Echinacea is a very popular herb and it is used throughout the world. It is also known as purple cone flower, Sampson root, black Sampson and red sunflower. As a natural buttress to immunity, Echinacea has become one of the hottest items in the current herbal renaissance--and its reputation is not unwarranted.
Researchers have found that an extract of Echinacea purpurea leaves provides significant relief from symptoms of the common cold. Likewise, an extract of Echinacea pallida root has been shown to shorten flu symptoms by as much as four days. Echinacea owes its effectiveness to a proven ability to stimulate the immune system. Researchers have found that it causes an increase in the number of white blood cells, spleen cells, and other disease-fighting agents such as T-helper cells and interleukin. It also has an interferon-like effect on viruses. Originating in North America, Echinacea was used by the Sioux tribe for snakebites, and by other Native Americans as a general antiseptic. It is now cultivated in the United States and Europe. Its taste is slightly sweet, then bitter, leaving a tingling sensation on the tongue.
Echinacea increases the "non-specific" activity of the immune system. In other words, unlike a vaccine which is active only against a specific disease, echinacea stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infection. Unlike antibiotics, which are directly lethal to bacteria, echinacea makes our own immune cells more efficient in attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells, including cancer cells. Echinacea facilitates wound healing, lessens symptoms of and speeds recovery from viruses. Anti-inflammatory effects make it useful externally against inflammatory skin conditions including psoriasis and eczema. It may also increase resistance to candida, bronchitis, herpes, and other infectious conditions.
Echinacea is a hardy perennial plant that grows 1-2 feet tall and has a spiny appearance from which it derived its name (echinos being Greek for sea urchin or hedgehog). It is a member of the daisy family and its flowers can resemble Black-eyed Susans with rich purple petals radiating from the center. The rhizome has circular pith. It has a faint aromatic smell. It grows throughout the United States from the mid-west to the prairie regions of Pennsylvania. Each of the varieties has a slightly different appearance. E. Purpurea demonstrates the classic purple flower and so too does E. Angustifolia though with narrower leaves and smaller flowers. However, E. Paradoxa has yellow flowers, E. Atrorubens and E. Sanguinea have dark red flowers, and E. Pallida and E. Simullata have pale purple flowers.
Echinacea is considered a safe herb. Incidents of adverse reactions are rare and there is no known toxicity. However, it is not recommended in progressive systemic and auto-immune disorders s.c. as AIDS, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, leicosis, connective tissue disorders, collagenosis and related diseases s.c. as lupus.4/10 (See Published Studies and also Contraindications). It should be noted that in cases of AIDS and AIDS opportunistic infections there is still considerable debate occurring over echinacea usage.