The herb known as echinacea is rumored to have medicinal properties helpful against the common cold and the influenza virus. There is some evidence that teas or supplements made from various parts of the plant do have medicinal benefit if they are taken at the very first sign of illness. On the other hand, for certain people, there are echinacea side effects that are less than pleasant. Though echinacea side effects are rarely life-threatening, it is up to the individual to determine if any benefits the plant might provide outweigh possible disadvantages.
Studies are incomplete on the topic, but there is great uncertainty regarding echinacea side effects if the herb is taken on a long-term basis. The medical community generally accepts short-term use as safe, but this line of reasoning is not without its caveats. Many people have reported echinacea side effects such as vomiting, dizziness, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Other people have experienced everything from sore joints to sore throats to headaches. Whether these echinacea side effects were psychosomatic, if they would have occurred regardless of echinacea use, or if they resulted from having taken too large a quantity of the herb, is unknown.
What is known is that echinacea side effects can cause skin reactions. Echinacea is sometimes applied directly to the skin, as there is some evidence that it can speed the healing of wounds. For some users, however, skin rashes and allergies are just two more possible echinacea side effects. The prevalence of these allergies seems more common in those who are allergic to other noxious plants, such as ragweed.
To be on the safe side, and to avoid any possible adverse complications with other drugs, one should always consult his doctor before taking echinacea. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should never take echinacea. Any person who suffers from an autoimmune disorder should also avoid it.
As is true with many herbal products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not set any hard and fast standards or regulations pertaining to the manufacture of echinacea supplements. Thus, one should be wary, or at least careful, when taking the substance. There is some thought that echinacea side effects might alter the metabolic process of certain internal organs, such as the liver. If this supposition were true, it would mean that echinacea could cause the body to absorb certain prescription pharmaceuticals either too quickly or too slowly.