Started by: Jayashree at September 10 2006
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By Jayashree Kanoi
Synonyms: Brauneria pallida (Nutt.), B. angustifolia, purple coneflower, black sampson, Kansas snakeroot, Kansas niggerhead, rudbeckia, American narrow-leaved coneflower, spider flower
Description: Echinacea is a perennial herb, up to a metre in height, with simple rough stems, hollow near the base and thickening slightly close to the flowerhead. The leaves are elongated, slightly elliptical with entire margins and covered with coarse hairs and protuberances. The purple flower is in the form of a high cone surrounded by rough hairy bracts, downturned purple ray florets and greenish tubular florets. The tapering root is greyish-brown flecked with white. Echinacea is a native of the prairies of the Western USA and is cultivated in Europe.
Tests show that Echinacea stimulates immune system cells into action. When these cells are activated, white blood cells are more ready to wrap themselves around illness-causing invaders and to move viruses or bacteria out of your system, prevent them from reproducing themselves, or simply stop their activity. It is used extensively to prevent and treat the common cold as well as many other viruses and bacterial infections. Many people ingest it commonly throughout the cold and flu seasons in order to have an herbal shield against rampaging germs.
Echinacea helps the body's natural ability to fight invaders through a natural antibiotic which it contains called echinacoside, which has been compared to penicillin. It has successfully treated Rheumatoid Arthritis in Germany (where herbs are much more readily available for medicinal usage). Apply Echinacea to burns and wounds on the skin to promote quicker tissue recovery and healing. It also helps to stimulate the body's cells to produce a chemical which is naturally produced by the white blood cells while fighting infection. This chemical is called interferon. Echinacea, in combination with antifungal cream also helps to stop recurring vaginal yeast infections when taken orally 43% better than anti-fungal cream alone. Echinacea kills a variety of disease-causing viruses, fungi and bacteria.
Make sure, when purchasing Echinacea that you purchase Augustifolia for maximum effect. Other types including the popular Purple Coneflower are a much weaker version and will probably have little to no beneficial medicinal affects. The medicinal part of the plant is the rootstock.
Parts used: Root and rhizome
Collection: The roots are unearthed in the autumn after flowering. The fresh extract is more effective than the dried root.
Constituents: volatile oil (including humulene and caryophylene), glycoside (echinacoside), polysaccharides, polyacetylenes, isobutylalkamines, echinaceine, phenolics, inulin, betain, resins, sesquiterpene
Actions: immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, vulnerary, antiseptic, peripheral vasodilator, anti-microbial, antibiotic, anti-allergenic, lymphatic tonic, warming alterative, anti-infective, stimulating, inhibits hyaluronidase activity and reduces eosinophil levels.
May help: Low immunity, celiac disease, diverticulitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, colds and flu, genital herpes, bronchitis, ear infections, laryngitis, and cystitis.
Special instructions: Use at the first signs of a cold or other infection, not as a long-term preventive.
Origin: Native to the Great Plains and southern United States; currently scarce in the wild but cultivated in the United States and Europe.
Cautions and possible side effects: Not recommended for people with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis. Do not use if you are allergic to plants in the daisy family, such as chamomile and marigold. Consult your doctor before using for longer than eight weeks.
Echinacea has antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. Although taken internally, it can also be used topically on wounds or inflamed skin. It has been used to treat candida, a maddening yeast infection, and in some cases used as a mouthwash to treat gingivitis.
Indications: boils, septicaemia, naso-pharyngeal catarrh, pyorrhoea, tonsillitis
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Echinacea, having both an antibacterial and antiviral action, is one of the best remedies for helping the body rid itself of microbial infections. It may be used in the treatment of boils, abscesses, carbuncles, septicaemia and other such infections and, combines with other appropriate herbs, it may be used for any infection anywhere in the body. It has been shown to improve the body's resistance to infections such as colds and influenza; it stimulates the lymphatic vascular system and the fibroblasts. It should be taken in small, frequent doses as soon as flu-like symptoms appear. It is of particular value in laryngitis, tonsillitis, and catarrhal conditions of the nose and sinus. The tincture or decoction may be used as a mouthwash in the treatment of pyorrhoea and gingivitis. Echinacea may also be applied as a lotion to infected sores and wounds, and it promotes the healing of old wounds and ulcers. A wash of Echinacea can help relieve the itching of urticaria and this treatment is also useful for stings and bites.
Research has demonstrated that Echinacea stimulates the production of white blood cells to fight infection. The polysaccharide component has an anti-viral action, reducing the ability of pathogens to penetrate tissues. In Germany, echinacein is most often administered intravenously because polysaccharides are rapidly broken down in digestion. Echinacea is of value in the treatment of glandular fever and post-viral fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis), and has most recently been employed in AIDS therapy. There is evidence to show that whole plant preparations are helpful in allergies.
