Echinacea is one of the most popular immunity booster herbs in America and Europe today. It is a perennial herb, native to the midwestern region of North America. Those who used the plant first were the Indians, for its general medicinal qualities. It is a popular immune-system stimulant, used to prevent colds and other infections.
Throughout history, people have used Echinacea to treat scarlet fever, syphilis, malaria, blood poisoning, and diphtheria.
Echinacea has tall stem, a single pink or purple flower, and a central cone that is usually purple or brownish in color. The large cone is actually a seed head with sharp thorns.
Three species of Echinacea are commonly used for medicinal purposes: Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea.
One, two, or all three species of Echinacea are available in extracts, tinctures, tablets, capsules, and ointments. There are also, available in combination with other immune-boosting herbs, vitamins, and minerals.
Echinacea contains several chemicals that play a role in its therapeutic effects. These include polysaccharides, glycoproteins, alkamides, volatile oils, and flavonoids. The combination of these active substances is responsible for Echinacea’s beneficial effects.
Several studies suggest that Echinacea contains active substances that boost immune function, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have hormonal, antiviral, and antioxidant effects. For this reason, professional herbalists may recommend Echinacea to treat urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast (Candida albicans) infections, ear infections (as otitis media), athlete’s foot, sinusitis, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), slow-healing wounds, as well as may help inhibit colon tumors when combined with cichoric acid. Another study suggests that an Echinacea extract exerts an antiviral action on the development of recurrent cold sores triggered by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) when taken prior to infection. Many herbalists also recommend Echinacea to help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections.
Nowadays, people use Echinacea to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu, and reduce symptoms, such as sore throat (pharyngitis), cough, and fever.
How to boost your immune system using Echinacea
For general immune system stimulation, during colds, flu, upper respiratory tract infections, or bladder infections, choose from the following forms and take 3 times a day until you feel better, but not for more than 7 to 10 days:
1 to 2 grams dried root or herb, as a tea ( or infusion).
Echinacea Tea Preparation
Pour 8 oz. of boiling water over 1 tea Echinacea bag (. 05 Oz or 1,5grams), and steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink this tea 5-6 cups daily. You can find this tea in „natural and organic foods” department of stores or in a pharmacy.
- 2 to 3 ml of standardized tincture extract
- 6 to 9 ml of expressing juice (success)
- 300 mg of standardized, powdered extract containing 4% phenolics
- Tincture (1:5): 1 to 3 ml (20 to 90 drops)
- Stabilized fresh extract: 0.75 ml (15 to 23 drops)
Teas and tinctures therapy are more effective than the herb powder in capsules.
For cold or influenza virus infection is recommended 1 teaspoon of tincture of Echinacea every 1-3 hours, or 1-2 capsules every 2-3 hours during the first two days. Then reduce the dose to 2 teaspoons of tincture of Echinacea or 6 capsules per day.
In chronic infections is recommended to 1/2 teaspoon of Echinacea tincture or 2 capsules, 3 times a day for 3 weeks; then take a break of one week and start the treatment again.
Do not take Echinacea on an empty stomach. Instead, take it with food or a large glass of water.
Apply creams or ointments for slow-healing wounds as needed.
The use of herbs is a traditional approach to strengthening the body and treating disease.
However, herbs contain active substances that may trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs only under the supervision of a health care provider knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.
Echinacea may be useful in combination with econazole, an antifungal agent used to treat yeast infections, because in this combination, recurrence rates of these infections may be reduced.
If you are taking any prescription medications, you should not use Echinacea without first talking to your health care provider.
Other interactions include the following:
Echinacea can enhance immune function. For this reason, it can interact with immunosuppressants that refers to a group of medications that are used for two main purposes, treating cancer and suppressing the immune system.
Echinacea may increase the amount of time caffeine stays in the body.
In rare cases, Echinacea may cause allergic reactions.
Minor side effects can include stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, and dry eyes.