The Benefits of Echinacea

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The Benefits of Echinacea

Echinacea is an herbal remedy that’s well known for staving off the common cold. It’s one of the most popular herbal remedies on the market, and you may even unknowingly be growing this perennial in your garden. Those butterfly-attracting coneflowers that look like pink, white, pale yellow and purple daisies have a lot more to offer than their beauty; they’re packed with properties that boost immunity and heal wounds. Here are the key facts you need to know.

Is Echinacea some new fad herb?

Not at all. Native Americans used Echinacea to treat wounds and infections, and it’s been praised as a cure-all herb throughout history. People have suggested it as a remedy for everything from fever to malaria and blood poisoning. Once antibiotics became readily available in the United States, it became less popular. However, it has made a strong comeback in recent years. Naturopathic practitioners often prescribe that it be taken daily as a preventative measure and it’s even found in many all-natural daily vitamins.

What does it do?

A lot, apparently. A study conducted by the University of Connecticut’s School of Pharmacy showed that Echinacea can reduce the risk of catching a cold by 58%. It also concluded that the herb helps shorten the duration of common colds by 1.4 days. I’ll take that, as we all know how awful it is to suffer through the many symptoms of a cold for days on end.

In addition, this herb has been shown to boost immunity more generally, helping to shorten the duration of urinary tract infections, fevers and sore throats. Echinacea contains substances that relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have antiviral antioxidant and hormonal effects. Naturopathic and traditional doctors suggest using Echinacea to treat athlete’s foot, sinusitis, ear infections, hay fever and slow-healing wounds, as well as using it as a preventative measure that protects against cold sores that develop in response to the herpes simplex virus.

The National Institute of Health even published information regarding the benefits of using Echinacea to combat tumors. The NIH praised the medicinal value of phytochemicals (chemical compounds that naturally occur in plants) found in Echinacea.

Help with mental health

A specific species is recommended for help with mental health—Echinacea angustifolia. Adults and children coping with ADD and ADHD may benefit from a mere 20 milligrams per dose. This extremely low dose can help with depression and social phobias.

This Hungarian Academy of Sciences examined various species of Echinacea and found the angustifolia variety to be very similar to certain anti-anxiety medications. The best part is that using the herb instead of medication means no side effects such as sleep issues, drowsiness and impaired movement. Participants in the Hungarian study experienced a 25% reduction in their anxiety after using Echinacea for just seven days. As always, however, check with your physician before trying an herbal remedy. I recently visited a holistic clinic for stress and burnout. Even though they were affiliated with a holistic medicine college, they also administered traditional Western medications and they put me on a multivitamin containing Echinacea. Placebo effect or not, I take it daily now and try not to skip.

Skincare benefits

Echinacea is also popping up in beauty products at herb shops and natural markets across the globe. It can help fight wrinkles and fine lines because it’s rich in tannins, which have a firming, astringent effect on skin cells. Taken internally, its antibacterial benefits also help fight and prevent acne, so it may be of help to both oily and dry skin. Given that it has anti-inflammatory effects, Echinacea can also speed up skin’s recovery rate from rashes, cuts and abrasions. It also protects collagen from free radical damage.

Echinacea stops dandruff

Yup, this wonder herb is also used as an anti-dandruff remedy. Echinacea has anti-microbial properties that rid the body of dandruff if used regularly. The scratches and welts caused by dandruff also stop when a shampoo with Echinacea is used. Ask your local herbalist or natural grocery store to help you find a shampoo containing Echinacea. Using it topically and taking an oral Echinacea supplement every day will help knock dandruff out of your life, for good.

Can I grow my own?

I’ve grown coneflowers/echinacea and they make a nice, sturdy, low maintenance plant for most gardens. Useful as a beautiful border plant, you can also make a tincture or tea from your Echinacea. Drying the leaves, flowers and roots using a dehydrator works well, although it is possible to use the roots from living plants, then replant them. If you’re not into gardening, dried Echinacea is available at most health food stores.

Check out this link to Mother Earth News for more info on putting your mortar and pestle to work: