Getting a cold? There is a simple herbal remedy that can help stop it in its tracks -- fast. The roots and sometimes the flowers of echinacea, a beautiful member of the sunflower family also known as a purple coneflower, make an important medicine used widely to treat colds, flu, bronchitis, and all types of infections.
Uses of Echinacea
This showy perennial was used by the Native Americans and adopted by the early settlers as a medicine. Members of the medical profession in early America relied heavily on echinacea, but it fell from favor with the advent of pharmaceutical medicine and antibiotics. Many physicians are rediscovering the benefits of echinacea. Many forms of echinacea are available to choose from; Germany has registered more than 40 different echinacea products.
Long used for infectious diseases and poor immune function, echinacea extractions also are used today to help treat influenza, colds, chronic fatigue syndrome, and AIDS. Research has shown echinacea stimulates the body's natural immune function. It does so by increasing the activity of white blood cells, raising the level of interferon, and stimulating blood cells to engulf invading microbes. Echinacea also increases the production of substances the body produces naturally to fight cancers and disease.
Besides its use as an immune stimulant, echinacea is recommended for individuals with recurring skin lesions, such as boils, and as a tonic to improve the liver's ability to reduce the effects of environmental toxins.
Preparations and Dosage
Echinacea is not terribly tasty in a tea. For this reason, echinacea is most often taken as tincture or as pills. Teas and tinctures, however, appear to be more effective than the powdered herb in capsules. Most herbalists recommend large and frequent doses at the onset of a cold, flu, sinus infection, bladder infection, or other illness.
For acute cold or flu infection: Take 1 teaspoon of tincture every one to three hours, or 1 to 2 capsules every two to three hours for the first day or two; then reduce the dosage to 2 teaspoons tincture or 6 capsules per day. For a chronic infectious problem: Take 1/2 teaspoon tincture or 2 capsules echinacea, three times a day for three weeks and then abstain for one week before continuing again.Side Effects of EchinaceaEchinacea is considered quite safe, even at high and frequent doses. Some people, particularly those who are allergic to ragweed and list hay fever as a seasonal complaint, may have an allergic reaction to echinacea -- typically, itchy eyes and throat.Frequent use of echinacea may mask the symptoms of a more serious underlying disease. If you have any persistent condition, be sure to consult a physician.
To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:
- For an overview of all of our herbal remedies, go to the main Herbal Remedies page.
- To learn more about treating medical conditions at home, visit our main Home Remedies page.
- One of the best things you can do for your health and well being is to make sure you are getting enough of the vital nutrients your body needs. Visit our Vitamins page to learn more.
Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.