Echinacea Herb:

The Echinacea Herb

There are many herbal and natural remedies on the market, but few are as known as well as the herb Echinacea. For many years, Echinacea has been one of the world's most popular herbs, and it is being studied for the ability to fight colds, flu, and other common ailments and infections.

What is Echinacea?
The herb we know as Echinacea (aka in some circles the purple coneflower) actually consists of nine distinct species, but only three varieties are used in herbal medicine. The three varieties are:

  • Echinacea engustifolia
  • Echinacea pallida
  • Echinacea purpurea

Various parts of the plants, like the roots, leaves, stems, and flowers, are used in hundreds of different commercial products and herbal supplements. Depending on the preparation and the variety used, this popular herb may be able to stimulate the immune system and fight bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microbes.

Echinacea and the immune system
Echinacea is both safe and powerful, and it is thought to stimulate various immune system cells that are crucial in the fight against infection. Additionally the herb is also thought to boost the ability of the cells to produce interferon, a substance vital to the fighting of viruses.

In particular, Echinacea is thought to help reduce susceptibility to colds and flu. This herb is most effective when taken at the first sign of a cold or flu. For those who are already afflicted by colds or the flu, Echinacea is believed to have the power to shorten their duration and severity.

Echinacea is also being studied for its possible role in fighting respiratory ailments as bronchitis, strep throat, and sinusitis. It is thought that the immune boosting properties of Echinacea are responsible for the ostensible effectiveness in fighting chronic infections.

Echinacea and healing
Echinacea may also aid in speeding the healing of wounds to the skin, and in reducing inflammation. Conditions treated by Echinacea include burns, sores, cuts and scrapes, and also boils, abscesses, canker sores, and eczema. Echinacea preparations can be applied directly to the wound or taken orally to promote a healthy immune system response.

Echinacea comes in a wide variety of forms, and many different products, including tablets, capsules, soft gels, liquids, and tinctures. Echinacea can also be bought as a dried herb and brewed in a tea. There are a variety of Echinacea preparations consisting of creams that can be rubbed onto sunburns and other skin irritations to offer relief.

When buying Echinacea, either at your health food store or over the internet, you should read the label carefully. Some preparations will contain mixed ingredients from several different species, and from many parts of the plant.

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