Echinacea is one of the ten best known herbs. At least 14 Native American tribes used it to fight off infections and cold symptoms in early American history. In the early 1900’s, Echinacea was the best selling herb in the United States. However, both because of the discovery of antibiotics and the AMA pronouncement that it was “useless,” Echinacea fell into disuse in the 1930’s. Now, with second thoughts about antibiotics, the public is taking a fresh look at the benefits of this herb.
Echinacea is popularly called coneflower. There are nine species of Echinacea, but the best known is purpurea. It is a perennial, growing to a height of 3 to 4 feet and produces beautiful purple flowers 4 to 6 inches across. The flowers are also called droops because the petals droop after growing outward from the cone.
Most of the research done on Echinacea purpurea comes from Germany and was done by Dr. Gerhard Madaus. His work resulted in the development of Echinacin, a juice made from the flowers, leaves, and stems of the Echinacea plant. More commonly, extracts from just the root are used.
Contrary to the AMA’s earlier conclusion, Echinacea is now believed to be an excellent infection fighter and is used as a powerful natural antibiotic. Often it is mixed in combination with other herbs, especially goldenseal, yarrow, and cayenne. It is often used to treat disorders of the blood. This would include poisonous bites of insects and snakes, gangrene, carbuncles and abscesses.
Echinacea is best known today for its use in building resistance to infections of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Recent studies show Echinacea contains stimulants for the immune system. It also has antiviral, antiexudative, anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic, and fungistatic properties. The ingredients so effective in stimulating the immune system are the water-soluble polysaccharides. In addition, some preliminary research indicates that it has possibilities in fighting cancer.
Echinacea is especially good at cleansing the glands and lymphatic system. Because of this, it is used to treat prostate problems, ear infections, strep throat, tonsillitis, and swollen lymph glands. It works well with chickweed to help weight loss too. Echinacea is effective in attacking viral, fungi, and bacterial invaders. Therefore Echinacea can prevent and treat upper respiratory infections, tuberculosis, vaginal yeast infections, sinusitis, sties, and athlete’s foot. It also speeds recovery time from an infection without causing any of the side effects of medications.
Echinacea tea is easy to make. The tincture combinations are useful both externally and internally. For instance, a dropperful of tincture in tea can be used for earaches. Try this also for treating athlete’s foot. Freeze-dried Echinacea powder is said to achieve the best results. In addition, it is available as a capsule.
Unlike most herbs, Echinacea should only be used when you know you have a need, rather than on a regular basis as a supplement. However, it can be taken to strengthen the body against infection. The roots have a potent concentration of the same properties found in the tops. This makes it much more effective to use the whole plant when possible. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the target problems for which Echinacea is used. But the list does emphasize how useful this herb is.