Echinacea angustifolia (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea pallida)
Common name: Echinacea, Purple Cone Flower, Rudbeckia, Snakeroot
Parts used: Whole herb or root
A primary remedy for helping the body to rid itself of all infection.
Echinacea is part of the daisy family and is native to eastern and central North America where they commonly grow in moist to dry woodlands or prairies. This plant is now cultivated across the globe for both medicinal and horticultural purposes. Echinacea angustifolia is threatened in the wild and harder to grow than E. purpurea that is found in the majority of commercial preparations. The flowers of this plant are particularly distinctive; they are large, often pink, daisy like heads with dark red or orange highly centred cones that are also ‘spikey’ to the touch. The plant can grow up to 2 metres in height and the flowers can reach diameters of 15cm. Medicinally, it is the roots of the plant that are most valued.
How it Works
Echinacea contains constituents known as isobutylamides which are a subclass of alkamides. They can be clearly identified in the plant when it is tasted, as it creates a ‘tingling’ or numbing effect upon the tongue. In the plant itself, these constituents act as insecticides and are found, in the highest concentration, within the plants roots. Medicinally, these constituents give echinacea analgesic, anti-inflammatory, counter-irritant, anti-spasmodic and immune stimulant properties. Its anti-inflammatory action has been specifically attributed to the ability of these alkamides to inhibit the production of cyclooxygenase which is a key enzyme in the metabolism of arachidonic acid, which is involved in the inflammatory cascade. Alkamides have also demonstrated activity against Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and Candida based infections.
Echinacea has demonstrated an ability to prevent infection and encourage cellular repair after an infection through inhibiting the enzyme hyaluronidase. Hyaluronidase is released when it comes into contact with a pathogen; its release can weaken internal cellular structures that consequently exposes the body to pathogenic attack and chronic inflammation.
Polysaccharides found in echinacea have also been found to activate the production of macrophages by the body’s immune system and also stimulate the activity of the immune system as a whole. It raises the levels of white blood cells, boosting the overall efficacy of the immune system.
Into the Heart of Echinacea
Echinacea is considered as one of the primary remedies for assisting the body in clearing infection and strengthening the overall efficiency of the immune system. Echinacea reduces the severity and duration of symptoms, whilst also helping the body to deal with infection and stimulate the immune response. It will effectively target microbial, bacterial and viral infections throughout the body, but has a specific focus within the upper respiratory system and in conditions such as cold and flu, tonsillitis and laryngitis.
Echinacea is effective where individuals have become ‘run-down’ as a result of stress or over-work. The classic scenario being that an individual becomes ill as soon as they start to relax. Echinacea will support and gradually strengthen a weakened immune system in addition to being able to effectively treat an acute attack of infection.
Traditionally this plant was used to treat snake bites and any form of blood poisoning. Unsurprisingly, echinacea is a valuable herb in the treatment of any form of infection that has reached the bloodstream. It is considered to be an effective blood cleanser and purifier whose effects will also notably boost wound repair mechanisms and soothe hot and irritated acute and chronic skin conditions.
Immune: Indicated in all acute and chronic bacterial, microbial and viral infections. Echinacea increases the production of immune system cells whilst also reducing the symptoms of infection and improving recovery time.
Upper Respiratory: Indicated in cold, flu, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, general mucous and sinus congestion. The immune stimulating properties of echinacea are focussed within the upper respiratory tract, proving particularly effective in acute and chronic infections of the lungs and throat.
Skin & Blood: Echinacea is indicated where there may be infected and open wounds, bites or poisonous attack/consumption that has influenced the onset of acute or chronic septicaemia. Echinacea can help fight any resulting infection present within the bloodstream and aid blood purification and cleansing. This effect has also indicated echinacea in hot and irritated skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, which are aggravated by heat in the bloodstream.
External Uses: Antiseptic for skin problems, wounds, boils, abscesses, varicose & rodent ulcers, burns, stings & bites, warts, headlice. Mouthwash (10-20 drops, 0.5-1ml of tincture diluted) for sore throats, mouth ulcers, infected, bleeding gums. Douche for vaginal infections.