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Echinacea enjoys well-deserved popularity

Common names: Echinacea, purple coneflower
Scientific names: Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea
Common uses: colds, sore throats, infections, flu

Echinacea has been used traditionally to treat a variety of conditions ranging from infections to colds and sore throats. Recent research has confirmed that echinacea does indeed stimulate the immune system. Clinical studies show that the herb's phytochemical compounds stimulate white blood cells and lymphocytes to attack infected areas and destroy invading organisms. The herb can also enhance the movement of white blood cells into the area of infection. One clinical study done in 1996 involved 1,280 children who had bronchitis. The children treated with the juice of Echinacea recovered faster than those treated with an antibiotic.

Echinacea is also valuable for its antiviral properties. Studies have demonstrated that echinacea inhibits various types of viruses, including influenza, herpes and vesicular stomatitis virus. The herb works by blocking virus receptors on the cell surface and inhibits production of the enzyme that allows virus cells to spread and invade. In 1992, a study was done looking at the effects of echinacea on colds and flu. The study involved more than 100 patients who were suffering from cold and flu symptoms. For eight weeks, half the patients received echinacea supplements and the other half received a placebo. Of those taking echinacea, 35 percent remained healthy the entire eight weeks. The length of time between infections for the echinacea group was nearly 40 percent longer than the echinacea group. Patients taking echinacea who did get sick were sick for a shorter time and experienced less severe symptoms than patients on the placebo.

Boost your immune system with Echinacea

As the world constantly searches for better, safer and less expensive ways to promote good health, echinacea has become a gold mine. Thousands of years of traditional use, combined with current research, indicates that echinacea possesses considerable immunostimulatory properties. Commonly known as purple coneflower, rudbeckia, Missouri snakeroot, and red sunflower, echinacea is one of the primary natural remedies for assisting the body rid itself of microbial infections. Echinacea is known to have natural antibiotic actions, and is often effective against both bacterial and viral infections, and may be used in alliance with other herbs to fight infection anywhere in the body. In addition, Echinacea works to boost lymphatic cleansing of the blood, enhance the immune system and has cortisone-like properties which contribute to its anti-inflammatory action. It is also recommended for stubborn viral infections, yeast infections and for arthritic conditions.

Herbal Forms

Decoction: A tea made from echinacea is good for acute stages of infection
Tincture: A form of echinacea effective for infections. Tinctures have been used in concentrated form for food poisoning and snakebites.
Wash: Can be used as a decoction or diluted tincture for infected wounds
Ointment: Can be used for direct application on burns or other skin wounds.
Powder: Can be dusted on infected skin conditions such as boils or eczema.
Capsules: Echinacea capsules are used for acute infections such as colds, flu, urinary tract or kidney infections.
Gargle: Echinacea tincture can be combined with water to make a gargle for sore throats.
Fresh Pressed Juice: Some commercial preparations offer this form, however it requires a freshly harvested plant, and is often more difficult to obtain.

Recent Research

Much research is focusing upon this plant, providing important insights into its activity and potential uses. Laboratory tests have found that compounds contained in echinacea have the ability to rearrange and recognize enzyme patterns in the body. The ability of this herb to boost immune function deals with thymus gland stimulation.

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