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What is Echinacea?


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Echinacea Benefits                                Echinacea side effects                Echinacea dosage and uses

Echinacea purpurea                              Echinacea and breastfeeding

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There are nine known species of Echinacea, all of which are native to theUnited Statesand southernCanada. The most commonly used, Echinacea purpurea, is believed to be the most potent.

Echinacea flower

Echinacea flower

Common Names—Echinacea, purple coneflower, coneflower, American coneflower

Latin Names—Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida

Plant Description:

Echinacea is a perennial herb native to the midwestern region ofNorth America. It has tall stems, bears single pink or purple flowers, and has a central cone that is usually purple or brown in color. The large cone is actually a seed head with sharp spines that resemble a stiff comb.

Chemical Ingredients

Echinacea contains several chemicals that play a role in its therapeutic effects. These include polysaccharides, glycoproteins, alkamides, volatile oils, and flavonoids.

The chemicals contained in the root differ considerably from those in the upper part of the plant. For example, the roots have high concentrations of volatile oils (odorous compounds) while the above-ground parts of the plant tend to contain more polysaccharides (substances known to trigger the activity of the immune system). The combination of these active substances is responsible for Echinacea’ s beneficial effects, though research suggests that the above ground portion of Echinacea purpurea is the most effective.

Both the phenol compounds cichoric acid and caftaric acid are present in E. purpurea, other phenols include echinacoside, which is found in greater levels within E. angustifolia and E. pallida roots than in other species. When making herbal remedies, these phenols can serve as markers for the quantity of raw Echinacea in the product. Other chemical constituents that may be important in Echinacea health effects include alkylamides and polysaccharides.

Echinacea flower

Echinacea flower

General uses

Native Americans may have used Echinacea for more than 400 years to treat infections and wounds and as a general “cure-all.” Throughout history people have used Echinacea to treat scarlet fever, syphilis, malaria, blood poisoning, and diphtheria. Echinacea is believed to stimulate the immune system to help fight infections.

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.

Supporting Research

Auerbach: Auerbach Wilderness Medicine, 5th ed.Philadelphia,PA: Mosby Elseivier Inc., 2007.

Ghemi A, Soleimanjahi H, Gill P, Arefian E, Soudi S, Hassan Z. Echinacea purpurea polysaccharide reduces the latency rate in herpes simplex virus type-1 infections. Intervirology. 2009;52(1):29-34.

Goel V, Lovlin R, Barton R, et al. Efficacy of a standardized Echinacea preparation (Echinilin) for the treatment of the common cold: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2004;29(1):75-83.

Islam J, Carter R. Use of Echinacea in upper respiratory tract infection. South Med J. 2005;98(3):311-8.

Lindenmuth GF, Lindenmuth EB. The efficacy of Echinacea compound herbal tea preparation on the severity and duration of upper respiratory and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Altern Complement Med. 2000;6(4):327-334.

Percival SS. Use of Echinacea in medicine. [Review]. Biochem Pharmacol. 2000;60(2):155-158.

Rakel. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 2nd ed.Philadelphia,PA: Saunders Elsevier. 2007.

von Maxen A, Schoenhoefer P. Benefit of Echinacea in the prevention and treatment of the common cold? The Lancet Infectious Disease. 2008;8(6).

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