Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
Echinacea is a common flower in many gardens, commonly called a Purple Coneflower. It is part of the Aster family and grows wild on the North American plains. With its raised spiky center with its daisy-like petals, the flower is attractive and perfectly at home with other perennials. Found mostly in purple, new varieties are now being developed for the flower garden with yellow and white petals. These varieties do not generally have the same amount of medicinal value as the species listed here.
Used by the Plains Indians of North America as a common remedy for snakebite, thus giving it the name "snakeroot," it also was very popular from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s. In the 1930s, the herb was a very well-known herbal remedy in America and Europe. In the 1990s, it again gained popularity in the growing herbal medicine market.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Echinacea has been used internally via IV in Europe as a supplemental treatment for cancer. It is taken as tablets, capsules or tincture to prevent cold and flu and to generally boost the immune system. It increases the production of T-cells and according to several studies, this herbal medicine is most effective at stimulating phagocytosis, or encouraging white blood cells and lymphocytes to attack invading organisms.
Externally This herbal remedy is used externally as an ointment for skin inflammations and wound healing. It has a mild anti-biotic, anti-viral and anti-fungal action. Some use it to help acne, eczema, burns and insect bites.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
Combined with Bearberry and Yarrow, Echinacea is thought to be effective against cystitis.
Roots: Dug up and dried for use in tinctures, juice, extracts, ointments, tablets, tea and capsules. Aerial portions sometimes used in conjunction with the roots in mixtures.
There are some who should not take this herb. If you suffer from autoimmune disorders like AIDS/HIV, white blood cell disorders, tuberculosis or multiple sclerosis, it is best avoided. If you take steroid medications such as hydrocortisone, cortisone, prednisolone or similar immune suppressants, you should not take this herb, as it may counteract the medications you are taking. While the herb is considered to be safely tolerated by most people, be alert to signs of allergic reactions.
Preparation and Dosage
While the roots contain the most effective compounds, increasingly commercial preparations are also including the leaves, flowers, seeds and stems, so different products may contain different amounts of the beneficial compounds. For liquid extracts or tinctures follow manufacturer's instructions, as formulations may vary. Extracts are often prepared with glycerin or alcohol, so if you are sensitive to either of these substances, avoid them. Recommended dosages range from one to five droppersful (0.5 to 5 ml) three times per day.
For herbal tea: Tea brewed from roots and/or aerial parts should be made from ½ to 2 grams, taken no more than 1 cup three times per day.
Echinacea capsules or tablets: Usually made from powdered root or aerial parts, you should not take more than ½ to 2 grams three times per day.