Native Americans originally discovered Echinacea medicinal uses when they found that it successfully healed wounds, infections and other physical ailments. Echinacea, also known as the coneflower, is a wildflower that is native to North America and a member of the Asteraceae family of wildflowers.
There are nine Echinacea species which have been discovered so far, three of which are used for medicinal purposes: E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida. Echinacea is now utilized as a preventative and treatment remedy for influenza, the common cold, and minor upper respiratory infections. During the early 1900’s, Germany was the first to used Echinacea as an herbal medicine. They have recently begun researching the effects of Echinacea while advocating its ability to stimulate the human immune system and ward off infections.
Treatment of URI’s
The outcome of eight European trials showed that Echinacea was beneficial in treating upper respiratory infections (URI) when compared to using a placebo. When given to someone suffering from a URI, Echinacea reduced symptoms and cured the infection in less time than with someone who had ingested a placebo. Although these results were statistically significant, the benefits were nonetheless considered mild. However, research in Europe has also shown that in Echinacea medicinal uses, it reducessymptoms in other illnesses such as:
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Candida (fungal infection)
- Other malignancies
- Reduces side effects of anti-neoplastic therapy
- Various infections
Side Effects and Interactions
No adverse effects have been documented in individuals using the various Echinacea medicinal uses. However, some people may be allergic to certain plants belonging to the Asteraceae family, which include the daisy, chrysanthemums and ragweed, and may be allergic to Echinacea as well. Because Echinacea is classified as a mild immunostimulant, German researchers have suggested not administering Echinacea to those who suffer from immune disorders such as AIDS, lupus and multiple sclerosis. However, this decision is not based on research findings and remains somewhat questionable. Due to lack of information regarding Echinacea and pregnant women, it is recommended that women who are pregnant or lactating avoid taking Echinacea until after birth, or until further research is conducted.
Preparations & Doses
The recommended dosage for Echinacea is one to five grams of dried herb each day, although this amount is subject to variability because of the variety of plant extracts and parts such as stems, leaves, flowers, etc. In the United States, there are three Echinacea products which are marketed using the brand names of “EchinaGuard”, “Echinaforce” and “Esberitox”. The ingredients contained in these three products are the components which European researches found to be beneficial to upper respiratorysymptoms. In addition, there may be other Echinacea medicinal uses which we are not aware of yet.
Evaluation of Echinacea Health Benefits
While clinical trials using Echinacea suggest that this herb does provide some benefits to eliminating symptoms of URI, the research methods have potential for invalidity. However, these trials give us pertinent information regarding the safety of Echinacea medicinal uses and provide no reason why this herb cannot be used as an alternative treatment to upper respiratory infections and other illnesses.