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Echinacea

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Echinacea
The medicinal herb Echinacea as an alternative herbal remedy to stimulate the immune system - There are nine known species of echinacea, all of which are native to the United States and southern Canada.

The most commonly used, Echinacea purpurea, is believed to be the most potent.Common Names--echinacea, purple coneflower, coneflower, American coneflower

Latin Names--Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida Picture of Echinacea

  • Echinacea has tall stems, bears single pink or purple flowers and has a central cone that is usually purplish-brown in color. The large cone is actually a seed head with sharp spines that resemble a stiff comb. Of nine echinacea species, only three are used for medicinal purposes ( Echinacea angustifolia , Echinacea pallida , and Echinacea purpurea ).
  • One of the most popular herbs in America today is the Native American medicinal plant called echinacea. Named for the prickly scales in its large conical seed head, the herb resembles the spines of an angry hedgehog (echinos is Greek for hedgehog).
Results of archeological digs indicate that Native Americans may have used echinacea for more than 400 years to treat infections and wounds and as a general "cure-all." Throughout history people have used echinacea to treat scarlet fever, syphilis, malaria, blood poisoning, and diphtheria. Although this herb was popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, its use began to decline in the United States after the introduction of antibiotics. Echinacea preparations became increasingly popular in Germany throughout the 20th century. In fact, most of the scientific research on echinacea has been conducted in Germany.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, today, people use echinacea to shorten the common cold and flu and reduce symptoms, such as sore throat (pharyngitis), cough, and fever. Many herbalists also recommend echinacea to help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections.
  • Several laboratory and animal studies suggest that echinacea contains active substances that enhance the activity of the immune system, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have hormonal, antiviral, and antioxidant effects. For this reason, professional herbalists may recommend echinacea to treat urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast (candida) infections, ear infections (also known as otitis media), athlete's foot, sinusitis, hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis), as well as slow-healing wounds.

Plant Description

  • Echinacea has tall stems, bears single pink or purple flowers and has a central cone that is usually purplish-brown in color. The large cone is actually a seed head with sharp spines that resemble a stiff comb. Of nine echinacea species, only three are used for medicinal purposes ( Echinacea angustifolia , Echinacea pallida , and Echinacea purpurea ).

What's It Made Of?:

Echinacea contains several chemicals that play a role in its therapeutic effects. These include polysaccharides, glycoproteins, alkamides, volatile oils, and flavonoids.

The chemicals contained in the root differ considerably from those in the upper part of the plant. For example, the roots have high concentrations of volatile oils (odorous compounds) while the above-ground parts of the plant tend to contain more polysaccharides (substances known to trigger the activity of the immune system). The combination of these active substances is responsible for echinacea' s beneficial effects, though research suggests that the above ground portion of Echinacea purpurea is the most effective.

In Germany (where herbs are regulated by the government), the above-ground parts of Echinacea purpurea are approved to treat colds, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and slow healing wounds. The root of the Echinacea pallida plant is also approved for the treatment of flu-like infections.

Source: http://www.umm.edu

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center

Today, people use echinacea to shorten the common cold and flu and reduce symptoms, such as sore throat (pharyngitis), cough, and fever. Many herbalists also recommend echinacea to help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections.

  • Several laboratory and animal studies suggest that echinacea contains active substances that enhance the activity of the immune system, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have hormonal, antiviral, and antioxidant effects. For this reason, professional herbalists may recommend echinacea to treat urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast (candida) infections, ear infections (also known as otitis media), athlete's foot, sinusitis, hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis), as well as slow-healing wounds.

What Echinacea Is Used For

  • Echinacea has traditionally been an herbal remedy to treat or prevent colds, flu, and other infections.
  • Echinacea is believed to stimulate the immune system to help fight infections.

Less commonly, echinacea has been used for wounds and skin problems, such as acne or boils.

Herbal Remedy Products with Echinacea as part of the ingredients

ImmunityPlus.jpg
  • ImmunityPlus™ - Natural immune system booster to help strengthen immune system health and protect your body against threats
    • Builds a strong and healthy immune system
    • Supports overall systemic balance and cellular health
    • Helps to protect the body against threats
    • Improves energy levels and vitality
    • Promotes healthy circulation and blood flow
    • Maintains healthy liver functioning
    • Safe and effective concentrated tincture
Echinaforce.jpg
  • Echinaforce – 1.7 fl oz – Echinacea extract - Fresh Herb Extract of Echinacea. Supports healthy immune system.
    • A. Vogel formula surpasses highest standards of German Pharmacopeia. Standardized tests before, during and after processing guarantee uniform quality and purity. Contains organic herbs. Special dispensing insert guarantees accurate measurement and helps prevent contamination. Like fresh herbs in a bottle. Organically grown from our own herb cultivations by our own expert herbologists. No pesticides, insecticides, fungicides or chemical fertilizers. Bioforce uses a unique process-extracting from fresh herbs, not dried. Fresh herbs are harvested at their prime and processed within 24 hours before they can dry out.