Combinations: Echinacea may be combined with Achillea or Arctostaphylos for cystitis; with Arctium root or Iris for boils; and with Baptisia and Commiphora resin for pharyngitis or tonsillitis.
Caution: High doses can occasionally cause nausea and dizziness.
Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)
Regulatory Status: GSL
Dried herb: 1g or by infusion or decoction
Liquid Extract: 1:5 in 45% alcohol: 0.5-1ml
Tincture: 1:5 in 45% alcohol: 1-2ml
Additional Comments: Three species are used medicinally: E angustifolia, E. pallida (Nutt.) and E. purpurea (L.). Scientific research has now confirmed its stimulatory effects on the white blood cells that fight infection, and it is being studied in California as a possible treatment for AIDS.
The revved-up effect, however, is short-lived. Research suggests that Echinacea loses its effectiveness with continuous use. Consequently, you will want to use it only when you feel a cold coming on or when your immune system is weakened by stress.
Itís not a good idea to take this on a daily basis. If everyone in your office is sick, however, and you have no doubt that youíre going to get sick, you can take it as a prophylactic. Just remember that itís most potent in those first few days that you take it.
If you have an autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, you should be cautious. These diseases are partly due to an already overactive immune system. Anything that stimulates the immune system may, in theory, be harmful. You may be able to use Echinacea really short-term, but Iíd consider other choices, such as zinc.
Skin/Wounds: Evidence to date indicates that Echinacea is useful when applied externally to cuts, abrasions, bites, and stings to help promote healing, regenerate healthy cells, reduce inflammation, and maintain the structure of connective tissue. In an uncontrolled clinical study of 4,598 patients with various skin conditions, a topical E. purpurea ointment was found effective in treating 85.5% of patients with wounds, burns, eczema, inflammations, herpes simplex, and varicose ulcers.
General Immunity: The immune-stimulating effects of Echinacea were first reported in 1914. By the 1930's German researchers had initiated studies (400-plus to date) exploring Echinaceaís immune effects. These include some clinical studies, but primarily research in animals and test tube cell cultures. A few tests on humans have shown Echinacea to exhibit clinically significant activation of macrophage and granulocyte (immune cell) activity with an increase of phagocytosis (ingestion of microbes and foreign bodies by immune cells). Clinical evidence further indicates Echinacea may help fight bacterial and viral infections in the ears, vagina, urinary tract, and other sites, lower fever, and calm allergic reactions.
Efficacy: One German study indicates that Echinaceaís immune-stimulating effects begin to subside after 5 days. As a general immune stimulant, most herbalists recommend that you stop taking Echinacea for a week after six or eight weeks of continuous use.
ē Adjust the recommended adult dose to account for the child's weight. Most herbal dosages for adults are calculated on the basis of a 150 lb (70 kg) adult. Therefore, if the child weighs 50 lb (20-25 kg), the appropriate dose of Echinacea for this child would be 1/3 of the adult dosage.
ē Use alcohol-free preparations for children.
For general immune system stimulation, during colds, flu, upper respiratory tract infections, or bladder infections, choose from the following forms and take three times a day:
For arthritis, take 15 drops daily of a standardized extract. For slow-healing wounds, apply creams or ointments as needed.
It's safe as long as you use it as recommended by your health care provider or as instructed on the product label. In Germany, continual use of Echinacea is restricted to eight weeks.
Echinacea is a member of the Compositae family and as such may rarely cause an allergic reaction. When you take Echinacea orally, you will notice a strong numbing and tingling sensation on your tongue. This is normal and goes away quickly.
Some cases of skin rash and itching have been reported, but these are rare. Do not use Echinacea if you have tuberculosis, leukoses, diabetes, collagenosis, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, HIV infection, or an autoimmune disease.
The revved-up effect, however, is short-lived. Research suggests that Echinacea loses its effectiveness with continuous use. Consequently, you will want to use it only when you feel a cold coming on or when your immune system is weakened by stress, says Dr. Brett.
"Itís not a good idea to take this on a daily basis. If everyone in your office is sick, however, and you have no doubt that youíre going to get sick, you can take it as a prophylactic," she says. "Just remember that itís most potent in those first few days that you take it."
If you have an autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, you should be cautious, says Dr. Lee. "These diseases are partly due to an already overactive immune system. Anything that stimulates the immune system may, in theory, be harmful," she says. "You may be able to use Echinacea really short-term, but Iíd consider other choices, such as zinc."
Two scientific studies have shown that the combination of Echinacea and cyclophosphamide, a type of chemotherapy, may support your immune system by negating the immunosuppressive effects associated with chemotherapy. However, you should consult with your health care provider before using Echinacea with cyclophosphamide.
Echinacea may also be useful in combination with econazole, an antifungal agent used to treat vaginal yeast infections and reduce recurrence of these infections. Consult your health care provider before adding Echinacea to your existing medication regimen.