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Does Echinacea Boost the Immune System and How?

old message Echinacea Purpurea Root Darrell Miller 06/17/08


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Date: June 17, 2008 06:38 PM
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Subject: Echinacea Purpurea Root

There are nine known species of Echinacea native to the United States and southern Canada. The most commonly used and most potent of them is Echinacea purpurea.

Other common names for Echinacea are purple coneflower, American coneflower and coneflower. The plants contain large heads of flowers that bloom in early to late summer.

In North America, Native Americans used Echinacea more than any other herb for its healing properties. For Europeans and Americans, it was believed to aid in curing Anthrax and snakebites as well as contain antimicrobial properties.

Echinacea is well known for its abilities to boost the immune system and to help fight infections. It is also widely used to prevent infections, colds and the flu. In lesser known medicinal practices, it is used to treat wounds and such skin problems as acne and boils. Some studies have shown that Echinacea has been effective in treating upper respiratory infections.

The whole Echinacea plant is used for treating various indications. Fresh or dried, the plant and roots are used to make teas, extracts, juices or external salves, creams and ointments. As a general rule, the fresh-pressed juice of the Echinacea plant is most effective in treating colds in children. In adults, both the root and herb in combination are most effective.

When taken at the first signs of a cold, Echinacea has been found to reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms. Be aware that Echinacea is not a one-dose fix-it remedy. Begin taking recommended doses at the first signs of a cold. Subsequent doses should be taken regularly, according to the product label, until all symptoms have disappeared.

Unfortunately, many herbal preparations can vary in effectiveness due to a lack of systematic extraction and refining. It is best to research the manufacturers of herbal products to find out how they cultivate and store their herbs. Their methods will cause the chemical compositions to vary greatly. The different parts of the plant that are used vary widely in their chemical makeup as well. One part may be extremely useful as an antimicrobial, while another may stimulate stronger reactions from the immune system. Other factors that may affect the quality of the product you purchase are:

* Species * Plant part * Extraction method * Contamination * Adulteration

Side Effects and Warnings:

When taken orally (by mouth), Echinacea usually does not produce any side effects. In rare cases, some people have experienced allergic reactions and side effects that include:

* Rashes or dermatitis * Pruritus (itching) * An increase in asthma symptoms * Anaphylaxis (life threatening allergic reaction) * Hepatoxicity * Nausea * Dizziness * Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)

All of these symptoms tend to be mild and infrequent. If you suffer from asthma symptoms, you should probably avoid using echinacea. In most cases the most common side effects are gastrointestinal in nature, such as gas or mild cramping. People are much more likely to experience side effects if they are allergic to other plants in the daisy family. These plants include:

* Ragweed * Chrysanthemums * Marigolds * Daisies

Use of Echinacea in children younger than 12 years is not recommended due to lack of sufficient data to support safety. It is also not recommended for use in pregnant or nursing women.

Echinacea should not be used if you have progressive systematic or auto-immune disorders, connective tissue disorders or other diseases that may be related to these. It should not be taken if you are taking immune-suppressants and heap-toxic drugs. It may also interfere with anesthesia.

It is important to communicate with your health care providers. Be sure they are aware of any alternative herbs or other substances you are using and what their purpose is in your daily diet.

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