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The use of Echinacea in medicine has been well documented for over 400 years. Records show that the Native Americans have been using this herb extensively to treat several different ailments.
Before the discovery of antibiotics in 1950, Echinacea was possibly one of the most used herbal remedies used as a medicine. For a period, the use of Echinacea dwindled due to the introduction of antibiotics.
Today it is once again a well-known, well-used herb and is often used in herbal teas and energy supplements or as a standalone supplement.
What Is Echinacea?
Echinacea comes from a flowering plant called the Coneflower. It closely resembles the common daisy and is a member of the same family. This perennial plant can live for as many as 5 or 6 years and can grow to be as tall as 4 feet.
The flowers have pink or purple petals with a larger multicolored center cone that holds the seeds. There are 9 different species of the Echinacea genus, which is why you may hear of them being referred to by different names.
History of This Powerful Herb
Echinacea was discovered by Native American people when they noticed that animals’ wounds healed more quickly after they were observed feeding on the coneflowers.
Over time, Native American people experimented with Echinacea by extracting juices from the flower to use it to treat various other illnesses such as coughs, infections, and open wounds.
Their knowledge of the therapeutic properties of Echinacea was passed to Europeans. As of date, the herb has been the subject of over 350 scientific studies. All of these have shown that Echinacea works to boost the immune system’s function a few different ways.
Today, Echinacea is commonly taken as a supplement for immune support.
How Echinacea Works to Boost the Immune System
The immunity-boosting benefits of Echinacea stem from its high levels of flavonoids, glycoproteins, vitamin C and polysaccharides.
These micro-nutrients provide the body with an easy source of accessible nutrition that can be used quickly for healing.
The chemical components contained in the root and the upper parts provide substantial therapeutic value and are highly effective in stimulating the immune system. Efficiency of absorption means faster healing times on a physical level.
Echinacea is an approved remedy for upper respiratory infections, colds, urinary tract infections, constipation, pain reduction and slow healing wounds.
Another factor helps this process are phenols, which are antioxidant in nature. When the anti-inflammatory components of the plant interact with injured areas, it stops the swelling immediately. The arrested swelling makes it easier for the body to repair itself.
All of the chemicals in Echinacea work together to kill the harmful agents surrounding the injury, bring down the inflammation, and rebuild the damaged area.
Here’s a closer look at the healing and medicinal uses of this powerful herb and how it benefits you as a medicinal treatment.
Therapeutic Properties of Echinacea
Reduces Pain & Inflammation
One of the leading reasons people take Echinacea is for managing their pain. The pain reduction properties of Echinacea can come as a huge relief to anyone who suffers from chronic pain caused by inflammation and other related issues.
While Echinacea does help with mild headaches and tooth pain caused by inflammation as well, the most notable medical benefit of Echinacea lies in reducing the pain caused by inflammation within the digestive system.
It is very effective for reducing inflammation in the intestine and bowels and relieves symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The two best ways to use echinacea for pain relief would be to either make a tea from the plant, or to apply it topically directly to the area affected.
Lowers Risk of Colds and Cough
Another common use for Echinacea is to battle the cold. In fact the herb is in great demand with a huge spike in sales during the cold and flu season.
Its ability to boost the immune system means taking Echinacea regularly can actually prevent you from developing the cold. Studies have shown that Echinacea can lower the risk of “catching a cold”.
According to a study from the University of Connecticut, it can lower your odds of catching the cold by up to 58%. You will also be able to fight off the cold much faster.
In addition to preventing or treating the common cold, Echinacea is also used for treating other conditions brought about by a weakened immune system, such as flu, coughs and fever.
It is also used for treating pharyngitis and for boosting the immune system.
Another way that echinacea is a great ally to your immune system is that it can directly fight off infections.
When microorganisms get into the body, a weak immune system makes you more prone to all sorts of illnesses. Echinacea helps the body by overpowering these microorganisms.
It even works to restrain serious viral infections. Although Echinacea cannot eliminate these viruses altogether, it can suppress them enough to reduce appearances of some of the more serious symptoms.
