Now that winter is almost upon us, its time to double up on protective care. Here's a little information on one of my favorite herbs for keeping your immune system strong.
A Bit of History
Before the introduction of allopathic antibiotics, the herb Echinacea was what healers used to boost the immune system, without ever producing a single side effect. This is a lot more than we can say for many of the synthetic alternatives that conventional doctors proscribe today. Native Americans used the plant for its powerful medicinal properties that help avert and cure a myriad of problems, followed by the early Americans and then the Europeans, who learned even more about Echinacea’s ability to strengthen the immune system. In bygone days when syphilis, scarlet fever, diphtheria, malaria, and blood poisoning were prevalent, Echinacea was the medicine of choice, as it helped prevent infection while strengthening and arming the body’s army of disease-fighting white blood cells.
Echinacea is a member of the daisy family and known as “Asteraceae,” or purple coneflower for its brilliant petals that stand out when in bloom. There are two types of Echinacea: E. Angustifolia, which grows best in colder climates and at a high elevation, and E. Purpurea, which can be grown at a lower elevation in milder climes. Both types can be grown from seeds and then kept in partial shade rather than full sunlight. If you grow Echinacea in your outdoor garden, you will marvel at the proliferation of butterflies it attracts!
Echinacea’s Many Attributes
Most of the scientific research done on Echinacea has been in Germany where research shows how it helps to stimulate cells that fight infection. Where allopathic vaccinations generally target a specific problem and conventional antibiotics often weaken the body’s natural ability to heal itself, Echinacea strengthens the immune system with no adverse effects. With a strong immune system, the body is better able to fight viruses, bacteria, and abnormal cells on its own. Echinacea does this by activating white blood cells and lymphocytes so that they can do their job of attacking and overcoming invading organisms that cause illness and disease.
A short list of Echinacea’s attributes:
- Increases the number of immune system cells necessary for health
- Works as a mild antibiotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral
- Prevents bacteria from entering healthy cells
- Stimulates new tissue growth for wound healing
- Helps with skin regeneration
- Reduces inflammation in skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema
- Reduces inflammation in cases of arthritis
- Increases resistance to infections
- Helps heal candida, herpes, urinary tract, and other similar infections
- Helps reduce inflamed lymph glands
- Helps reduce symptoms of sore throat
- Helps reduce upper respiratory problems in general
- Helpful in averting and shortening the duration of the common cold
In Europe Echinacea is so respected that it is sometimes used as IV supplement for some forms of cancer and is often injected for the treatment of urinary tract infections. In the United States, where pharmaceutical drugs are the mainstream, it takes good personal research to understand the importance and power of Echinacea as an alternative or supplement.
The University of Maryland Medical Center confirms that many laboratory studies show that Echinacea contains active substances that enhance the immune system. Because of this, the plant has received positive feedback in a more conservative setting for relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and helping to boost anti-oxidant and hormonal strength.
In terms of the common cold, 14 clinical trials throughout the United States show that the use of Echinacea reduces the odds of developing a cold by 58% and reduces the duration of a cold by 1 to 4 days .
I have used Echinacea throughout the years whenever I feel a cold coming on. As soon as the first symptom rears its head, I put about 30 drops in a glass of room temperature water and drink this twice a day to keep my system strong. It is best to use Echinacea on a short-term basis, as this way you get the most from its power. I use it until my symptoms go away, or as a preventative, for two to three weeks with a break of a few weeks.
You can find Echinacea in many forms: as a tincture (alcohol or glycerine based), liquid extract, tea, capsule, as well as in creams and gels for topical use. Make sure you follow directions in terms of dosage. Then combine your Echinacea protocol with accompanying doses of Body Activation, and you'll be thriving all year long!
Words to the Wise
Echinacea is not a substitute for critical medical cases. Make sure you consult your healthcare provider before embarking on a protocol. Though there is no known toxicity, it is advised not to use the herb in cases of progressive systemic and autoimmune diseases such as TB, lupus, and connective tissue disorders.