Dr Vera Martins - Naturopath & Herbalist

Echinacea and thyme are brilliant herbs that go a long way when it comes to boosting your immune system. I will always recommend these herbs to my family and friends as they have never let me down. Due to the herbs being well researched and having been used since ancient times, they are still powerful tools for modern times. 


Known as the purple coneflower, Echinacea is the prime remedy when it comes to helping your body fight both bacterial and viral infections, making it my first choice in boosting the immune system when fighting the common cold or flu. The most commonly used species of this plant are Echinacea Angustifolia and Echinacea Purpurea but there are several others. The main active constituents of Echinacea are alkylamides, caffeic acid derivatives, and polysaccharides. These constituents are responsible for the plants anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that in vivo and in vitro, Echinacea extracts can activate immune cells called macrophages as well as modulate the expression of inflammatory molecules called cytokines. 

Best way to take Echinacea 

The best way to take Echinacea is in the form of tablets or a tincture (an alcoholic liquid extract). I always advise being well informed before buying if you would like to get the best benefits as commercial preparations of Echinacea can vary greatly in their quality and concentration.

My top tips to identify good quality Echinacea preparation are: 

  • Look for options containing either the roots only or the whole plant (the whole plant is a mixture of the roots and the aerial parts of the plant)
  • Avoid preparations made only with the aerial parts also referred to as the herb 
  • When buying a tincture, look for the characteristic of a tingling sensation on the tongue which is a sign of high content of alkylamines

Echinacea should be taken at the first signs of a cold or the flu, and can also be taken preventively during the cold season. The prolonged use of Echinacea is not recommended so be aware. It has been suggested by the World Health Organisation that short-term use of Echinacea is considered safe. There are however a few situations to be taken into consideration. When Echinacea modulates the immune system, it is contraindicated in transplant patients taking immunosuppressant medication and patients with auto-immune diseases. You should not take Echinacea if you have any allergies to plants of the Asteraceae family (also known as the daisy family). 


This common Mediterranean aromatic herb that you can find in your garden, has been widely used in the kitchen but also as a remedy for several ailments. Due to the presence of the volatile oils thymol and carvacrol, Thyme is known for its strong anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties. Other constituents with antioxidant and anti-microbial properties include substances called flavonoids. When it comes to fighting infections particularly those of the respiratory tract system such as bronchitis and tonsillitis Thyme is a great aid. So, if your cold or flu is giving you an irritable cough or that troublesome sore throat or, why not combine Thyme with Echinacea for a really powerful mix? 

Best way to take Thyme

You can reach for a bunch of fresh Thyme for a soothing tea or can be taken as a tincture. The best results are achieved by infusing fresh thyme leaves (or dry leaves) in boiling water for 15-20 minutes and drinking 2 to 3 times a day. This herb is so effective and at the same time so easy to find and use. The extra benefits of thyme are that it supports digestion and reduces bloating, as well as providing you with important minerals (not something we would think of) such as iron and Vitamin K.

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