Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
Which form of echinacea is best to take and when is it best to start taking it?
A: The three species of Echinacea, Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pallida, are used interchangeably. It can be taken as a powdered extract, alcohol tincture, dried root, or in juice form. Many herbalists feel that liquid forms of echinacea are more effective than tablets or capsules because they believe that part of echinacea’s benefit is due to direct contact with the tonsils and other lymphatic tissues at the back of the throat. These tissues act as an early warning system for infections. By stimulating them, echinacea may encourage the body to fight a cold more promptly.
Echinacea is usually taken at the first sign of a cold and continued for 7 to 14 days.