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In A Nutshell – Echinacea – angustifolia & purpurea
by Jill Rosemary Davies

Echinacea is remarkably easy to grow and beautiful to look at. Native to America, it is one of the herbs most favoured by the Native American Indians and is used prolifically in Germany as a natural alternative to allopathic antibiotics. Echinacea’s record for tackling anything from throat and ear infections to insect bites is second to none because it boosts and strengthens the immune system on a number of different levels.

Contents

  • Introduction

  • Exploring Echinacea

  • A history of healing

  • Anatomy of Echinacea

  • Echinacea in action

  • Energy and emotion

  • Flower remedies

  • Growing, harvesting, and processing

  • Preparations for internal use

  • Root tincture

  • Tincture from leaves or seeds

  • Tincture syrup

  • Decoction

  • herbal tea (Infusion)

  • Capsules

  • Preparations for external use

  • Ointment

  • Compress

  • Other applications

  • Natural medicine for everyone

  • Herbal combinations

  • How Echinacea works

  • Glossary

Introduction

The sacred plant of the Native Americans, Echinacea is considered to be the most beautiful of North American wild flowers. Common to the prairies, it is widely found in the eastern part of North America, from Canada to Texas.

Echinacea is a sturdy-looking plant with branching stems and dark green leaves. It may grow to be 60-150 cm (2-5 ft) tall, depending on the soil and species. This perennial plant usually takes 2-3 years to produce flowers, which bloom in midsummer. The flowers, which look like large daisies, are up to 15 cm (6 in) across with petals arranged like rays around a central protruding cone. Seeds ripen in the autumn, after which the plant dies back.

Definition

Botanical family: Compositae (related to the sunflower family Asteraceae).

Species: There are eight species, but only three are significant for healing. Echinacea angustifolia and the larger Echinacea purpurea are the two species favoured for commercial use, while Echinacea pallida is used to a small extent by those who harvest their own plants.

Echinacea pallida is paler in colour than the other two species, and its herbal effects are weaker.

The healing species

Echinacea angustifolia is the commercial favourite. It has distinctive, narrow, lance-shaped leaves, and the flowers vary in colour from pale to deep purple. It generally has a single tapering root.

Echinacea purpurea is taller and stouter with larger, oval-shaped, coarsely toothed leaves. Its flowers are slightly longer and droopier than Echinacea angustifolia, with reddish to dark purple petals. Its fibrous roots and rootlets can be found comparatively near the surface of the soil.

Echinacea pallida grows up to 120 cm (4 ft) in height. Between May and August it produces pale purple coneflowers up to 10 cm (4 in) long. As its name suggests, its effects, as well as its colour, are weaker than those of Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea, so this book will concentrate only on the two stronger species.

The Latin name Echinacea is derived from the Greek word echinos, meaning ‘sea urchin’ or ‘hedgehog’, and comes from the prickly appearance of the plant’s seed head in the autumn – and perhaps to some extent from the central coneflowers in the summer. Angustifolia describes the plant’s narrow leaves; purpurea describes its strong purple flowers; and pallida describes its pale flowers.

What to buy

Use certified organically produced Echinacea for the best healing potential. You can grow your own from seed, although it will be a couple of years or more before you will have seeds you can harvest, or you can purchase dried flowers and leaves, and whole or ground Echinacea root, from an accredited herbalist or herbal supplier.

Exploring Echinacea

Native to North America, Echinacea are lime-loving plants, which prefer well-drained but moisture-retentive soil. When seen in the wild, they create a wonderful vision of colour, often on meadow ‘drifts’.

Where to find Echinacea

Echinacea angustifolia grows wild in the dry uplands and rocky plains of several American states, notably in Texas, Kansas, Colorado, and Montana. However, Echinacea purpurea can be found more widely in eastern, Midwestern, and southern states, particularly in thickets and open woods of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Arkansas; it is also found in southern Canada. All Echinacea species are naturally tolerant of frost and drought – they are very hardy and adaptable.

Commercial growers

Echinacea is commercially produced throughout the United States and New Zealand and in British Columbia, Canada. The herb also grows in Europe, mainly in Germany and, to a small extent, in Britain.

Soil requirements

Most species of Echinacea are lime-loving plants (6–8pH) and grow best on fertile, free-draining, loamy or peaty soils. However, most gardeners who do not possess these soils grow it perfectly successfully in whatever soil they do have. Echinacea does not like wet, clay soils, but apart from this it is a tough plant capable of adapting to most given soil conditions. In New Zealand, Echinacea purpurea has produced better fields of crops when it has been grown in soil with a pH of 5.5–6. In Germany, growers consider that light, friable soils are best, since these soils can easily be washed off the roots when they are harvested commercially. Although newly planted seedlings need frequent watering in the first month, this becomes less important later.

Echinacea angustifolia yields are much higher under cultivation than in the wild, provided that the soil is well aerated and has balanced amounts of moisture, light, heat, and nutrients, but they perform poorly on continuously saturated soils. Echinacea will also thrive in dry clay loam if it is not allowed to become too wet; to prevent this, add gravel, sand or fibrous compost.

A History of Healing

Native Americans often referred to Echinacea as a 'sacred herb', but the names they would have used in their own dialects have been lost. The Plains Indians used Echinacea medicinally more than any other plant and they may well have chosen names to reflect its 'cure-all' status.

Although its Native American names have not survived, Echinacea gained many common names when white settlers learned of its use about 200 years ago. These names provide insight into its appearance and its use in the past. Purple Coneflower, for instance, simply describes the species Echinacea purpurea; Missouri Snakeroot reflects the plant's use to treat rattlesnake bites, as well as the fibrous appearance of Echinacea purpurea roots; Purple Kansas Cornflower conveys one of the areas where this plant can be found growing wild; Indian Head recalls its use by Native Americans. Other common names include Sampson Root, Black Sampson and Red Sunflower.

Traditional uses

Native Americans, especially the Plains Indians, used various species of Echinacea both internally and externally to treat a range of conditions. One of its main external applications was to treat poisonous insect bites and snakebites. They also used it for healing boils and all kinds of skin irritations and to bathe burns and other external skin problems. It was taken internally for breaking fevers, for complaints such as sore throats, toothache, mumps and even headaches, and for major ailments such as smallpox and measles. They also added the juice to the water sprinkled on coals during traditional 'sweats'.

Historical usage

A German physician named Dr H. C. F. Meyer; who was living in Nebraska in the 1870s, formulated his own medicinal version of Echinacea and called it 'Meyer's Blood Purifier'. A champion of the plant's healing properties, Dr Meyer typified the 19th and early 20th century interest in the herb, which derived from European interest in the uses to which Native Americans put it.