How Echinacea Is Used

  • The aboveground parts of the plant and roots of echinacea are used fresh or dried to make teas, squeezed (expressed) juice, extracts, or preparations for external use.
  • What the Science Says about Echinacea
  • Studies indicate that echinacea does not appear to prevent colds or other infections.
  • Studies to date have not proven that echinacea shortens the course of colds or flu. For example, two NCCAM-funded studies did not find a benefit from echinacea, either as Echinacea purpurea fresh-pressed juice for treating colds in children, or as an unrefined mixture of
  • Echinacea angustifolia root and Echinacea purpurea root and herb in adults.1,2 Other studies have shown that echinacea may be beneficial in treating upper respiratory infections.3
  • NCCAM is continuing to support the study of echinacea for the treatment of upper respiratory infections.

Side Effects and Cautions about Echinacea

  • When taken by mouth, echinacea usually does not cause side effects. However, some people experience allergic reactions, including rashes, increased asthma, and anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction). In clinical trials, gastrointestinal side effects were most common.
  • People are more likely to experience allergic reactions to echinacea if they are allergic to related plants in the daisy family, which includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Also, people with asthma or atopy (a genetic tendency toward allergic reactions) may be more likely to have an allergic reaction when taking echinacea.
  • It is important to inform your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including echinacea. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs contain active substances that may trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, people should take herbs only under the supervision of a health care provider knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

People with tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, multiple sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, any autoimmune diseases, or, possibly, liver disorders should not take echinacea. There is some concern that echinacea may reduce the effectiveness of medications that suppress the immune system. For this reason, people receiving organ transplants who must take immunosuppressant medications should avoid this herb. (See "Possible Interactions.")

In rare cases, echinacea may cause allergic reactions, ranging from a mild rash to anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction accompanied by throat tightening, shortness of breath, and, possibly, fainting). People with asthma and allergies may be at an increased risk for developing these adverse reactions. People with allergies to plants in the daisy family (compositae) should not take echinacea unless they do so under the supervision of a health care provider.

There has been one report of an individual developing erythema nodosum (a painful skin condition) after taking echinacea to treat the flu.

When taken by mouth, echinacea may cause temporary numbing and tingling on the tongue.

Despite concerns that echinacea may be unsafe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, evidence suggests that the use of echinacea during pregnancy does not increase the risk of birth defects or other pregnancy related health problems. Although not enough research has been done to determine echinacea's safety for pregnancy or breastfeeding, it's advisable to avoid use during pregnancy or breastfeeding until more conclusive studies are conducted.

Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor if you have questions.

If you are taking any of the following medications, you should not use echinacea without first talking to your health care provider:

Econazole -- Echinacea may be useful in combination with econazole, an antifungal agent used to treat yeast infections (such as athlete's foot). When echinacea is used together with econazole, recurrence rates of these infections may be reduced.

Immunosuppressants -- Immunosuppressants refers to a group of medications that are used for two main purposes -- treating cancer and suppressing the immune system following organ transplant so that the new organ is not rejected. Because echinacea can enhance immune function, people should not use the herb with immunosuppressive medications, especially when taken for organ transplant.

Source: http://www.umm.edu

News About Echinacea

5 Natural Cold & Flu Remedies Worth Taking'

By Meryl Davids Landau

When those aches, sniffles and runny nose strike, many of us want to turn to natural cures. But I know from writing about holistic health for many years that not all natural remedies work. So I called several top doctors, then looked at the research (which, as with many natural products, isn’t as extensive as scientists would like), and found 5 remedies that seem worth taking. Of course, we all know that prevention is best–not touching your face, washing hands a lot and the like. But as the rest of cold and flu season blows through, consider keeping some of these remedies on hand. (With any medical treatment, you should talk to your doctor to see what’s right for you.)

Probiotics. The idea that good bacteria could crowd out bad ones makes sense, which is why scientists weren’t surprised when a review last fall of 10 studies on probiotics found people taking supplements or yogurt with these cultures had 12 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections. Another study confirmed that children, too, develop fewer bouts of coughs and runny noses. To be most effective, probiotics should be taken daily.

Zinc. Taken at the first hint of a cold (rather than continuously), zinc seems to make your bout shorter and less severe, according to a review of 15 studies. The best way to take is in lozenges, since coating your throat stops the virus from proliferating, says Neal Schachter, MD, author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds & Flu. (Remember, though, that zinc make some people nauseous–and it tastes gross.) Just keep it out of your nose: nasal sprays have been linked with permanent loss of smell.

