The Wonders of Echinacea
by Rev. Laura Perry, MSNH
|The Wonders of Echinacea
by Rev. Laura Perry, MSNH
What is hard to pronounce, still listed as a weed in most
gardening books, and now the most popular medicinal herb in the
U.S.? Echinacea! (Say eck-i-NAY-shuh). This lovely purple
coneflower, one of North America’s native wildflowers, has been
used medicinally for centuries by Native Americans as well as
European settlers. Now it is available commercially in many
Echinacea is one of the safest herbs in use today. There are three
main species of echinacea available commercially as herbal
supplements. The most common of these is Echinacea purpurea, the
“standard” purple coneflower. The other two species are Echinacea
angustifolia, also a purple coneflower, and Echinacea pallida, a
pale lavender version.
The root of Echinacea angustifolia loses is potency quickly when
dried, so it must be used immediately after digging or made into a
tincture while still fresh. Capsules and teas are, by their
nature, made of dried plant matter, so stick with the E. purpurea
and E. pallida species in these forms. Tinctures that include E.
angustifolia should note on the label that they are made with the
fresh (not dried) root for the greatest potency. Preparations
containing the whole echinacea herb (the above-ground part of the
plant) in addition to the root are the most effective, though the
ones containing just the root still work well for most people.
This useful herb is popular as a remedy for colds and flu-type
viruses. It acts on the body’s immune system, raising the number
of white blood cells and increasing their ability to destroy
invading microbes. Because echinacea increases the body’s immune
response, people who have autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid
arthritis, lupus, asthma and type I diabetes are generally
cautioned against using it.
Echinacea can be helpful in conditions that include impaired
immune response, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, AIDS and
depression. In these cases it is most beneficial to take 1 to 3
doses a day for extended periods of time. Take echinacea daily for
2 weeks and then take a week off, and repeat the cycle, for the
greatest benefit. This “pulsing” of the herb allows it to
stimulate your immune system without your body becoming resistant
to its effects.
Echinacea has been widely tested, both in the U.S. and in Europe,
and is clearly effective at shortening the duration of the common
cold and increasing the body’s immune response to infection.
Echinacea may have a greater affect on the immune system when
taken at the very beginning of an illness rather than daily as a
preventive. But taken at the first onset of symptoms, echinacea is
a highly effective, safe herbal treatment for colds, flu-type
viruses and respiratory illnesses.
Echinacea is commonly available as a tincture, in capsules and as
a tea. Each of these forms has different characteristics and
dosages, but they work equally well for fending off illness and
helping your body heal itself. The label on your herbs will
include a recommended adult dose (2 capsules or 20-40 drops of
tincture, for instance). If you feel an illness coming on or are
already sick, take frequent doses throughout the day (as often as
every hour if you like) until you feel your symptoms beginning to
abate. Then take 3 to 5 doses a day until you are over the
If you are using an echinacea tincture and you take it directly in
your mouth rather than mixed in a beverage, it should cause your
tongue to tingle and go numb for a minute or two. This is normal
and lets you know that your tincture is potent and was made
Echinacea is a useful herbal ally, one that is safe and effective.
Use this native North American plant to help your body combat
illness and improve your overall health.
Rev. Laura Perry, MSNH, is a Holistic Health Consultant in
Woodstock, Georgia. Contact her at
at 678-445-0357 or visit her website at
For more information, please contact us at (770) 621-5056