Welcome to installment number seven in my ten-part series on natural immune boosters. With the changing of the weather and kids going back to school, it seems there are more than enough germs to go around. Boosting your immune system is the best way to fight off what cold and flu season wants to send your way. We’ve already learned about coconut oil, oil of oregano, manuka honey, goldenseal, garlic, and tea tree oil. (If you missed the first six parts, you can click on the links at the end of this article.) Today, we’re going to learn about echinacea.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical practitioner of any kind, and this series of articles on natural immune boosters is not intended to diagnose or attempt to cure any disease. This series is for informational purposes only. If you have a medical condition, please see your medical practitioner for professional advice.
Native to the midwest United States, echinacea is a perennial flower in the aster family and is sometimes called purple cone flower. The Native Americans have used this plant for over 400 years to treat various infections and wounds. Of the many varieties of echinacea, only three are used for medicinal purposes: Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pallida.
There are many phenolic compounds in echinacea that work together to boost the immune system. No one compound alone is responsible. These compounds are found in various concentrations in the leaves, flowers, and roots of the plant. Studies have found that the roots have high amounts of volatile oils, while the above-ground parts of the plant have more polysaccarides (which trigger the immune system).
Over 500 scientific studies have been done on echinacea, and many have proven that echinacea stimulates the immune system. Here are some of the ways echinacea effects our immune system:
- Encourages white blood cells and lymphocytes to attack invading organisms
- Increases the number and activity of white blood cells, including anti-tumor cells
- Promotes T-cell activation
- Increases interferon levels (interferon inhibits virus replication)
- Inhibits the bacterial enzyme hyaluronidase, which helps prevent bacterial access to healthy cells
- Decreases inflammation in arthritis and inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema (external application)
- Stimulates new tissue growth for wound healing (external application)
- Contains a mild antibiotic action: bacteriostatic, antiviral, antifungal
In one study, researchers found that echinacea decreased the risk of catching a cold by 58% and significantly decreased a cold’s duration. (Please see my reference links below for more information.) Unfortunately, echinacea doesn’t make a tasty tea, but teas and tinctures are more effective than capsules/supplements.
The key is to start taking echinacea as soon as you develop symptoms of a cold and take it daily until 48 hours after the symptoms have disappeared. In any case, do not take it longer than eight weeks, and never take it on a regular basis. Stimulating the immune system for long periods of time can have the opposite effect and leave you more prone to illness.
WARNING: Do NOT take echinacea if you have tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, MS, HIV/AIDS, or lupus or other auto-immune disorders. Echinacea can also cause allergic reactions, especially in people allergic to anything in the aster/daisy family. Again, with any herbal remedy, please contact your medical practitioner before taking echinacea.
Is echinacea in your home farmacy?
For further information on echinacea, please visit these sites which I read in preparation for this post:
- Echinacea: Herbal Remedies
- Herb Information Greenpaper: Echinacea
- Echinacea: The Herbal Immune Booster
MORE IN THE NATURAL IMMUNE BOOSTER SERIES
- Coconut Oil
- Oil of Oregano
- Manuka Honey
- Tea Tree Oil
- Colloidal Silver