Echinacea: Medicinal and Health Benefits


The cold is the oldest known human illness caused by a virus. For thousands of years, man has been afflicted by this disease and until now, a complete cure is yet to be found. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s absolutely nothing to provide relief for this ailment. Europeans and Americans alike use a kind of herb to fight against illnesses, such as colds and flu, minor infections, and a host of other major and minor ailments. This herb is Echinacea and it has been used by many an American and European doctor to treat infectious diseases.

Echinacea: The Plant

The Echinacea is derived from a perennial plant species called Echinacea purpurea. It is the purple cornflower that is found native to the North American soil. Echinacea resembles a black-eyed Susan and you can find that it is common in indigenous central plains where it grows on road banks, prairies, fields, and in dry, open woods. The American Indians called it snake root because it grows from a thick black root which they used to treat bites from snakes.

Medicinal and Health Benefits

Echinacea is more than just a pretty flower.

Years ago, the Plains Indians used Echinacea to treat bites from various snakes and insects that are poisonous. They also used the herb extract to relieve toothaches and sore throat and treat wounds, mumps, smallpox, and measles. When the first settlers came, they adopted its various therapeutic uses and since that time, Echinacea became one of the top selling herbs in the United States.

Echinacea is considered by many herbalists as the best blood purifier. As an effective antibiotic, Echinacea can activate the body’s immune system and increase the chances of fighting off any disease. Due to this attribute, the herb first earned its popularity as way to ward off the common cold and to relieve the symptoms of hay fever.

Its Constituents

Echinacea contains several substances that contribute to its effectiveness as a potent health and medicinal plant. Its constituents include essential oil, polysaccharides, polyacetylenes, betain, glycoside, sesquiterpenes, and caryophylene. Echinacea also contains copper, iron, tannins, protein, fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, and E.

The benefit of Echinacea as an immune-stimulant can be attributed to its high content levels of polysaccharides. Polysaccharides, such as insulin can increase the production of T-cells and augment other natural killer cell activity. Echinacea also contains alkylamides which are fat-soluble and a caffeic acid glycoside called echinacoside. Both these substances contribute to the ability of Echinacea to empower the body’s immune system.

Buying Tips

When you buy Echinacea, the first thing you need to keep in mind is its freshness. Echinacea dried roots, encapsulated powders can be old and because of that, their effectiveness might be minimized. So if you really want Echinacea to do wonders, look for fresh root tincture. You can find lots of these in natural food stores. Echinacea tinctures are simply a “steeped” mixture of herb in alcohol.

However, if you must buy the herb powdered, make sure that it’s fresh. Take a piece and taste it. If it has a tingly effect on your tongue and causes you to salivate, then this means that the herb is potent and is still effective for use as a treatment.