For many people, the fear of cold is the beginning of wisdom. And any preventive or curative treatment is therefore welcome. For this category of people, who may not have heard of echinacea despite its popularity, news of its efficacy is coming at the right time.
Echinacea is a well-known herb, especially for the treatment of flu and colds. Also known as coneflower, it belongs to a family of herbaceous flowering plants. Several species of the echinacea plant are used to make medicine from its leaves, flower and root.
The herb is widely used to fight infections, especially the common cold and other upper respiratory infections. Some people usually take echinacea at the first sign of a cold, hoping they would be able to keep the cold from developing. Other people take echinacea after cold symptoms have started, hoping they can make symptoms go away. The people who use echinacea to treat symptoms have the right approach. Research to date shows that it can modestly reduce cold symptoms, but it is not clear whether it helps prevent colds from developing.
But much more than this, echinacea is also used against many other infections including the flu, urinary tract, vaginal yeast infections, genital herpes, bloodstream infections (septicemia), gum disease, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections, syphilis, typhoid, malaria and diphtheria.
Other uses not related to infection include chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatism, migraines, acid indigestion, pain, dizziness, rattlesnake bites, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.
Sometimes people apply echinacea to their skin to treat boils, abscesses, skin wounds, ulcers, burns, eczema, psoriasis, UV radiation skin damage, herpes simplex, bee stings and haemorrhoids.
Echinacea species are native to North America and were used as traditional herbal remedies by the Great Plains Indian tribes. Commercially available echinacea products come in many forms including tablets, juice and tea. Echinacea seems to activate chemicals in the body that decrease inflammation, which might reduce cold and flu symptoms.
Laboratory research suggests that echinacea can stimulate the body’s immune system, but there is no evidence that this occurs in people.
Echinacea has a complex mix of active substances, some of which are said to be antimicrobial, while others are believed to possibly have an effect on the human immune system. Most species of this herbal remedy have compounds called phenols. Many plants contain phenols, active substances which control the activity of a range of enzymes and cell receptors, and protect the plant from infections and ultraviolet radiation damage. Phenols have high antioxidant properties, which are good for human health.
Echinacea also contains alkylamides or alkamides, which have an effect on the immune system. The herb also contains polysaccharides and glycoproteins. It also seems to contain some chemicals that can attack yeast and other kinds of fungi directly.
In Germany (where herbs are regulated by the government), the above-ground parts of echinacea purpurea are approved to treat colds, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and slow healing wounds. The root of the echinacea pallida plant is also approved for the treatment of flu-like infections.
Echinacea however has a limit. People with tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, any autoimmune diseases, or, possibly, liver disorders should not take echinacea. There is some concern that echinacea may reduce the effectiveness of medications that suppress the immune system. For this reason, people receiving organ transplants who must take immunosuppressant medications should avoid this herb.Follow Us on Social Media