Heals Eczema, Acne and Other Skin Conditions
In Germany, the use of echinacea for topical applications has been widely accepted by the government. They use Echinacea for treating eczema, acne, wounds, and other skin conditions.
A clinical study showed that approximately 85% of 4,500 study participants experienced improvement in their eczema after being treated with echinacea. Those results are very impressive and for those with eczema conditions it is certainly worth a try.
Many people apply it to the skin to treat skin wounds, burns, eczema, abscesses, ulcers, psoriasis, sunburn and yeast infections. The herb is also known to be very effective at soothing bee stings, mosquito bites and snake bites.
To use Echinacea for skin, mash the plant into a paste and apply it directly to the affected site. You can also make a poultice that you press against the area.
Reduces Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Studies show that regular use of Echinacea may help improve fine lines and wrinkles and make them less obvious. The herb contains tannins and other substances that have powerful astringent qualities that work to tighten the skin.
Echinacea may not get rid of lines and wrinkles completely…but then again, I have yet to come across a product that does!
Supports the Respiratory System
In recent years, studies have revealed that Echinacea has performed comparably to traditional medicines for asthma, because it was quick to reduce inflammation of the bronchial tubes and lungs.
Echinacea is also good for managing other upper respiratory issues such as asthma, strep throat, and crouping cough.
In these cases however, much higher doses are needed, so you may want to try an essential oil, or supplement rather than drinking a tea, because the agents needed should be higher in dose than tea can provide.
Minor depression, anxiety and memory loss can be scary but you may not want to resort to harsher medication for something you know is temporary or mild. If you are looking for a natural supplement that can get you through these tough times, consider taking an Echinacea supplement. It can provide some much-needed support with depression and anxiety without the side effects caused by harsher chemical options.
It was observed that taking small doses of echinacea supplements around 15 – 25 milligrams can help alleviate some symptoms of anxiety and depression.
This great news for future research in natural ways to deal with depression. It opens up a host of new possibilities for people who would like to be able to take a safe pill that can help them manage their emotions.
Provides Relief from Constipation
Echinacea also has healing properties that are helpful for those who have stomach and gastrointestinal problems. It functions as a calming agent and contains laxative properties that help in softening bowel motions, which is a relief for those who suffer from constipation.
Clinical studies show that drinking 2 cups of Echinacea tea a day can help make you more regular, but it should be noted that consuming more than the recommended amounts could lead to unpleasant side effects.
If you are having severe bowel issues due to IBS with constipation or from pregnancy-related issues, then you may want to consider Echinacea as a natural laxative option. You can take this in liquid with water or as a capsule option.
Echinacea supplements help reduce the inflammation in your bowels and prevent intestinal cramping. Though it is not very effective at soothing very severe symptoms, it can help with mild issues where an over the counter chemical is not the ideal option for your needs.
Thoughts on Taking Echinacea on a Regular Basis
One of the most common ways to consume Echinacea is by steeping it in tea. If you find that the herb-infused tea is too bitter or harsh for your liking, adding some milk will take away the bitter edge and give the brew a more pleasant taste. The other option is to take it in capsule form instead.
Remember that when you are looking for Echinacea to add to your regular diet, you want to try and find the organic form in order to stave off the potential side effects of those nasty pesticides.
The good news is there are no side effects when taking Echinacea in the recommended quantities. It can, however, create problems such as dizziness and nausea when taken in large quantities.
While studies into Echinacea’s healing properties are limited, and generally only involve its effect on limited health conditions, it is clear that it has several very beneficial properties.
The Mayo Clinic has stated that it is safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding, however, studies are limited on the subject so caution should be exercised. The most important factor is that you ensure you are purchasing a product that contains real Echinacea. Look for the THR checkmark on the packaging.
Also, though somewhat uncommon, some people have had allergic reactions to echinacea, so you may want to get an allergy test before using it to treat specific ailments.
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This information is not intended to serve as medical advice.
Please consult with an expert/your physician before using any type of alternate remedy with children less than 4 years of age or if you are experiencing unusual symptoms of any kind.
This is especially important if you are susceptible to allergies or sensitivities.