Today's natural healers recognise that the Native Americans were renowned for their attention to nutrition and, of course, their use of herbs, in which Echinacea featured prominently. Their healing methods also included sweating and fasting. 

The Cheyenne and Winnebago tribes have records verifying the widespread use of Echinacea across the nation, and archaeological exploration of sites dating from the 17th century has produced evidence of its use for a variety of ailments. According to historical evidence, different tribes used this plant for different reasons: the Cheyenne used it to treat sore mouths and gums, the Dakota used it for bowel problems and tonsillitis and the Delaware used it for gonorrhoea.

White settlers gained their plant healing knowledge from the local tribes who lived around their settlements. The Native Americans showed the white settlers how to use fresh Echinacea, picked in the summer, as a general infection-fighter and the settlers developed it as a tincture for winter use.

Echinacea in Western medicine

Echinacea was brought to the forefront of Western herbal medicine by the Eclectics, a group of doctors who based their medicine on the use of herbs. The Eclectics came together in the early 19th century and were prominent for a century from the 1830s. Schools of that era still survive in the United States and Europe. Echinacea also became more prominent under the auspices of a well-known Eclectic doctor and author called John King, who wrote the famous King's American Dispensary. Several American herb companies making tinctures from Echinacea were famous in their day. One such firm was Lloyd Brothers.

Anatomy of Echinacea

The whole Echinacea plant can be used for therapeutic purposes. Different parts are processed and preserved in different ways, depending on the use. Echinacea angustifolia and purpurea are the most commonly grown and manufactured species.

Roots

Echinacea angustifolia has a vertical taproot, whereas Echinacea purpurea has branched fibrous rootlets.

Chemical constituents of roots

Alkylamides, including echinacein; polysaccharides including inulin, a water-soluble carbohydrate; phenolic compounds: caffeoyl echinacoside and cynarine; essential oil containing caryophyllene and humulene; alkaloids: tussilagine and isotussilagine, plus behenic acid; carbohydrates: sucrose, pentosans and fructose. The roots have the most important assay of chemical constituents medicinally due to the alkylamides.

Shelf Life of Roots

Dried, cut or shredded root lasts up to 1 year; dried whole root lasts for 1–2 years.

Stems and leaves

The stems and leaves of Echinacea angustifolia are covered with course hairs. The leaves are stalked but become stalkless and smaller toward the top of the plant. The leaves are prominently veined, with five veins running bladewise, Echinacea angustifolia has dark green oblong, lanceolate (lance-shaped) leaves. The leaves of the Echinacea purpurea are more oval in shape and are rich green in colour.

Chemical constituents of stems and leaves

Phenolic compounds: verbascoside, caftaric acid, chlorogenic and isochlorogenic acids; flavonoids: luteolin, quercetin and rutin; essential oil containing vanillin, germacrene D; hydrocarbons, N alkanes, betaine.

Shelf Life of stems and Leaves

Whole leaf lasts 612 months; shredded leaf lasts 69 months.

Flowers and seeds 

Echinacea angustifolia has large, single, daisy-like flowers at the end of stems or branches. These flowers have narrow, strap-shaped petals that are indented with two or three notches at the tips. The flowers are quite short and spread rather than droop; their colouring varies from rosy pink to pale purple. The flowers have a prominent seed-bearing 'cone', which is browny-orange with scattered yellow pollen. The seeds, which erupt from the cone in the autumn, are of a medium size and brown in colour.

Chemical constituents of flowers and seeds

Phenolic compound: chicoric acid; numerous miscellaneous alkylamides; essential oil containing vanillin; considerable amounts of vitamin C.

Shelf life of flowers and seeds

Flowers last 612 months; seeds last 12 years, but they will last much longer with suitable storage facilities.

Echinacea in Action

This wonderful all-round herb is able to boost the immune system to fight many viral, bacterial and fungal-based diseases and is a known lymph cleanser and herbal antibiotic. There are not many conditions that this immune system modulator cannot help.

How Echinacea can help

  • Ideal as a cold or flu aid, this herb can be taken when you first feel shivery, right through the illness and for a week afterwards in order to aid recovery. Take three times a day for up to four months. It can also be used to prevent colds. (This was proved in the largest ever clinical study on Echinacea in 2012 at Cardiff University, UK.)
  • Useful during the coldest part of the winter for coughs and other more deep-seated or chronic bronchial and upper respiratory disorders including asthma and whooping cough.
  • Alleviates any signs of enlarged glands and lymph nodes and any attendant sore throat or tonsillitis.
  • Gives quick relief from food poisoning and eases the severity of the symptoms.
  • Helps in the treatment of psoriasis, skin ulcers, boils, abscesses, eczema, infected wounds, bites and burns, both by external application as an ointment and internal use.
  • Useful in cases of candida and other fungal-based diseases.
  • Helps in the treatment of urinary tract infections such as cystitis and urethritis.
  • Helps to treat pelvic inflammatory disease and other infections of the female and male lower reproductive systems.
  • Assists recovery from many chronic diseases, to include autoimmune conditions and chronic fatigue/post-viral fatigue syndrome (formerly known as ME).

How Echinacea affects the body

Echinacea should make the whole mouth tingle quite strongly and make it feel slightly numb. The effect starts quite gently, increases to the point where extra saliva is created and then dies down after several minutes. This process suggests that Echinacea stimulates the immune tissue situated under the tongue. When Echinacea reaches the ileum (in the small intestine) it then stimulates the Peyer's patches, another type of immune tissue. These patches in turn trigger 'immune stations' located throughout the body, helping to create all-round protection. Such immune stations include the bone marrow, where immune system cells are created, and all the lymph nodes and vessels that carry white blood cells and help to filter and purify the blood. The spleen will also be activated.

Effects

  • Stimulates the growth of new healthy tissue.
  • Protects cells from invasion or damage by pathogens, bacteria, or viruses.
  • Increases the body’s overall ability to dispose of bacteria, infected and damaged cells, toxins, and harmful chemicals.
  • Stimulates the adrenal cortex and production of cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that helps the metabolism of carbohydrates, aids the body’s normal responses to stress, and eases inflammation and the accompanying pain.

Caution

New studies disprove previous misconceptions on how Echinacea does and does not work. Old ideas that it ‘stimulated’ the immune system and was therefore not to be used in immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis is outmoded. It is seen as an immune modulator and may be used with any immune dysfunctions including autoimmune conditions. However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK still advises on their product information sheets for licensed Echinacea supplements (those registered as a Traditional Herbal Remedy) that the product should not be used if you suffer from autoimmune disease. 

