Mailbag: What’s the Difference Between Echinacea Species?
Q: Echinacea purpurea vs. Augustifolia Root. Difference in potency? Is the root more potent? What are the differences in effectiveness?
A: We’re only aware of a few studies that compared different species. One study compared immune effects of echinacea but failed to show that any one species was the most potent; all tested species (which included angustifolia and purpurea) increased the same immune parameters. Another study compared the antioxidant effects of different echinacea species. That study showed that the chemical composition differed significantly between the purpurea and angustifolia, but that both possessed similar antioxidant properties.
At this point in time, it’s not clear that one species is better than the other in any specific way.
There are other considerations to take into account besides species, however. The potency of an echinacea product has much to do with how it’s prepared, how it’s taken and what other ingredients are in the product. In terms of products, echinacea extracts are stronger than non-extracted products. Extracts themselves come in varying strengths expressed as a percentage or a ratio. A 4:1 extract, which uses 4 parts herb to yield 1 part extract, would not be as strong as a 10:1 extract, for example. Capsules or liquids should work equally well.
To get the best results with echinacea, stick with a product from a well-known company and take it exactly as directed.