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Friday, September 17, 2010

WHAT IS ECHINACEA? PURPLE CONEFLOWER OR BLACK SAMPSON: ECHINACEA USES IN MEDICINE

ECHINACEA, PURPLE CONEFLOWER, BLACK SAMPSON
Echinacea is native to the US and was used by the Native Americans as a cure for snake bites, and it has been proven that it has antiseptic qualities. Echinos is Greek for hedgehog, and Echinacea got its name because the seed cone looks like a prickly hedgehog with its conical shape and spikes. Results from archaeological excavations show that Native Americans have been using it as a cure-all for more than 400 years. It is mainly used today as a way to shorten the time we suffer from the common cold and flu, but these ailments were unknown to the Native Americans until the European settlers arrived. It was used to cure infections and wounds that were slow to heal.

It has been used as a remedy for many ailments, such as scarlet fever, malaria, blood-poisoning, syphilis and diphtheria. It was used extensively in the US in the 17th and 18th centuries as a folk medicine, and in 1887 was accepted by the medical profession. However it fell out of favour in the early 20th century with the discovery of penicillin and other ‘wonder’ drugs i.e. antibiotics. In 1930 the American Medical Association declared it worthless and it fell out of common use. But in Germany there was a growing interest in Echinacea, and many clinical trials were undertaken at that time. In Germany the parts of the Echinacea plant, Echinacea purpurea, that grow above ground have been approved by the medical profession to treat colds and flu and their symptoms such as sore throats, coughs and fever. You make a tisane with the 1 to 2 grams of the dried root, and drink it 5 times a day. However if you have an allergic reaction to daisies, don’t use it, as it is a member of the daisy family and you could suffer adverse reactions to it.
echinacea colours
Over the years herbalist have used it to boost the immune system, and it has been found, again in Germany, that it boosts the growth of white blood cells so does enhance the immune system. There have been warnings issued by the UK Cancer help organization, which says that it can help reduce the effects of chemo and radiotherapy given to cancer patients, but there is no evidence that it can help to reduce the growth of cancerous cells. If you take it in a pharmaceutical preparation (pills etc.) then you should consult a doctor before taking it and it should not be taken for more than 8 weeks at a time as it could damage the liver if combined with other pills which have this side effect. People with auto-immune diseases such as HIV /AIDs should not take it, and neither should women who are pregnant.

Echinacea contains flavonoids, volatile oils, alkamides, glycoproteins and polysaccharides, and these last ingredients of the plant are the ones that boost the immune system, and fight off colds and flu.

Herbalists use it to treat all manner of ailments, including: - infections of the urinary tract, candida, athlete’s foot, sinusitis, fevers and to heal wounds that have lingered. Modern research has shown that as well as boosting the immune system it can reduce pain and inflammation, and has antiviral and hormonal properties.

It would seem that the plant is less harmful to ingest than the tablets and pills.

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