(Alternative Medicine re 1997; 2(6) 451-458 Kerry Bone)

Summary

  • Echinacea helps to treat a wide variety of 'surface' conditions effectively, as well as a range of deeper-seated diseases of the immune system. Surface conditions include those of a more superficial nature, such as a cold, where Echinacea's extra immune system support helps speed recovery.
  • Echinacea modulates the immune responses of macrophages and T cells (types of white blood cells), toning the response down in the face of over-active immune function whilst it increases activity in the face of slow reaction. The result is a more efficient and balanced immune system. The alkylamides are thought to be the main active constituents in this regard.
  • In the past, some people speculated that Echinacea if taken for too long could over-stimulate or ‘wear out’ the immune system. This is not so and in fact Echinacea rather prepares and helps facilitate a better immune response. For further information on this research, look up the work of Kerry Bone of Mediherb.

Proven results

  • Some of Echinacea's healing properties have been tested scientifically and shown to work.
  • Clinical studies on the use of Echinacea undertaken in 1989 showed an increase of 50100 per cent in immune system function over a five-day period.
  • Other studies, conducted with 4,500 patients with inflammatory skin conditions (including psoriasis), showed that 85 per cent of patients had their symptoms relieved with topical applications of Echinacea salve.
  • Laboratory experiments in 1985 showed that white blood cells stimulated by Echinacea increased their infection-fighting activity. This led to an increase in the consumption of yeast cells by 2040 per cent, proving Echinacea's usefulness in the treatment of fungal infections such as candida (thrush).

When to avoid Echinacea

  • Echinacea is generally a very safe herb and is well tolerated by most people of different ages and races. Currently, it is believed that no part of the plant is toxic. See the chapter on 'Natural Medicine for Everyone' for more on suitability for different life stages. 
  • A number of published clinical studies on Echinacea do not support the suggestion that long-term use is detrimental; it seems to be well tolerated with long-term use. Equally, old concerns not to use it with autoimmune conditions have now been scientifically disproved. This is different to the 1992 German commission E Monographs, where it states it should not be proved in progressive diseases like multiple sclerosis and AIDS. (Article - Alt Med Rev 1997; 2(6) (451-458) Kerry Bone, BSC Dip Phyto, Herbal Practitioner.) However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK still advises on their product information sheets for licensed Echinacea supplements (those registered as a Traditional Herbal Remedy) that the product should not be used if you suffer from autoimmune disease. 
  • Echinacea may counteract some aspects of chemotherapy, where the chemotherapy is being given to suppress the function of the immune system. If you are having this type of chemotherapy, avoid Echinacea.

Allergic reaction to Echinacea

In the spring of 1998, an allergy specialist warned that very occasionally people with allergies who take Echinacea at the same time as drinking fruit juice could trigger an allergic response, even anaphylactic shock. One of the people who sustained such an adverse reaction had been taking Echinacea for many years, on its own or with water. On just one occasion she put it in fruit juice and reacted immediately.

Energy and Emotion

Good quality Echinacea produces a tingling, numbing effect in the mouth, especially the species Echinacea angustifolia. This has the effect of creating extra amounts of saliva, which in turn excites the production of digestive juices in the mouth and gut.

According to traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) medicine, taste has its own part to play in contributing to the healing properties of a herb. Echinacea has a very metallic taste. Other underlying flavours are bitter, pungent, and slightly sweet. According to traditional Chinese medicine, all of these flavours support the lungs, stomach, and liver, which in turn ultimately regulate the immune system.

In traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, the ‘metal’ taste of Echinacea belongs to the season of the autumn, and the organs affected are the lungs and large intestine. The large intestine (classed as male) and the lungs (classed as female) are seen as forming a partnership. The lungs and large intestine are two areas of the body that have to stay clean and healthy in order for them to perform correctly; they represent the very basic functions of life – breathing and excreting.

Energy and the mind

The taste of Echinacea is strong and stimulating, and can make the body feel empowered instantly. Creating extra saliva is generally a reassuring process: when we are frightened our mouth goes dry, but producing extra saliva is relaxing and produces more endorphins (pain-relieving hormones). The result is that Echinacea will make you feel more capable or even pleasantly excited.

Traditional Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine evolved as a complete medical system over thousands of years, through practical method, observation, experience, and experiment. Coming from a civilization that perceives people as being either ‘in harmony’ or ‘out of harmony’ with themselves, traditional Chinese medicine sees illness or disease in terms of patterns of disharmony. Accordingly, what it tries to do is restore the correct balance in the body of the sick person.

Practitioners believe that diseases are caused by an imbalance in the five elements within a person: wood, fire, earth, metal and water, which have the associated climates wind, heat, dampness, dryness and cold. The illnesses are treated via meridians, the channels in the body through which energy is believed to flow.

In traditional Chinese medicine herbs used are classified in four different ways:

  • Four natures

  • Five flavours (Echinacea’s distinctive taste can make the body immediately feel fitter and more active.)

  • Four directions

  • Organs and meridians affected by them

Flower Remedies

Echinacea has the ability to lighten your mental load because it can lift from your shoulders anxieties about survival and immunity. You can relax, you don’t need to be so self-protective, and you will be able to welcome other things into your life. The shape of the flower is also important: it is very round and whole and the colour is a strongly spiritual one – these features can help you to move to higher levels of change and consciousness.

Because Echinacea can give a feeling of empowerment, it can help you to welcome changes and new challenges. It is also protective and purifying.

Echinacea flower essence stimulates and awakens the true inner self, and this quality makes it a fundamental remedy for many physical conditions – and for those of the ‘soul’.

The flower essence is especially good for those who have been shattered by severe trauma or abuse, such as bereavement, child abuse, long-term exhaustion, or lowered immunity, as well as a deep sense of rejection, loneliness, or lowered self-esteem.

To make a flower essence – standard quantity

  1. Use approx. 350 ml (1½ cups) each of spring water and brandy, and 34 Echinacea flowers. Carefully select some Echinacea flowers that look healthy and strong.
  2. Choose a very quiet spot indoors – or in a secluded area of the yard or sunny woodland if the weather allows. Place the flowers, while still fresh, in a glass bowl with the spring water, ensuring there is enough water to cover them and that they are fully submerged.
  3. Cover the bowl with clean white cheesecloth; put in a sunny position.
  4. Leave the bowl in the sunshine for several hours – perhaps next to a window if you are indoors. Try to ensure that the flowers have at least three hours of continuous sunshine. If they wilt sooner than this – which they may do in fierce sun – then they can be removed earlier.
  5. After the three hours or so remove the flowers and discard them, using a twig to lift them out of the bowl.
  6. Add an amount of brandy equal to the remaining amount of water and flower mixture, to preserve the liquid. Pour the liquid into dark glass bottles and label carefully.

