Echinacea is a herbal plant that has been used by Native Americans for centuries. Most often used for treating wounds and infections, mostly as a common ‘Cure All’.
Today it is a common over the counter supplement that is used for the common cold and the flu.
The plant is a conical shaped plant with purple flowers.
It is a perennial plant that resembles a hedgehog with spikes.
All throughout history different ailments or diseases have been treated with echinacea. Different cultures have used echinacea for scarlet fever, malaria, syphilis, diphtheria and blood poisoning. That does not mean that echinacea is the legitimate cure-all.
Although Echinacea was very popular and an important part of medicine in the 18th and 19th centuries, it began to fade throughout the United States when antibiotics were introduced.
However, in Germany, Echinacea grew in popularity all through the 20th Century. The research and Scientific evidence was mostly completed in Germany.
How Can Echinacea Be Used?
There are many ways to utilize the Echinacea plant. The parts of the plant that are used include the roots and the upper parts. These uses are the extracts, in tea, tablets and ointments. The Echinacea plant has many compounds that are found inside. There is alkamides, caffeic acid, phenolic acids, rosmarinic acid, and polyacetylenes. There are others also that are beneficial to help reduce the effects of certain ailments.
The Echinacea plant contains antioxidants, cichoric acid and flavonoids. When using the flower of the plant, the antioxidants are higher in quantity. The alkamides enhance the work that the antioxidants do. Cichoric acid and rosmarinic acid and flavonoids help your body against oxidative stress.
Tea products are available. However, you do want to look for one that has been certified by the NSF, Consumer Labs or the USPC.
- Creams or Ointments
You can find most Echinacea products in a herbal supplement. These products will generally include other natural herbs and ingredients. There may also be Vitamins and minerals within the products. Again, look for those products that have been certified.
Using Echinacea has many benefits that may be found. Some of these include, but are not limited to:
- Echinacea has a positive effect on the immune system. There has been plenty of research and studies to show that Echinacea can help fight infections and viruses. This in turn helps you to heal faster and feel better faster. This is the main reason that Echinacea is recommended for the common cold. Echinacea is believed to improve the immune system.
- The extract from the Echinacea plant may help to lower blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is dangerous for those who have diabetes. The extract appears to suppress the enzymes that digest the carbohydrates you ingest. This means a lower sugar amount getting into your bloodstream.
- There are multiple studies that show Echinacea can help ease anxiety. The alkalides, rosmarinic acid and cichoric acid all help to ease the body’s reaction to feelings of stress. It must be stressed that there have not been many tests or studies done on the effects of anxiety. There is more research that needs to be completed.
- Echinacea has anti-inflammatory properties. The natural way that your body deals with injury and illness is by inflammation. However, there are times when the inflammation is much more than needed. The inflammation gets out of hand and can cause more issues. The studies show that Echinacea can help to reduce inflammation. Osteoarthritis patients also felt some relief from compounds in the Echinacea plant. These same patients were unable to get relief from the over the counter forms of non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
- May help certain skin issues such as acne. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds help reduce the cause of acne. Echinacea is also shown to improve hydration and minimize wrinkles.
A cream containing the extract from the echinacea plant has also been shown to help protect the thin outer layer of skin and prevent it from eczema. The problem with creams and ointments is that the shelf life of the Echinacea extract is extremely short. Therefore, the extract can not be used in ointments.
- It is believed that the echinacea extracts may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The extract might even trigger the death of cancer cells, more studies and research is needed on that, however. Within the colon and the pancreas, the echinacea stimulated a process called apoptosis. In layman’s terms, this means controlled cell death.
- There is considerable evidence to show that the use of Echinacea use can help reduce the number of respiratory infections.
Even natural products such as Echinacea have possible side effects. The side effects are quite similar to those experienced by people who have allergies to flowers. Skin rashes, hives, swelling, itchiness, nausea and stomach pain. They may experience shortness of breath.
Echinacea has an effect on the immune system, meaning it gives it a boost. People with any form of autoimmune disorder or those taking immunosuppressive drugs need to consult with their Medical Professional before starting any type of Echinacea use.
There are no definitive dosages available for a couple of reasons. First off Echinacea is a natural product, when used in supplements, it is almost impossible to know exactly what is in the product. It should be listed, but not all manufacturers list ALL ingredients on the label. Any findings in conclusion from research have been highly variable. Although the research dosages have been given as:
Dry Powdered Extract: 300 to 500 mg, three times daily.
Liquid Extract Tinctures: 2.5 ml three times a day, no more than 10ml per day. Any recommended dosages that are given here are just suggestions and should be used for only short term use.
As stated earlier, using Echinacea in any form can have a reaction to immunotherapy medications.
Echinacea may have an effect on how long it can take for the body to break down caffeine. The echinacea could make it take longer to break down, therefore it will remain in the body longer.
Echinacea may actually benefit you when used in conjunction with Econazole. Econazole is an antifungal agent that is used to treat yeast infections. When used together, the rate of recurrence may be minimal.
All parts of the Echinacea plant are usable and edible. When making tea, you can use just the roots, or you could use the leaves and flowers, you could also use all three in a tea. Most herbalists believe that the Echinacea roots contain the most powerful components.
However, they do warn to not cut the whole root from the plant in the ground. The Echinacea is a perennial plant. This means it will live for at least two years. If you remove the entire plant to use the entirety of the roots for tea, it will take an extended amount of time to get the Echinacea plant back to full growth.
Once the plant begins to bloom, the flowers and the leaves should be harvested right away. In order to use the plant, cut the stem at the first set of leaves. Then you will need to hang the plant from a beam to dry, or they can be laid on a screen to dry also. One piece of advice, if hanging the plant to dry, place a paper bag around the flower. This will allow the leaves to fall into the bag as they dry and fall off.
Once the leaves and petals dry completely, they should be placed inside a jar with a tight seal.
Echinacea is believed to be a safe herbal supplement to use. Do the research and again, only purchase products that have been certified by a national company, one mentioned above. There are risks involved with all products, even natural supplements.
These can have an adverse effect on medications that you have been prescribed by your physician. Always speak with the physician before beginning any supplement. The Physician will inform you if there is a risk associated with consuming Echinacea with any of your current medications.
The use of Echinacea is once again becoming a popular supplement for many countries. The benefits are wide and risks are variable. Those who do have allergies to flowers, plants or roots may not be able to use Echinacea. Those with autoimmune disorders need to speak with their physician so he or she can explain the effects of what may happen to them when they use Echinacea.
An added benefit to the Echinacea plant is that it is a truly beautiful flower, you can definitely add it to your garden. This way you can enjoy the Echinacea in more than one way. It is pretty, it is hearty and it is more than useful to many people according to the minimal amounts of research that can be relied on.
It is always better to be safe and speak with your Medical Professional than to take a chance with a new supplement and end up with some serious issue due to the Echinacea.