequency of elderberry syrup, and I add in separate doses of echinacea tincture in an effort to provide my body with what it needs to slow or stop whatever I’ve been infected with. If I have some sort of bacterial infection, I skip the elderberry completely and just go with echinacea tincture and/or echinacea paste.
Other Tips for Prevention During Cold & Flu Season
- Wash yo hands!! Glitter germs are a great way to teach kids about proper hand washing.
- Clean objects you touch in public places before touching them if sanitizer wipes are available. If not, wash your hands or use some hand sanitizer (natural versions here) afterward.
- Don’t touch your face! Viruses enter the body thru the mucous membranes, so do your best to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Eat Healthy Foods
- Eat real food.
- Take healthy supplements, including those specific to cold and flu season.
- Cut out the sugar as it can suppress your immune system for hours after consuming it.
- Get plenty of fresh air. Step outside in the sun and breath in the good clean air, even if it’s cold out.
- Get sufficient amounts of sleep each night.
- Stay warm!
- Invest in self-care and creative pursuits.
- Reduce your stress as stress can inhibit the immune system.
Okay, so that’s how I use both of these herbs during cold and flu season. You can find dosage information for each of the herbal recipes via the links above.
I hope this is helpful to you in some way. If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comment section below or email me, and I’ll do my best to get back to you!
- Buhner, S. (2012). Herbal antibiotics. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.
- Buhner, S. (2013). Herbal antivirals. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.