RECOMMENDED DOSAGE

Adults: 4 drops under the tongue 4 times daily, or every half an hour in times of crisis.

Children: Over 12 years, adult dose. 7–12 years, half adult dose. 1–7 years, quarter adult dose.

Plant spirit energies

The spirit of the Echinacea plant is different from that of a flower essence, which is connected mostly with the flower only. The whole of the Echinacea plant is of benefit in healing – flowers, seeds, stem, leaves, and roots, so it is the whole spirit of the plant that enables each of these parts to share their energy with us.

Because it is so powerful, Echinacea is able to treat deep genetic tendencies that are part of an individual’s constitution. It helps balance old patterns of behaviour physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Case study

James had been diagnosed with glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis) by his GP. He was told that there was little that could be prescribed to make him feel better, and that he would be laid low for some time. His wife had read about Echinacea and decided to buy some for him. He started with four doses a day. James noticed an immediate physical difference: the tingling James experienced felt positive, and he started to feel stronger and more energised. He also felt better emotionally, and his depression started to lift.

Growing, Harvesting and Processing

Although the root is the main part of the plant used for medicinal purposes, some herbal manufacturers add a proportion of leaf and seed in their composite tincture. This is a useful option when growing your own plants and making your own tinctures.

Growing Echinacea

Echinacea can be grown from both seeds and seedlings. The easiest and most successful method, however, is to obtain small plants and transplant them into rich, well-drained soil, mulched with compost.

Planting and germination

Echinacea purpurea is the easiest species to grow at home, and thrives in both full sun and shaded areas. It survives well in most climates, except in consistently very hot and dry conditions when it should be placed in partial shade. Plant the seeds in the early winter or, if you are using seedlings, transplant them in the early spring. The soil should be well-drained, with a pH of 5.5–6. This species grows particularly well in sandy, fine silt-loam, particularly if the soil contains lime.

Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida are very drought-resistant and can survive through the summer with very little water. Echinacea angustifolia in particular does not grow successfully if the soil is consistently saturated. If possible, use a moderately coarse textured soil (sandy loam), consisting of lime and gravel, to encourage drainage. The soil pH should be 68. Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida often require a cold, light environment to encourage germination. If you experience any problems, put an overripe banana near the seeds: this will release ethylene gas, a natural growth hormone, and will stimulate germination.

Harvesting

Commercial: In Germany the roots are sometimes harvested in April, before the leaves produce much growth, but in the United States they are more frequently harvested in the autumn. The ideal is to harvest the root at a time when the plant has died back, so that the energy and plant chemistry is maximised in the root. The root is harvested by cutting the top off the whole plant, leaving 5 cm (2 in) of the plant above ground level. A digger then lifts the plant, cutting down to a depth of 30 cm (12 in).

The leaves are harvested in the late spring, when maximum young foliage has been produced, but before the buds and flowers have appeared. The leaves are harvested by cutting off the tops, leaving 10 cm (4 in) of the plant above ground level. The harvestable amount of leaves will be greater in the second year than in the first.

Seeds are harvested at full maturity – that is any time in the late summer or in the autumn, depending on the climate. Seed heads are usually collected by hand because the delicate central cone can break easily and the seeds scatter.

Home-grown: Dig up the roots in the autumn, when the chemical constituents are at a premium. Taste the roots: if they produce a strong, tingling numbness in the mouth, they are ready. The same applies to leaves or seeds: try the leaves for taste when they are young and juicy, well before flowering stalks begin to grow.

When harvesting the leaves, apply the same rules as those used in a commercial harvest: collect them in the late spring, when the leaves are at their most plentiful, but before the buds and flowers appear.

The seeds are ready to be harvested when they are loose enough to come away easily in your hand; they will not only be at their peak medicinally but will also be capable of germination if you wish.

Processing

Commercial: The collected roots are thoroughly washed, dried, and packed. Washing is easy with the long, tap-rooted Echinacea angustifolia, but for the fibrous Echinacea purpurea it is much harder, at least on a commercial scale, and it helps enormously if the soil is friable and falls away easily.

The roots are then washed with water. When they are scrupulously clean, they are dried at 40–45°C (105113°F) until they are brittle. They are graded for quality and then stored on dry, temperature-controlled slatted shelves, or packed in plastic, open-weave sacks, ready for sale.

Leaves are similarly dried, but for a shorter time, and they are stored at lower temperatures.

The complete seed heads are rubbed between boards in order to crush and yield the seeds, and to ensure that the cones and bracts fall away. Finally, the seeds are graded and sold by size and quality.

Home-grown: After washing the harvested roots, pat them dry and lay them on cake racks in a warm, dry place. Alternatively, place the roots on the racks and put them into an oven pre-heated to 100°C (210°F) but with the heat turned off and the door left open. Cut very thick roots into smaller pieces to ensure thorough drying.

After collecting the leaves and seeds, put them in brown paper bags and hang them in a very dry place. Every few days take them down and shake them in order to ‘turn’ the contents for better aeration.

Once the leaves and seeds feel dry enough, place them in a glass jar. Put on the lid and leave the jar in the sunshine: if water droplets appear, then there is still moisture content and therefore a risk of spoilage, so you should dry the leaves and seeds further before storing. Store the dried herb, whole or sliced, in airtight containers in a cool, dark place.

Preparations for Internal Use

Echinacea root tincture

There are many ways to use Echinacea but perhaps the most effective biochemically – for extracting all the therapeutic benefits – is a tincture. Tincturing ensures the extraction of the all-important alkylamides.

In this form the herb is concentrated and needs no further preparation for use – and, like capsules and pills, it can be carried around very easily.

Echinacea tinctures last a very long time. Some 100-year-old tinctures were found recently and tasted, and the quality appeared not to have suffered at all. However, the herbalist and botanist Christopher Hobbs suggests that a reasonable shelf life for the majority of well-made Echinacea tinctures is five years.

You can make a tincture by soaking chopped or shredded roots first in alcohol (to kill any pathogens such as bacteria – this is especially important when using fresh herbs) and then in a mixture of alcohol and water. Some of the healing properties of Echinacea are particularly well extracted by water (e.g. the polysaccharides) whilst the alcohol ensures the extraction of the alkylamides.

For all preparations, clean utensils in boiling water first. For best results add 1–2 drops of essential oil, such as thyme, lavender, or tea tree, to the cleaning water.

