Echinacea - Echinacea spp. (in the Asteraceae or Aster family)
Parts used: Root mostly, seeds and flowers also.
Taste/smell: Root is slightly sweet, pungent, aromatic, tingles the tongue with most species.
Tendencies: Cooling, drying, stimulating.
Dosage: Infusion: 1/2 - 1 teaspoon per cup of water; or 1:1 fresh +
dry liquid extract: 10-75 drops 1-4 times per day.
Mental picture and specific indications: Echinacea is indicated for exhaustive states with chilliness, offensive discharges, lymphatic congestion with swollen glands, mental confusion, dull mind, dizziness, tendency to skin eruptions and low grade continuous fevers, although they can be high grade fevers.
Use: (a) Antimicrobial, (b) Anti-inflammatory, (c) Antiviral, (d) Antibacterial, (e) Antifungal, (f) Slight stimulation of the adrenal cortex, (g) Stimulates leukocytes, (h) Inhibits hyaluronidase, (i) Enhances phagocytosis.
Note: Clinical information for E. angustifolia and E. purpurea species is basically interchangeable in most circumstances.
Echinacea's purified polysaccharide, arabinogalac-tan, activates macrophages to cytotoxicity against tumor cells and microorganisms, as well as produces tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interleukin-1, interleukin-6, interferon-2 and slightly increases T-lymphocyte proliferation. It therefore enhances the immune system's resistance to infections and stimulates wound healing. The root oil has inhibited leukemia cells in vitro and in vivo.
Echinacea protects the gut from harmful micro-organisms due to its enhancement of phagocytosis. It also decreases inflammatory allergic reactions in mild food allergies and stimulates gastric healing. The constituent, echinacin, has been shown to be useful in treatment of tonsillitis in pediatric practices. Due to its specificity for infectious conditions, it is used for colds, influenza, wounds, infections, allergies, bacterial and viral disease, swollen glands and gum disease.
The plant contains 3 groups of constituents, high molecular weight polysaccharides, alkylamides and chicoric acid, that are known to act as immunomodulators.
Contraindications: Echinacea is not associated with acute or chronic toxicity. Although there have been reports that it is contraindicated in auto-immune diseases, many physicians have used it with patients who have auto-immune diseases without noticing side effects. Due to arabinogalactan's ability to increase production of TNF-alpha, there is concern about AIDS patients taking echinacea. Many clinicians give whole plant liquid extracts that contain little or no arabinogalactan to AIDS patients without any problems.
Additionally, it has been thought by many herbalists that echinacea should only be used short term because its effects stop after a period of 1-3 weeks. However there are many individuals who have used this herb long term with successful results. An 8-week double-blind study in 1989 showed echinacea was useful in prevention of respiratory infections. Another study using oral echinacea for 10 weeks showed prevention of recurrent bouts of vaginal candidiasis.
Echinacea angustifolia is becoming endangered and only organic Echinacea angustifolia should be used.