Almost no medicinal plant has attracted so much attention in the last two decades, like the echinacea, a plant of the American Indians, of beautiful purple flowers, and like the sharp brown pestle hedgehog (Echinos — in Greek hedgehog).
Of the three related species of the genus Echinacea: purple (Echinaceapurpurea), narrow-leaved (Echinacea angustifolia) and pale (Echinacea pallida), the most clinically tested and clinically tested purple echinacea (L.) is on the market.
The first European settlers in North America noticed that the Indians used this unusual plant to bandage wounds after being bitten by snakes, insects or cuts, ulcers, as well as to treat colds, flu, bronchitis, scarlet fever and many other diseases. Soon the settlers themselves began to use the same plant and the first written documents about its medical application appeared as early as 1787, and in 1887 it was officially included in medicine.
In Germany in 1895 the products of echinaceae became available to homeopathic physicians, and in 1930 its commercial cultivation began. The first pharmacological and clinical studies on the efficacy of echinacea were made in Germany in 1938. With the advent of mass use of antibiotics, interest in this plant declined sharply, until the last decades of the twentieth century, when many antibiotics became ineffective due to resistance, and their excessive use led to a loss of immunity. Since then, interest in echinacea products has been steadily increasing.
How does it work and why is echinacea useful?
- Echinacea strengthens the immune system or the body’s ability to defend itself against disease. The active ingredients are responsible for this: alkylamides, cichoric acid and polysaccharides PS I and PS II.
- Helps prevent and treat colds, flu and upper respiratory tract infections, is especially important in sinusitis, allergic rhinitis and pharyngitis.
- Helps treat vaginal candidiasis.
- Helps treat lower urinary tract infections (inflammation of the bladder and urethra).
- Increases the number and activity of leukocytes, shows antibacterial and antiviral properties, as well as anti-inflammatory activity.
- Helps treat middle ear inflammation in children and adults.
- It can help normalize the reduced number of leukocytes produced as a result of chemotherapy or radiation.
- Applied topically helps heal slow-healing wounds and ulcers.
- Echinaceae has been successfully used as part of the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.
- In the form of vaginal tablets are used as part of herbal therapy for cervical dysplasia.
In which dosage forms is it used?
There are many different preparations of this plant on the market. However, they are not all equally effective. They differ according to the method of extraction, the type and the part of the plant that is stubborn. Preparations produced from the extract of the aboveground part of the purple echinacea (E. purpurea) have a proven effectiveness. They can be in the form of tablets, capsules, syrups, lozenges or medicinal honey. It is important to emphasize that one tablet, capsule, lozenge, or spoonful of syrup or honey must contain an extract from one gram of fresh aboveground part of the plant.
How to dose echinacea?
In anticipation of a more massive outbreak of flu or cold, many herbalists recommend in the middle of autumn, the preventive application of echinacea, one capsule a day for a period of three to six weeks. Children over two years of age use one tablespoon (5ml) of syrup or honey in the same period, while children under two years of age use half a tablespoon (2.5ml) of syrup. With this application, the probability of getting the flu or cold is significantly reduced, and if the disease does occur, it will last shorter and will have incomparably milder symptoms.
If a cold or flu has already occurred, two capsules a day are recommended as long as the symptoms last, and after their cessation, one capsule a day for the next two weeks. In case of a general decline in immunity, one capsule per day for 60 days is recommended. For external use, ointments containing 15% extract from the fresh aboveground part are used to heal wounds or ulcers. In the case of cervical dysplasia, vaginal tablets containing 15% fresh plant extract are used.
Is Echinacea Harmful?
This herb belongs to a group of harmless medicinal plants. There are no known contraindications or side effects. Earlier warnings regarding the potential dangers of using echinacea in progressive systemic diseases are now considered unfounded.
Can be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women?
Yes, it can be used throughout my pregnancy and while breastfeeding. This important fact was confirmed by a prospective study.