Native American medicine men were the first to recognize that Echinacea can activate the body's innate ability to heal disease. They applied freshly squeezed juice from this native wildflower's crushed leaves to compresses and also added it to medicinal beverages. In recent years, numerous scientific studies have confirmed the benefits of Echinacea. Its immune boosting components have been shown to increase the number of immune system cells in the body and also to enhance the activity of those cells. Commonly known as both purple coneflour and Sampson root, Echinacea has proven to be an excellent preventative against colds, flu and other bacterial, fungal and viral infections. When applied externally, a tincture made with Echinacea helps to heal wounds. Because tinctures are so difficult to prepare, ready-made ones are generally recommended.
Echinacea comes in many forms
Most preparations of Echinacea are made from a single species of the herb called Echinacea purpurea. It is produced in a variety of forms: pills, liquid, chewable tablets and even an instant tea. Sometimes Echinacea preparations may be fortified with other plant extracts to increase their effectiveness. Remedies that combine Echinacea with extracts of wild indigo, water hemp and arnica have now proven to be especially effective for boosting immunity.
Echinacea contains many ingredients that exert an overall stimulating effect on the immune system. The herb also activates the liver, lymph nodes and mucous membranes, enhancing the body's overall ability to fight infections. Other specific substances contained in Echinacea have wound healing and germicidal properties.
The immune boosting effect of Echinacea is ascribed primarily to its two main active ingredients, echinacosides (in the flower and root) and polysaccharide heteroxylan (in the leaves). To guarantee that a full range of active ingredients is present, store-bought preparations are usually made from the flower, leaves and root.
There have been no reports of adverse side effects or interactions between Echinacea and other remedies, drugs or medications. However, people who tend to be allergic to mixed herbal remedies should exercise caution when taking Echinacea. Also, because so many Echinacea preparations contain alcohol to increase their shelf life, children should be given pure pressed juice, lozenges or chewable tablets.
Latest research findings
Scientists have reported that extreme physical exertion during athletic training can weaken the immune system, increasing susceptibility to infections. Therefore, many sports physicians recommend that marathon runners and others undergoing endurance training take Echinacea for a day or so after extreme physical exertion to strengthen the immune system.
Extra Tip : Treat fever blisters with Echinacea as soon as they begin to itch or tingle. Place a few drops of pressed Echinacea juice on a cotton ball or swab and gently apply it to the affected area. This easy home remedy can halt the progression of the lesions or even prevent them outright.
Used for the treatment of coughs, sneezing, hoarseness, sore throat, tonsillitis, sinus infections, skin inflammations, minor wounds, bladder or kidney infections, gynaecologic infections and general immune deficiency.
Duration of use
Continuous use of Echinacea is not advised. Some studies suggest that its effectiveness lasts only 10 days, but you can safely take it up to 8 weeks at a time. After that, take a 1 week breaj before repeating the herbal treatment.
To mobilize the immune system, the initial dosage can be relatively high. This is a "jump start" therapy. Initially, take 80 drops once a day for 2 days. Then reduce the dosages to the normal daily adult dosage of 15 drops 3 times a day, taken pure or dissolved in a glass of water. Always take it before meals.
Echinacea possesses germ killing and wound healing properties. Soak a damp cotton cloth in a solution containing 1 part Echinacea to 2 parts water and apply gently to the affected area. These compresses can help to relieve swollen glands, inflammations of the veins (phlebitis), infected cuts or skin brasions, burns and inflamed insect bites.