Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

EchinaceaThrough scientific research and studies, echinacea has come to be regarded as one of the most promising immune strengtheners in existence.  The reason that so many people find this herb so useful is that it has the ability to fight off infections, colds, flus, strep throat, bronchitis and other immune system disorders.  If taken when the first symptoms of a cold or flu surface, echinacea can stop them from progressing further. Echinacea builds up worn down immune systems and is extremely safe to use.

The Plains Indians used this perennial as their primary medicine source for hundreds of years.  They applied it to wounds, stings and bites of all kinds.  In addition, they used it as a mouthwash to treat sore teeth and gums, and they drank it to cure colds, measles, mumps and arthritis.  American settlers moving west in the 1800’s discovered some Native Americans, like the Kiowa tribe, who chewed on the root and swallowed the juices for relief of respiratory ailments.

Echinacea is a very powerful immune stimulator.  It is able to strengthen the immune system because the polysaccharides of the herb resemble bacteria.  The immune system thinks that it is being invaded by something dangerous and  begins to prepare for an attack.  Consequently, the body becomes stronger and better able to fight the real bacteria.

Echinacea is one of the leading herbal recommendation for the prevention of colds and flus in both Europe and America today.  One study conducted on 108 patients with increased susceptibility to colds found that treatment with echinacea resulted in a decreased frequency of colds and flus. 

Contemporary herbalists recommend using this “botanical antibiotic” for a variety of problems as well as consuming it on a daily basis as a tonic and infection preventive.  Echinacea contains a natural antibiotic called echinacoside.  As a result, this popular herb fights and prevents infections in a way comparable to that of penicillin.  A study conducted at the University of Munich discovered that echinacea increases the amount of infection fighting T-cells in the body by over 30% compared to other immune-stimulating drugs.

Cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy often suffer from reduced white-blood-cell counts.  This reduction increases the risk of infection in the patient.  Echinacea helps protect patients from infection by preserving, stimulating and activating their white blood cells. 

This herb can also be used to treat vaginal yeast infections.  A study performed on women with recurrent infections showed that women who used only an anti-yeast cream had a 60% recurrence rate of the infection.  In contrast, the women who used both the anti-yeast cream and echinacea had a much lower recurrence rate of only 16%.

Studies also show that this immune stimulant can be used to treat some allergies and may even be a therapeutic agent in diseases like cancer.  

The general dosage of echinacea is two capsules three times daily.  At the onset of a cold or flu, one can take two capsules every two hours.  Since it is possible to build up a resistance to echinacea, many herbalists advise against its continuous use. After taking it for a period of two weeks, give the body a two week break before taking it again.

Sources:

“Echinacea A Literature Review” by Christopher Hobbs in Special Supplement to HerbalGram (#30 1994).
Echinacea Exalted! by Steven Foster (Drury, MO: New Life Farm, Inc., 1984).
“Echinacea’s New-Found Prominence” by Michael Castleman in The Herb Quarterly (Summer 1990).
“Echinacea: The Immunity Herb” by Sally Cullen in Vegetarian Times (November 1990).
Health through Nutrition by Steven H. Horne (Provo, UT: Tree of Light Inc., 1996).
Nutritional Herbology by Mark Pedersen (Warsaw, IN: Wendell W. Whitman Co., 1994).
“Phytotherapy Review and Commentary” by Donald J. Brown, ND. in Townsend Letter for Doctors (January 1995).


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