To make a root tincture – standard quantity

  1. Use 115 g (4 oz) of dried root or 225 g (8 oz) of fresh, with a total of 1 litre (4 cups) of vodka and water mixture. For the vodka, standard 45 per cent proof is effective, but 70–80 per cent proof is better. Proportions of vodka and water used will depend on the strength of the vodka: if using 45 per cent proof, you will use 80 per cent vodka and 20 per cent water; if using 70–80 per cent proof, you will use 40–50 per cent vodka and 50–60 per cent water. 
  2. Place fresh or dried Echinacea root in a liquidiser or food processor and cover with the vodka (the correct proportion of 1 litre, as above). Liquidise the ingredients – the mixture will be stiff and hard, but persist. 
  3. When smooth, pour the mixture into a large dark glass jar with an airtight lid. Shake well, label the jar carefully, and store in a dark place.
  4. After 2 days, measure the contents and add the water to make up the rest of the litre of liquid. Shake well.
  5. Leave the mixture for at least 2 weeks, but preferably up to 4 weeks. Shake the jar daily to aid the extraction process.
  6. At the end of the allotted time, strain the tincture through a jelly bag, preferably overnight, until you have the very last drop. For best results you can use a wine press.
  7. Pour the thick liquid into dark jars and label clearly. Store in a cool, dark place. For personal use, decant into a 50 ml (2 fl oz) tincture bottle.

Tinctures and the moon’s phases

Herbalists occasionally time the production of tinctures to coincide with the gravitational waxing and waning of the moon. To do this, start the process when the moon is new, then strain and bottle at the full moon.

Tincture from leaves and flowers

A tincture can also be made from Echinacea leaves and flowers, especially if you have grown the plants and want to make use of the leaves and flowers as well as the root. Use the same quantities of liquids as for the roots. 

RECOMMENDED DOSAGE:

for 1:1 tinctures (the strongest possible – half herb and half fluid) from either roots or leaves/flowers:

  • Everyday use during illness: take 1 tsp (5 ml) of 1:1 tincture diluted in 5 tsp (25 ml) of water (not fruit juice), 23 times daily.
  • Acute conditions: increase the dose frequency to every 12 hours until severe symptoms subside.
  • Long-term and preventative use: Kerry Bone suggests taking 12 ml daily of Echinacea if your immune system is constantly worn down, vulnerable or under attack.
  • Over 60s: Kerry Bone also suggests taking Echinacea daily at very low level to keep an ageing immune system in better order. Take 1 ml (of 1:1) daily.
  • Children: see information below on the page 'Natural Medicine for Everyone'.

Echinacea tincture syrup

For those who prefer the taste of something sweeter, try making this tincture syrup.

To make tincture syrup – standard quantity

  1. Mix together 5080 per cent Echinacea tincture and 2050 per cent raw, organic, runny honey or pure maple syrup.
  2. Put the mixture in a glass jar. Shake well before each dose. To make the syrup even tastier, give it a minty flavour by adding one drop of peppermint essential oil to each 950 ml (4 cups) of the tincture syrup.

Case study – tonsils

Jane was troubled by persistently swollen glands and enlarged tonsils. She always felt run-down and lacking in energy. At the suggestion of a friend, she took 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of Echinacea tincture 3 times a day. She started to feel stronger with each intake, so within a day or two she upped the dose to 1 teaspoon hourly for a few days. She continued to feel better, and the experience also provided her with the springboard for a renewed life based on taking other herbs and making various dietary changes.

Echinacea decoction

Water-based processes preserve all the qualities of Echinacea very efficiently. A decoction is therefore a good way to prepare the roots and seeds. Dried roots and seeds may be used, although fresh is always best.

To make a decoction – standard quantity

  1. Use 20 g (¾ oz) of dried or 40 g (1½ oz) of fresh roots and/or seeds to 700 ml (3 cups) of cold water.
  2. Put the roots and/or seeds in a saucepan (a double boiler is ideal) with the water. Initially boil for 1 minute, then simmer on a very low heat for 2030 minutes. During this time the liquid should reduce by a third.
  3. Leave to cool and then strain through a sieve and into a pitcher, keeping a little aside for your first cup. Put the pitcher in a cool place. If storing for longer than a day, put it in the refrigerator; it will keep for three days. If time is limited, strain off the mixture while it is still hot, straight into a thermos. Have a cup immediately, and then drink the rest from the thermos.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 24 cups daily.

Decoction syrup

A decoction syrup is made in the same way as the tincture syrup, but uses a decoction as its base instead of a tincture. Take the same dose as for a decoction, adding honey (like Manuka) to taste, but do not add the peppermint oil.

Echinacea herbal tea (infusion)

Teas are usually made from the delicate parts of a plant that grow above ground. In the case of Echinacea, the leaves, flowers, or even the seeds are used. It will not be a strong medicinal drink but it will certainly be of therapeutic value and a good way of helping yourself if you have the plant growing in your garden.

To make an infusion – standard quantity

  1. Use 1 tsp (23 g) of dried or 2 tsp (46 g) of fresh leaf per 250 ml (1 cup) of water.
  2. Put the leaf into a tea sock and place in a cup – or use a teapot / cafetière. Pour on boiling water and let it stand for 710 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea sock and, if desired, add ½ tsp (2.5 ml) organic, raw honey (or Manuka) to sweeten. However, it is worth noting that teas are usually best drunk without added sweetness and that Echinacea has a very interesting flavour of its own.

Recommend dosage:

Adults: 2–4 cups daily.

Echinacea capsules

Capsules can be made from the dried, powdered root of the herb, not the fresh herb. Freeze-dried powdered root in capsules can also be bought commercially. Capsules make an ideal ‘portable’ remedy, but will not be as beneficial as the tincture.

To make capsules – standard quantity

  1. Use dried, fine Echinacea powder and size 00 capsules. Approximately 250300 mg of powdered herb fits into a size 00 capsule. Gelatin-free capsules for vegetarians are also available.
  2. Put some of the powdered Echinacea in a saucer and open up the capsule.
  3. Using the capsule ends as shovels, push them together until each end is full (one end will be less so), then slide the capsule ends together, carefully.

Recommend dosage:

Adults: 2 capsules 24 times daily.

Preparations for External Use

Echinacea is an invaluable aid against a wide range of external conditions as well as internal complaints. It is very effective applied as an ointment, in baths, as dusting powder, and in compresses.

External effects of Echinacea

Echinacea is especially effective against a variety of skin conditions and wounds. Its powerful chemistry goes to work immediately at the site of the problem, quickly activating the immune system, where it is most needed. It can reduce inflammation and can be more effective than cortisone cream for this purpose. It can also be highly effective for fungal skin conditions.

When using Echinacea externally, it is a good idea to take the herb internally as well, in order to reinforce general immunity.

