Echinacea: Infection Buster

One of the best known supplements on the market for infection-busting properties is Echinacea. Echinacea is a herb safe to take as well as a potent stimulant of the immune system. The root of the herb is considered to be the best source for medicinal purposes, although the leaves also have a potent effect as well.

What Does Science Say?

  • Studies indicate that echinacea does not appear to prevent colds or other infections.
  • Studies have shown that echinacea may be beneficial in treating upper respiratory infections and shortening the duration of effects from a cold or flu.
  • NCCAM is continuing to support the study of echinacea for the treatment of upper respiratory infections.

Preparations are most effective when taken intermittently. If you wish to take echinacea for long periods, remember to take it in small quantities for only two to three weeks in each month.

Trying echinacea for a cold or other respiratory infection won’t harm you. At the first sign of a cold or ‘flu’ take one drop of echinacea in warm water and repeat this four times per day until the illness is over. Evidence from studies show that taking echinacea can speed recovery and reduce the severity of symptoms. Most found that taking Echinacea at the first signs of a cold for 8 to 10 days reduced cold symptoms or shortened their duration and severity by as much as 34 percent.

Echinacea the Prairie Doctor

Echinacea was used to treat toothaches, coughs, infections, sore throats, and just about anything else to the native peoples in the Great Plains of North America.

Preparation was simple: they dug a fresh root and sucked on it. When the Indians shared their knowledge with the American settlers, word got around.

The root of the herb is considered to be the best source for medicinal purposes, although the leaves also have a potent effect. Often called “prairie doctor“, Echinacea is now one of the best-selling herbal remedies on the market, recommended as a treatment for colds, flu, and related ailments. There’s a great deal of literature on this herb; while there are no known safety issues, it’s a good idea to read about it before using it.

Echinacea has demonstrated great benefit in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections. Numerous studies have examined the use of Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Germany alone is now marketing and selling close to 40 different products based on Echinacea.

The purple cornflower, more commonly known as echinacea, has been used to boost health for centuries. Select products that are organic, have guaranteed potency or standardized extracts. You can purchase Echinacea in many forms.

Echinacea & Herpetic Infections

Germany’s Department of Virology published interesting results in regards to Echinacea pallida’s capacity to treat herpetic infections. The herpes simplex plaque formation was reduced by more than 99 percent with the use of Echinacea extracts.

Echinacea pressed juice demonstrated tremendous antiviral properties, as it interfered with the herpes virus inside the cells just as much as outside.

Side Effects and Cautions

  • When taken by mouth, echinacea usually does not cause side effects. However, some people experience allergic reactions.
  • In clinical trials, gastrointestinal side effects were most common.
  • People are more likely to experience allergic reactions to echinacea if they are allergic to related plants in the daisy family, which includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Also, people with asthma or atopy (a genetic tendency toward allergic reactions) may be more likely to have an allergic reaction when taking echinacea.

Sources: University of Maryland Medical Center
Summaries for patients. Echinacea for the common cold. Ann Intern Med. 2010 Dec. 153(12):1-43
Use of echinacea in medicine. [Review]. Biochem Pharmacol. 2000;60(2):155-158

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