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Echinacea - Uses and Benefits

Other Names: Snakeroot, Coneflower, Prairie, American Coneflower, Black Sampson, Comb Flower, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea Pallida.
Scientific Name: Echinacea Spp.

Echinacea Plant Description

Echinacea herb is the name of a genus of native North American plants, commonly known as the purple coneflower. Among the different species belonging to the Echinacea family, largely used in traditional medicine, Echinacea pallida, Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia have been investigated.

The flowers are rich purple and the florets are seated round a high cone; seeds, four-sided achenes. Root tapering, cylindrical, entire, slightly spiral, longitudinally furrowed; fracture short, fibrous; bark thin; wood, thick, in alternate porous, yellowish and black transverse wedges, and the rhizome has a circular pith. It has a faint aromatic smell, with a sweetish taste, leaving a tingling sensation in the mouth not unlike Aconitum napellus , but without its lasting numbing effect.

Echinacea Uses and Benefits

Echinacea is one of the primary remedies for helping the body rid itself of microbial infections. It is often effective against both bacterial and viral attacks, and may be used in conditions such as boils, septicaemia and other similar infections.

Some of the Common Uses of Echinacea are:

  • Herbalists consider Echinacea one of the best blood purifiers and an effective antibiotic.
  • It has been considered especially helpful in cases of chronic upper respiratory and urinary infections.
  • It also helps in detoxifying body and also improving body's immune system increasing the chances of fighting off any disease.
  • This popular herb has been used to help ward off the common cold and to relieve the symptoms of hay fever.
  • Very good in curing sore throat.
  • Some research has found Echinacea to be effective as an antiviral or antifungal, which also helps it fight infection.
  • Also helpful in treating ulcers and arthritis.
  • Test tube and animal research has shown that echinacea extracts have significant anti-inflammatory activity.
  • Externally, echinacea has been used to encourage healing of wounds, burns and ulcerations. It can be taken in capsules, pills, teas, tinctures, and externally as a poultice or ointment.
  • Topically, the extracts have been used to help hasten the healing of stubborn eczema, psoriasis, and herpes simplex.

Echinacea Dosage

Echinacea comes in a wide variety of forms, and many different products, including tablets, capsules, soft gels, liquids, and tinctures. Echinacea can also be bought as a dried herb and brewed in a tea. There are a variety of Echinacea preparations consisting of creams that can be rubbed onto sunburns and other skin irritations to offer relief.

Dosing recommendations are confounded by a wide variety of preparations using different species, plant parts, and extracts. Unlike other herbal medicines researched in Germany, there are no standardized preparations. Extracts of 1-5 g or more of dried herb per day have been traditionally recommended by herbalists, typically divided t.i.d.

Echinacea Side Effects

When taken by mouth, echinacea usually does not cause any side effects. Those who are allergic to flowers of the daisy family should not take echinacea. Cases of allergic responses to echinacea (e.g., wheezing, skin rash, diarrhea ) have been reported in medical literature. Allergic reactions may also include rashes, increased asthma, and anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction). In clinical trials, gastrointestinal side effects were most common. In a recent study of children between the ages of 2 years and 11 years, children taking oral echinacea developed rashes about 2.5 times more often than children taking placebo (sugar pills).

In the first study to look at echinacea's possible effect on fetal development and pregnancy outcome, women taking echinacea during pregnancy were found to have no greater incidence of miscarriage or birth defects than women not taking the herb.

Caution

You should use therapeutic doses of Echinacea only in consultation with your physician, as its exact side effects are unknown at this time. Echinacea is listed by the FDA as an herb of undefined safety.

According to the German Commission E monograph, people should not take echinacea if they have an autoimmune illness, such as lupus , or other progressive diseases, such as tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis , or HIV infection.

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