Echinacea ointment

Echinacea ointment is useful for treating bites, cuts, wounds, dry eczema, psoriasis and fungal skin conditions. However, it is not appropriate for inflamed, wet, or oozing skin conditions. In these cases, a cooling or powdered Echinacea applied to the skin would be much more appropriate.

To make an ointment – standard quantity

  1. Use 350ml (1½ cups) of olive oil, 325g (11 oz) of dried Echinacea powder and 50 g (2 oz) of beeswax.
  2. Pour the olive oil onto the powdered herbs and mix together.
  3. Place in a closed container (ovenproof if you are using the oven method) – choose stainless steel, earthenware, un-chipped enamel, or ovenproof glass.
  4. Put the container into an oven preheated to about 38°C (100°F) for 2 hours, or stand in the sun or other warm spot for a week. During the allotted time, occasionally stir the mixture with a sterilised fork.
  5. If using the oven method, the mixture can be strained directly after the 2 hours if you need the ointment quickly, or you can also leave it to stand for a week to encourage a greater extraction of the active components.
  6. On completion of slow cooking or soaking, strain the mixture through a large plastic or stainless steel colander lined with muslin, or use a jelly bag and hang it up to drip overnight.
  7. When you have strained the mixture, melt 50 g (2 oz) of beeswax over a very low heat in a double boiler or heavy-bottomed pan, then add the herbal olive oil mixture and combine.
  8. Put a little of the mixture into a glass jar and put it in the refrigerator for 2 minutes to test the consistency when cool. At the right consistency, it should stick to your fingers without being too hard or too runny. If it is too runny, add a little more beeswax; if too hard, a little more oil.
  9. Pour the mixture into dark glass jars and label carefully.

To help treat severe skin problems such as psoriasis or a chickenpox rash, try adding 500 ml (2 cups) Echinacea decoction to a shallow bath. The bathwater temperature can be warm or cold.

Echinacea compress

For a compress, you will first need to make up an Echinacea decoction. The decoction can be used either cold or warm. Dip a soft cloth into it, wring it out, and apply it to the affected area. Use cold liquid to ease hot, dry skin conditions, and hot liquid to treat cold, wet skin conditions.

To make a compress – standard quantity

  • Use 34 cups of prepared decoction.
  • Soak a soft, clean cloth (cheesecloth is ideal) in the decoction and then wring out the excess. Place the compress on the affected area and secure firmly with a bandage held in place by safety pins, or wrap the compress in plastic wrap, which should adhere to itself.
  • Leave for 1020 minutes and then repeat. You can reapply the compress two or three times, leaving the last one on for about 12 hours.

Other Applications

Gargle

Gargle with Echinacea tea or decoction if you have a tooth abscess or gingivitis. This can be done several times a day. Spit out the liquid after gargling – do not swallow – in case there is pus or toxic debris in the mouth. Echinacea makes a good mouthwash, and gargle for other oral infections, such as sore throats, mouth ulcers, and gum infections.

Cleansing wash

Use Echinacea teas as a wash for infected wounds and rashes, pimples, and pus-filled spots.

Eye bath

Use cooled Echinacea tea to fill an eye bath and rinse the eyes once a day for three days, or once a day two or three times a week. If you are rinsing for a long period, say 7 days or more, add a few grains of salt to the tea to offset salt and mineral loss from the eye. You can use any salt, but if you decide to use coarse salt, it is important to ensure the grains are fully dissolved in the tea.

Dusting powder

Sieve powdered Echinacea root until it is very fine. This is useful for dusting onto wet psoriasis, eczema, and deep, fleshy wounds.

Juice

Juice pressed from the fresh root is a delightful as well as extremely powerful form of Echinacea. You will need a vegetable/fruit juicer, not the liquidiser used for the tincture. A little goes a long way: 5 tsp (25ml) 3 times daily is ideal for adults, though use up to 7 tsp (35ml) if necessary.

Natural Medicine for Everyone

Echinacea is believed to be safe even for those people considered to be especially vulnerable.

Pregnancy & breastfeeding

According to 'Herbology through the Reproductive Cycle' (American College of Nurse-Midwives, 1994), Echinacea may be used in moderation during pregnancy. It suggests that 'As with most anti-microbials, it is probably wise not to use Echinacea for months at a time, but rather during times of illness or exposure to sickness'.

Since pregnant women are advised not to use antibiotics, Echinacea can be a good alternative and will help both mother and baby to flourish. It can help minimise or shorten many illnesses.

Many renowned herbalists and textbooks similarly say that Echinacea is safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding, including Kerry Bone. UK-trained herbal practitioners would agree and find it invaluable at these times. 

However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK still advises on their product information sheets for licensed Echinacea supplements (those registered as a Traditional Herbal Remedy) that the product should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Children under 12

Echinacea also has a long history of use for children; however, in 2012 the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK issued a statement advising not to use oral herbal products containing Echinacea for children under 12 years of age, due to a 'low risk of allergic reaction' – see this link for more details.

Elderly people

It is also safe for older people to take Echinacea. It is a wonderful herb to have at hand for use as needed, particularly because the immune system often weakens as we get older. Kerry Bone suggests using a low dose preventatively throughout older age.

Caution

It is usually safe to take Echinacea alongside prescription medicines, but check with your physician first. Echinacea is not recommended for people being treated with chemotherapy.

Despite a long history of safe use, we have come across one report proposing that Echinacea may reduce absorption of drugs and hormones. In the publication ‘Echinacea 2000 Technical Crop Report’ by Richard Alan Miller, the following caution is given: 'Echinacea deactivates hyaluronidase, an enzyme that thins hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a watery jelly found in parts of the body, like the synovial fluid that bathes joints, or the eyeball. When the fluid is thinned out (made more watery) it allows for greater dispersion of chemicals and foreign particles. Nicknamed spreading factor, hyaluronidase facilitates the spread of particles floating through hyaluronic acid. This mechanism is advantageous in therapy for absorption of medicines, anaesthetics and related chemistries. Since Echinacea keeps hyaluronic acid well jellied by inhibiting hyaluronidase, it prevents particles like bacteria from spreading but it also blocks absorption of drugs and hormones.'

Herbal Combinations

Herbal combinations can be used when the effect of a single herb needs complementing in a certain way. If, however, you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a serious medical condition or are taking prescribed medication, consult your doctor or qualified herbalist first: it is likely that some of the herbs may not be suitable.

Many herbal formulas consist of one main herb with one or two others to support it. Other formulas have one principal herb, with many other herbs working to assist or create a synergistic effect. The main herb may be required to soothe impaired tissue, while the rest are there to nourish, to help eliminate toxins, and to assist in nerve and blood supply.

