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Echinacea - Choosing The Ideal Immune Support
June 30, 2005 09:27 AM
Echinacea By Ellen J. Kamhi, Ph. D. with Dorie Greenblatt Echinacea, pronounced ek-i-NAY-see-a, is one herb that has become a “household” name in the 1990’s. Many refer to it as “Purple Cone Flower” because of its large purple daisy petals, which contain a hard and spiny center cone. These spines probably give the plant its name, since sea animals with spines are called “echinoderms”. Echinacea is indigenous to the U.S., and can be found both growing wild in many areas as well as in cultivated gardens. There are actually nine different species of the plant; two are most popular as remedies: Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea. Echinacea has a long history of use by Native Americans, who have utilized the herb for a wide variety of treatments ranging from stings, poisoning, toothaches and swollen glands to colds and sore throats. It has also been touted as an ideal natural remedy for snake bites. In particular, the benefit of Echinacea as a treatment for snake bites brought national attention to the herb in the last half of the 1800’s. Dr. H.F.C. Meyer of Pawnee City, Nebraska first tried to interest Eclectic Physicians (doctors who used natural medicines) to use Echinacea as an herbal remedy for snake bites by volunteering to be bitten by a rattlesnake to prove its effectiveness. Although his dramatic offer was rejected, his enthusiasm and concerted efforts led to renewed interest and investigative studies on Echinacea, resulting in the herb’s emergence as one of the most popular natural plant therapies by the turn of the century.
Extensive studies on Echinacea’s medicinal properties continue to mirror the earlier usages of the herb as experienced by indigenous people. In fact, Echinacea is part of the official materia medica listed in the German Commission E. Monographs, a universally recognized publication reputed to be the official information authority on herbal medicines. The Commission lists a number of medicinal applications for Echinacea as an ideal treatment for such conditions as colds, chronic infections of the respiratory tract and lower urinary tract ailments, as well as topically for chronic ulcerations and slow healing wounds.
Echinacea has been shown to be a potent immune system stimulant. Nature’s Answer® offers an outstanding Echinacea fluid herbal extract formula in a unique blend that contains both Echinacea angustifolia root and Echinacea purpurea whole plant. Fluid extracts that feature both whole plant and root parts in the formula insure that the highest levels of the whole herb’s active constituents are maintained. A further advantage to this kind of supplement lies in its delivery system– liquids are faster to absorb and easier to assimilate by the body than tablets or capsules. Nature’s Answer®’s Echinacea formulas are available in either alcohol-free or organic alcohol forms. In addition, the alcohol-free supplements are also offered in a tasty grape or tangy orange flavor.
Two popular blends featuring Echinacea with other supportive herbs are Immune Boost™ and Re-Zist™. Immune Boost™ combines Echinacea with Wild Indigo and Maitake Mushroom. Re-Zist™ contains Echinacea, Goldenseal, Wild Indigo, Cayenne and Myrrh for potent support.
Echinacea is also recognized for its ability to enhance the resistance of cells to viruses, especially when used after cells have been exposed to colds and flus. As a preventative, formulas such as Nature’s Answer®’s Echinacea/Goldenseal (alcohol-free, organic alcohol) are ideal. This is an excellent supplement for soothing sore throats and helping to shrink swollen glands. An added benefit to the formula is the presence to berberine, the active ingredient in Goldenseal, which provides further wellness enhancement.
Many studies have focused on Echinacea’s possible use for ailments such as psoriasis and early rheumatoid arthritis. The herb also acts as an overall anti-inflammatory tonic. Nature’s Answer®’s Blood Support™ (alcohol-free) combines Echinacea with Dandelion, Licorice and other herbs for an anti-inflammatory effect. Allertone™ (alcohol-free) blends Echinacea with Mullein Leaf to help support the respiratory and sinus areas.
Most herbal practitioners suggest using Echinacea for short-term periods. There has been evidence to suggest that the herb loses its effectiveness when used over longer periods of time. Also, in the case of autoimmune illnesses, some people believe Echinacea may OVER-stimulate the immune system, although there is no solid research to back this contention. Echinacea is probably most effective if used in frequent doses for 5-7 days at the early onset of symptoms. It may also serve as a preventative during periods after known exposure or during extra stress, taking it two to three times a day every other or every third day. The German Commission E lists no known drug interactions or side effects with Echinacea. It is indeed one of the safest and most effective herbs for natural immune support today.
Echinacea seems well suited to life in the 90’s with all the stresses upon our immune systems. Its importance and effectiveness as an immune stimulant is as true today as it was in 1927 when Dr. Liebstein stated:
“Nature has probably destined Echinacea to be used for remedial purposes only, as a sustainer of vitality, an organizer of the defensive powers of the system, to such an extent as to be justly crowned the greatest immunizing agent in the entire vegetable kingdom....” written in 1927 by Dr. A. M. Liebstein (Foster, 1991)