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Home > Research Department  > Supplement Articles > Echinacea
    Supplement Articles  
ECHINACEA
Articles by a Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.)
Last Updated: September 8th, 2015

Although echinacea is commonly used to fend off colds and flu, don't let that fool you; it has many other health benefits too...

ECHINACEA IN THE WILD

Echinacea herbal medicine comes in a variety of forms, however they all come from one of the nine different Coneflowers.

Echinacea is one of the most popular natural health products sold today, and for one good reason; it's an immune powerhouse! If we take a historic look back at the roots of ancient medicine, Echinacea has an impressive resume- especially when we associate it with our bounce back time needed to recover from sickness. If that doesn't convince you, it was even in Dr. Oz's Top 3 Supplements for fighting against cold and flu.

What does it do?
Echinacea has a number of immune specific actions in the body, including antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-viral, anti-protozoal and anti-parasitic. It’s also a decongestant, lymphatic (meaning it helps to tonify the lymphatic system), anti-inflammatory, and effective immunostimulant. Immunostimulants are products that increase the functions of the immune system, which is the system of the body that is responsible for protecting us from infection. Immunostimulants can act on any number of immune cells and ward off infection in several ways.

Immune system support extraordinaire
Echinacea stimulates white blood cells, which scavenge for bacteria and cellular waste. It also stimulates our helper 'T cells', which mobilizes other immune cells to fight infection. Finally, if that weren't enough, echinacea stimulates the production of collagen which rebuilds damaged tissue. Meaning that it can cut an individual’s chances of catching a cold or flu, as well as shorten the duration of these infections once caught. Echinacea is recommended by natural health practitioners for a variety of conditions including prevention and early treatment of colds and flu, as well as skin infections and ulcers, herpes, canker sores, eczema and wound cleansing. Before echinacea was used to fight against the dreaded cold and flu, it was used in part, to help with snakebites – this was before it was used as a herbal medicine.

Anything else?
Although there has been no scientific evidence to show this, some therapists claim that echinacea can help relieve side effects from cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Echinacea is also a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger!

The details
There are a few species of Echinacea, including the more commonly known and used angustifolia, purpurea, and pallida. Look for root extracts, as studies show the root to be more the source of medicinal content and responsible for its medicinal action. Echinacea can be purchased as a loose herb, encapsulated herb, tablets, extract or tincture. It is very often paired with goldenseal and other immune specific herbs, for cold and flu support and prevention.

Give me the best Echinacea you have!
Echinacea can be purchased as a loose herb, encapsulated herb, tablets, extract or tincture. In general liquid preparations of echinacea are stronger than dried preparations. Alcohol containing extracts tend to contain more medicinal ingredients than the alcohol-free formulas due to different processing methods. An important thing is to note what species of Echinacea is in a product. If Echinacea angustifolia is used check to make sure that root is in the formula. This is where the most beneficial medicinal properties are found. Echinacea angustifolia should make your tongue tingle when you taste liquid preparation. For Echinacea purpurea and pallida the whole plant contains significant amounts of medicinal ingredients. Echinacea is found in formulas for colds and flus.

Interactions, Warnings and Side effects
Echinacea is in the same plant family as ragweed, therefore it is not recommended that individuals with ragweed allergies use echinacea. Due to Echinacea’s immunostimulating action, those on immunosuppressive or immunoglobulin therapies, such as transplant recipients, should not use it. Also, those with auto-immune conditions, such as lupus, RA, and diabetes, should use with caution and only under the supervision of a health care professional. Those with renal disease should not use Echinacea because it may lead to electrolyte imbalances. It's wise to remember that prolonged use of Echinacea is not recommended, as the body appears to become resistant to its immunostimulating properties. Long term use of greater than 8 weeks is not advised.
What else did Dr. Oz have to say?
Along with Echinacea as being one of the Top 3 supplements for fighting off a cold and flu, Zinc and Vitamin D were also on the list.
View other products Dr. Oz recommends

Echinacea– QUICK FACTS

PARTS USED

·  Angustifolia – roots, Purpurea and Pallida – whole plant.

APPLICATIONS

·  Colds and flus, infections, arthritis, skin ulcers, boils, abscesses.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

·  Topically apply tea or juice to area as needed.  Capsule 1000-1500mg daily (standardized to 4% echinosides for angustifolia or 4% sesquiterpene esters for purpurea). (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner).

WORKS WELL WITH

·  Colloidal silver, vitamin C, bioflavinoids, goldenseal.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  Do not use echinacea if you are allergic to ragweed or have renal disease. 

·  Individuals whose condition is dependent on immune system depression should not use echinacea.

·  Cycle Echinacea for 3 weeks on and one week off for preventative use.

For informational purposes only.  Please consult your health care practitioner before taking natural health care products. Click here for full disclaimer.


All articles copyright National Nutrition 2001 - 2015.  For educational purposes only.  Please note that while National Nutrition supports your right to use natural health care products for any therapeutic purpose that you see fit, that the information on this website should not be considered as a claim or as a substitute for medical advice.

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