Some formulas have equal quantities of four or five herbs, their similar actions working in slightly different ways.

Chronic fatigue/post-viral fatigue syndrome (ME)

This formula can help those with ME by modulating the immune system.

Formula: 3 parts Echinacea root, 2 parts Dandelion root, 1 part Burdock root, 1 part Reishi mushroom, ½ part Garlic cloves, and ¼ part Cayenne pods.

Dosage: Adults: 1 tsp (5 ml) of tincture formula 3 or 4 times daily.

Like Echinacea, Reishi mushroom (ganoderma) also modulates and empowers the immune system, partly because it is rich in beta glucans.

Garlic supports the immune system, while Cayenne helps to provide a good blood supply and replenishes oxygen.

Burdock modulates the immune system and cleanses the blood.

Dandelion ensures that any collected toxins from the detoxifying effect of the Burdock are removed.

Colds and flu

The early symptoms of the common cold can be eased using Echinacea root.

This formula is best taken as a tincture or tea at onset of the cold or flu. It combines Echinacea with cold and flu herbs such as Peppermint leaves, Yarrow leaves, and Elderflower, which stimulate sweating and dry out mucous membranes.

Formula: 3 parts Echinacea root, 1 part Peppermint leaves, with a dash of Cayenne (or a few Cayenne pods).

Dosage: Adults: 1 tsp (5 ml) 5 times daily.

Or:

Formula: 4 parts Echinacea root, 2 parts Yarrow leaves, 1 part Elderflower, and 1 part Peppermint leaves.

Dosage: Adults: 1 tsp (5 ml) of tincture formula every 2 hours.

Coughs, bronchial and upper respiratory infections

The following herbs would be ideal made up as a tincture, with some elderberry syrup added to give the formula an all-round soothing effect.

Formula: 2 parts Echinacea root, 2 parts Elecampane root, and 2 parts Elderberry syrup.

To make Elderberry syrup, half fill a large jar or Mason jar with elderberries, and cover with vegetable glycerine. Puree in a blender, then return to the jar and top up with spring water. Shake well, cover, and let it stand in a sunny spot for 2 weeks. Shake the jar daily. After 2 weeks sieve the mixture and return to a clean jar.

Dosage: Adults: 1 tsp (5 ml) 3 or 4 times daily. 

Like the roots of Echinacea (and Burdock), Elecampane contains inulin. Inulin increases the production of T-cells and the activity of other killer cells that destroy virus-infected cells. Elecampane is a specific remedy for respiratory disorders.

Elderberry is antiviral and is rich in vitamin C.

Echinacea eases inflamed lungs and modulates the immune system.

Caution: do not use Elecampane if you are pregnant: make the remedy using only the other herbs.

Case study – rhinitis

Lily was an energetic mother in her thirties with a part-time job as a careers advisor. She suffered from rhinitis – a recurrent runny nose often caused by an allergy – which plagued her at monthly intervals. Her 65-year-old mother swore by the wonders of Echinacea, which she had been taking herself for four years since reading about it in a magazine. Eventually Lily decided to give it a try. She took it regularly for two weeks and then stopped. Her rhinitis was late in appearing, and when she got the first symptoms she took the Echinacea again for just one evening. The following morning the anticipated bout of rhinitis failed to appear.

Low metabolism and weakness

Echinacea will provoke an immune response in people with a low metabolism who are inclined to feel cold, have low body weight, and poor powers of recovery. However, if Echinacea is not supported by other good tonics, full recovery will be difficult. The problem may drag on or, in some cases, may get worse without the help of ‘recovery tonics’. This can happen with a very persistent cough, for instance. If weight loss and other signs of deficiency have set in, seek qualified medical help immediately.

Formula: 3 parts Echinacea root, 3 parts Siberian Ginseng root, 1 part Astragalus root, and ½ part Marshmallow root.

Dosage: Adults: 1 tsp (5 ml) of tincture formula 35 times daily. 

Siberian Ginseng root is capable of providing a highly beneficial and very balanced support to the entire body and especially the adrenal glands. While it helps to boost energy, it never over-stimulates – it simply helps the body adapt to stresses. Astragalus works in a very similar way, helping the body deal with stress.

Marshmallow root provides a good tonic for the whole body and is a specific remedy for debilitating conditions that make patients feel low.

Skin conditions

Herbs that treat psoriasis, eczema, and other inflammatory skin conditions should also enhance the general detoxification of the body, especially the liver. This formula aims to support the digestive tract and immune system, and equally clear the lymph system and bloodstream. It also helps to clear and ‘cool’ the liver, and vitally aids the kidneys and bowel to excrete the collected toxins and debris from the body. Not being able to excrete collected toxins can exacerbate skin problems.

Formula: 2 parts Echinacea root, 1 part Barberry root bark, 1 part Turmeric rhizome, 1 part Cleavers herb, 1 part Dandelion leaf.

Dosage: Adults: 1 tsp (5 ml) 3 or 4 times daily. 

Echinacea can help to relieve many skin complaints, including those linked to impaired digestion, a sluggish or ‘hot’ liver, and the presence of inflammation and opportunistic pathogens such as unfriendly bacteria and fungi.

Barberry will support Echinacea’s work on the liver, decongesting it and helping it to function more efficiently, and getting the bowel to work smoothly.

Like Echinacea, Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, with an action even stronger than hydrocortisone (a steroid hormone used to treat inflammation and allergies). It assists the liver by increasing bile flow and has a protective action on both the liver and the stomach. This ancient herb is used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a digestive aid and blood cleanser.

Cleavers herb and Dandelion leaf are both general detoxifiers and lymph cleansers and will safely clear toxins out of the body via the kidneys.

Tonsillitis

This combination of herbs will make a tincture to help ease tonsil inflammation, but will need to be prescribed by a qualified herbalist due to the Poke root.

Formula: 2 parts Echinacea root, 2 parts Elderberry syrup, 1 part Poke root, ⅕ part Cayenne pod.

Dosage: 1 tsp (5 ml) 4 or 5 times daily until three days after symptoms have eased. Dose can be increased to every half hour while pain is acute, but for no longer than two days without medical advice.

Echinacea is tailor-made for tonsillitis because of its immediate, slightly numbing action in the mouth and throat. The relief from pain can often last from dose to dose if there is only half an hour between them. Echinacea also mobilises the immune system.

Elderberry soothes the throat and, being antiviral, will also help the immune system.

Poke root is quite a strong herb for this condition, but it is good to use for a limited period of time – 3 weeks normally, and not more than 3 months – because it will quickly purify and decongest the bloodstream and in particular the lymph system. It also keeps the bowels moving.

