Echinacea is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family (Asteraceae). It is native to North America and is commonly known as coneflowers. Echinacea plants are characterized by their distinctive daisy-like flowers with prominent central cones.

Species of Echinacea Used Medicinally

The three most commonly used species of Echinacea for medicinal purposes are:
Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida.

Echinacea Active Ingredients

Echinacea contains a variety of active compounds, including; flavonoids, polysaccharides and alkamides, which are thought to have immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects.

Health Benefits of Echinacea

Echinacea has a long history of use in traditional Native American medicine, where it was used to treat various ailments, including; infections, wounds and snake bites. Today, Echinacea is a popular herbal remedy believed to support immune health and help prevent or alleviate colds and other respiratory infections.

Some research suggests that Echinacea may help stimulate the immune system and reduce the severity and duration of colds and upper respiratory tract infections, although findings are mixed, and more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.

The roots, leaves and flowers of Echinacea plants are used to make herbal supplements, extracts and teas.

Echinacea Boosts the Immune System

Echinacea should be of particular interest during the cold and flu season when you are exposed to these illnesses on a regular basis. When used correctly it is the closest thing to a cure for the common cold.

Echinacea purpurea stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infection. Unlike antibiotics, which directly attack bacteria, Echinacea makes our own immune cells more efficient at attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells, including cancer cells. It increases the number and activity of immune system cells including anti-tumor cells, promotes T-cell activation, stimulates new tissue growth for wound healing and reduces inflammation in arthritis and inflammatory skin conditions.

The most consistently proven effect of Echinacea purpurea is in stimulating phagocytosis (the consumption of invading organisms by white blood cells and lymphocytes). Extracts of Echinacea purpurea can increase phagocytosis by 20-40%.

Echinacea purpurea also stimulates the production of interferon as well as other important products of the immune system, including “Tumor Necrosis Factor”, which is important to the body’s response against cancer.

Echinacea can Help to Heal Wounds

Echinacea purpurea inhibits an enzyme (hyaluronidase) secreted by bacteria to help them gain access to healthy cells. Research in the early 1950’s showed that Echinacea could completely counteract the effect of this enzyme, helping to prevent infection when used to treat wounds.

Although Echinacea is usually used internally for the treatment of viruses and bacteria, it is now being used more and more for the treatment of external wounds. It also kills yeast and slows or stops the growth of bacteria and helps to stimulate the growth of new tissue. It combats inflammation too, further supporting its use in the treatment of wounds.

How to Take Echinacea

Echinacea supplements are available in various forms, including; capsules, tablets, tinctures and teas.

Some sources suggest that Echinacea supplements should be used intermittently rather than continuously to prevent the development of tolerance. Tolerance occurs when the body becomes less responsive to the effects of a substance over time, potentially reducing its effectiveness.

As a precautionary measure, some herbalists and healthcare professionals recommend taking Echinacea for no more than 6 weeks at a time, followed by a break of several weeks or months before resuming use. This approach is intended to prevent tolerance from developing and to ensure that Echinacea remains effective when needed.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Echinacea purpurea Herb Notes / Side Effects

Whilst Echinacea is generally considered safe for most people when used as directed, it may cause allergic reactions or interact with certain medications.

Echinacea has an excellent safety record, being very well tolerated by most people. However, Echinacea purpurea should not be used in progressive systemic and autoimmune disorders such as; tuberculosis, leucosis, connective tissue disorders, collagenosis and related diseases such as lupus, according to the German Kommission E. Its use in AIDS, or opportunistic infections in AIDS patients, is controversial.

As with any herbal supplement, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using Echinacea, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

Latin Names

Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia (narrow-leaved purple coneflower), Echinacea pallida (pale purple coneflower)

Common Names

Purple Coneflower, American Coneflower, Black Samson, Comb Flower, Hedgehog, Indian Head, Rudbeckia, Sampson Head, Scurvy Root, Snakeroot

Properties of Echinacea

Antiseptic, stimulates the immune system, mild antibiotic, bacteriostatic (prevents the growth of bacteria), anti-viral, anti-fungal.

Echinacea is indicated for:

Internally: Improves immune system where the patient suffers chronic tiredness and is susceptible to minor infections. Colds, coughs and flu and other upper respiratory conditions, enlarged lymph glands, sore throat, urinary tract infections, boils, acne, duodenal ulcers, flu, herpes, candida and persistent infections. As a mouthwash for sore throat, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers and gum infections.

Externally: Wounds, skin regeneration, skin infections including fungal infections, psoriasis, eczema and inflammatory skin conditions.

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