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Echinacea is known as an 'antibiotic' or 'immune' herb. There are three species used in herbal medicine. Echinacea Purpurea is cultivated, both as an herb and an ornamental flower. E. angustifolia is almost exclusively wild crafted and was the original species used in American herbalism. However, it is becoming endangered from over harvesting. Another species E. pallida has also been recognized as having medicinal value.
Echinacea angustifolia is native to North America and its medicinal uses comes to us by way of the Plains Indians of the Western Prairies. The Plains Indians used it as a specific remedy for snake bites and bites from rabid dogs. The common Indian names for Echinacea are "Snake Root," and "Toothache Root." Another popular name for the plant is "Black Sampson," in honor of a Southern slave doctor who used it with great success as a snakebite remedy.
The best quality echinacea has an initially sweet, cooling taste that turns tingling and numbing. The tingling and numbing sensation, which is most felt at the tip and back of the tongue, indicate a strong presence of acrid components that exert an immediate and sustained effect upon the nervous system. This quality is found in the E. angustifolia root and the E. purpurea flowers.
One of the most common uses for Echinacea is low grade fevers (as often happens as a result of vaccines or immunizations), toxic or sluggish blood, slow or blocked lymphatic flow, and exhaustion caused by overexertion coupled with toxic buildup in the body. In each of these instances the plant appears to have a slight systemic antihistamine (anti-swelling) action.
Echinacea almost slipped into obscurity as the era of sulfa drugs and penicillin based antibiotics came into popular use. It is to the Germans that we owe a debt of gratitude for reviving the use of Echinacea as a medicinal herb. Through their pharmacological studies they discovered that Echinacea species contain 'immune- stimulating' components. It's main action is that of stimulating white blood cell count. This is evidently done at the level of the lymphatics, where the eclectics originally felt Echinacea exerted its greatest influence.
Echinacea stimulates the immune system and has emotional healing qualities. Echinacea has been used as a flower essence to awaken and stimulate the inner sense of self. It is said to help an individual restore their soul's true self- identity and the unique dignity they were born with. It is used where severe trauma or abuse has destroyed or shattered a person's sense of self (i.e., self-image).
Shattered self-esteem results in poor immunity. It is as if the person's feeling they aren't worth "sticking up for" sends a message to their immune system not to bother defending them. Thus, we find echinacea helpful for individuals who are easily prone to frequent colds and flu, accompanied by a poor image of themselves. It not only stimulates the immune response, it also stimulates the sense of self-esteem and may help to heal the underlying emotional issues which may be causing this problem.
Nature's Sunshine produces a very high quality echinacea in liquid, Ultimate Echinacea contains all three species mentioned in the beginning of this article. It has the numbing, tingling sensation on the tongue, which is a characteristic of high quality echinacea.
When Echinacea is to be used as a single herb (to fight an acute infection for example), it is best to take small, frequency repeated doses. One capsule taken every two hours for the first day is better than taking two capsules two or three times per day. After the first day of the illness has passed, the dosage can gradually reduce to gently maintain the immune stimulation until the disease has passed. Even more effective than capsules, is using small amounts of the Ultimate Echinacea extract (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon) in the same manner.
Because echinacea acts as an immune stimulant, most herbalists recommend it should not be used long term. Constant stimulation of any body system eventually results in stress and fatigue on that system. Generally speaking do not take echinacea, by itself, for more than 7 to 10 days straight.
The popular combination of Goldenseal and Echinacea is often used for colds. It is best used for a cold that has gone chronic (i.e., has lasted more than three days). It is also useful for infection in the gastrointestinal tract
Echinacea Purpurea (180 capsules)
Ultimate Echinacea (2 oz)