Urethritis

This painful infection of the urethra, the tube that conducts urine from the bladder to the exterior, affects mainly women. Echinacea, combined with other herbs, will help to combat the cause of the infection.

Formula: 2 parts Echinacea root, 1 part Uva Ursi leaves, 1 part Corn Silk, and 1 part Barberry root bark.

Dosage: 1 tsp (5 ml) of tincture formula 3 or 4 times daily. If acute, a night dose of 1 tsp (5 ml) at two separate intervals may also be taken.

Echinacea will mobilise the immune system to fight the microbial infection, whether the cause is bacterial, fungal, or viral.

Uva Ursi is especially useful for the urinary tract, where it will cleanse, disinfect, and heal the affected area.

Corn Silk has similar abilities to Uva Ursi but is much more soothing and healing.

Barberry root bark will help to treat the infection if it is of fungal origin, and it will also help to decongest the liver, thereby lightening the load on the whole body.

How Echinacea Works

Echinacea is composed of a large number of highly effective bio-chemical components, which work in varying ways on the body's systems. One of the best ways of successfully extracting all components is to use both alcohol and water (tincture 1:1).

Echinacea includes the following bio-chemicals:

Alkylamides are the most important compounds in Echinacea and high levels denote a quality plant and consequently a quality product. They are responsible for the systemic effect of Echinacea, interacting with ‘cannaboid receptors’ in the body (especially CB2). But sufficiently high levels of alcohol are needed to extract all important alkylamides. Alkylamides boost white cell count, especially NK cells.

A good and active Echinacea product should give a strong and persistent tingling sensation, plus the numbing metallic effect in the mouth with saliva production.

Polysaccharides: one of these, inulin, increases the production of T-cells and other natural killer cells that stimulate the immune system.

Other chemical components include:

Flavonoids (quercetin and rutocide): these work as antioxidants by neutralising damaging molecules and reducing the risk of a number of serious diseases. Flavonoids are partly responsible for the efficiency of macrophrages – these are scavenger cells that remove bacteria from the blood.

Nutrients: including small amounts of aluminium, calcium, copper, chlorine, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins A and E (useful to immunity) and particularly high levels of vitamin C.

Alkaloids: such as tussilagine, very helpful for throat disorders, and cynarin, a bitter substance that helps the liver.

Essential oils: containing caryophyllene, vanillin and humulene, which are antibacterial and stimulate the digestion process.

Tannins: these reduce infection by forming a protective 'crust'.

Proteins: which carry useful steroids and oxygen. 

Fatty acids: which are needed to sustain energy levels and act as the body's building blocks.

It also contains small amounts of betaine.

Varying Ingredients

Some of the chemical constituents mentioned here are found only in the roots, whilst others are only in aerial parts of the plant growing above ground. Some are present only when the herb is fresh or only when it is dried. Climate and season can also make a huge difference: for example, inulin concentrations are much higher in the autumn and winter than in the spring, so it's best to harvest roots during these seasons. On the other hand, the fructose content is higher in the summer and the autumn. Fundamentally high levels of alkylamides are vital to ensure a strength and quality capable of successfully aiding the immune system.

Main Effects

  • Promotes cellular immunity.
  • Stimulates levels of properdin, which kills bacteria and viruses.
  • Eases inflammation.
  • Stimulates the production of healthy new tissue, internally and externally, and temporarily strengthens the barrier against invasive organisms that break down tissue.
  • According to herbalist Christopher Hobbs, the echinacoside content of the herb helps to balance undesirably high amounts of harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses and generally increases resistance to infectious diseases.
  • In 1989, two controlled studies involving 100 flu patients showed that Echinacea shortened the duration of the flu and eased the symptoms. (Vorberg, Schneider and Dorn 1989).
  • A good Echinacea rich in alkylamides (root preparations) will be able to ‘modulate’ the immune system responses. It can boost immune function where the immune system is under-active, increasing production of macrophages and T-cells. Equally the alkylamides are able to ‘tone down’ excessive and ‘over-driven’ immune systems that are creating autoimmune conditions. Either way, the outcome is an immune system that operates more efficiently and subsequently a body that is able to heal better overall.

Glossary

Aerial parts

These are the parts of the plant that grow above the ground – stem, leaves and flowers.

Alkaloid

One of a group of substances that contain nitrogen. They are produced by plants and can have strong effects on the function of the body. Many alkaloids are the basis of important drugs, including morphine, quinine, atropine, and codeine.

Anti-inflammatory

Reduces inflammation.

Antimicrobial

Destroys or inhibits the growth of microorganisms.

Ayurvedic medicine

Healing system of ancient East India, which is based on constitutional typing into three basic Doshas (or dispositions): Vata (air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (water).

Bitter

Flavour that stimulates secretions of saliva and digestive juices.

Chromatography

Process that separates and identifies the chemical composition of plants by means of a photographic plate. The active principles are represented on the plate by coloured bands.

Compress

Cloth soaked in cold or hot herb decoction for application to the skin.

Decoction

Method of preserving and preparing herbs in water that involves simmering the herbs in the water.

Flavonoids

Compounds that cause yellow light to be reflected in plants, and are responsible for a wide range of actions including reducing inflammation and fighting fungus.

Friable

Soft, light soil that falls easily through your fingers.

Infusion

A herb tea used for medicinal purposes. It can be drunk either hot or cold.

Interleukin

A defence chemical produced by macrophages that perpetuates or regulates the immune response. 

Inulin

Carbohydrate that is filtered from the bloodstream by the kidneys, so it is used to test kidney function. It stimulates the function of the immune system.

Lymph cleanser

Herb able to assist in motivating and cleansing the part of the immune system that produces T-helper and T-suppressor cells, as well as B-cells.

Lanceolate

Lance-shaped – as in the leaf shape of Echinacea angustifolia.

Macrophages

Large white blood cells that destroy small particles foreign to themselves, such as toxic chemicals and tumour cells. They are the deep cleansers of the immune system.

Pathogens

Unfriendly parasitic micro-organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that produce disease.

Phagocytes

Immune system cells that destroy unfriendly micro-organisms, cellular debris, and chemicals by ingesting (‘eating’) them.

Polysaccharides

Large number of sugars linked together. They store energy in living tissue.

Properdin

Serum protein capable of neutralizing viruses and bacteria.

Rhizome

Underground stem that stores nutrients; it is similar to a bulb.

Root

Part of the plant that grows underground, absorbing water and mineral salts from the soil.

Tincture

Plant medicine prepared by soaking herbs in alcohol and water.

Topical

A treatment that is applied to the surface of the body as opposed to being taken internally.


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