Echinacea. A recent, large study by University of Wisconsin cold-remedy expert Bruce Barrett, MD, found this herb works no better than a placebo. But other trials had shown that it does. When all the studies are considered together, Barrett believes echinacea may lessen symptom severity by about 15 percent—not great, but maybe enough to get you through that important meeting.

Vitamin C. Despite its reputation as a sniffle-prevention powerhouse, Finnish researchers reviewing some two-dozen studies concluded it doesn’t keep colds from coming on. (The exceptions: skiers and marathon runners exposed to short periods of harsh physical stress.) Still, taking it regularly seems to make colds a bit shorter, Barrett says. You don’t want more than a few grams daily, he cautions, or load up on C-rich foods (citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes) and juices.

Chicken soup. Small laboratory studies have confirmed that its key ingredients reduce the inflammation that makes your cold feel so miserable, and they also speed mucous clearing. Maybe even more valuable, the warm liquid—and its memories of mom or grandma—make chicken soup super-soothing. (Vegetarians who leave out the chicken but keep the onions and veggies likely get an immune boost, too.) Manga!


Echinacea 'can prevent colds'

By Nick Collins (Science Correspondent)

Echinacea can prevent colds, particularly in people who are especially prone to them, according to the largest ever clinical study of the herbal medicine.

Tests on 750 patients found that taking three daily doses of the common remedy for four months reduced the number of colds and duration of the illness by an average of 26 per cent.

The treatment also cut the number of recurrent colds suffered by people with weak immune systems or a history of catching several bouts each year by 60 per cent.

Several previous studies, including an overview of evidence by the highly respected Cochrane Library, had suggested that Echinacea could soothe symptoms and cut colds short, but there was only limited evidence it could prevent the illness from ever taking hold.

The most recent major paper into the therapy, by the American College of Physicians, had found that it did not prevent colds or significantly reduce the length or severity symptoms.

But the new study by experts from the Cardiff University Common Cold Centre suggested that taking Echinaforce, a common form of the herb extract, could not only reduce the risk of colds but reduce the amount of paracetamol patients took while ill.

The research, which was part-funded by A. Vogel, the Swiss manufacturers of Echinaforce, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

It was primarily designed to test the safety of the treatment, and found that it caused no adverse sideeffects in the participants, who were all over the age of 18.

The MHRA, the British drugs regulator, warned parents earlier this year that Echinacea should not be given to children under 12 because of the risk of "severe" allergic reactions including rashes and swelling of the mouth and tongue.

Echinacea is extracted from the Eastern Purple Coneflower, which is found in North America, and has long been used as a herbal remedy for the common cold.

It is purported to work by fighting viruses, which cause up to 95 per cent of all colds and flu, and studies suggest it can also boost weak immune systems if swallowed.

Patients mixed 25 drops of Echinaforce or a placebo with water and held it in their mouths for 10 seconds before swallowing it, three times per day over a four month period.

Those who took the treatment suffered 149 bouts of illness compared with 188 in the placebo group, a difference described by researchers as "borderline significant", but the total number of days spent with flu was reduced from 850 to 672, a "highly significant" change.

Recurring infections were cut from 100 episodes in 43 patients to 65 episodes in 28 patients, a difference of 59 per cent, the authors wrote.

Roland Schoop, a medical researcher for Bioforce, the British arm of A. Vogel, and one of the study's authors, said; "We were actually pretty amazed when we found this 26 per cent difference in cold episodes."

University of London researcher Dr Margaret Richie, who was not involved in the study, added: “The clinical trial indicates that echinacea supports low-running immune systems but does not overstimulate well-supported ones.”


How to Grow Coneflowers From Collected Seeds

By Jenny Harrington

Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) attract bees and butterflies to the perennial garden, while also withstanding drought, hot temperatures and some neglect. Although the plant's native range is the southeastern United States, coneflowers thrive as cultivated plants in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. These low-maintenance flowers grow readily from properly collected seeds so you can expand a bed at a minimal cost. The seeds take some time to germinate, so you must begin to prepare them for planting three months before your spring planting date.

Seed Collection

1. Cut the seed head off the coneflower in the fall after it has dried and become brittle. Place the seed heads in a paper bag to catch any seeds that shake loose during harvest.

2. Break open the seed heads over a tray. Shake out the seeds and spread them out in a single layer. Allow them to dry for one to two weeks in a dark, well-ventilated location.

3. Place the seeds in an envelope or glass jar. Store them in a cool, dark place until you are ready to plant.

Seed Planting

1. Fold a paper towel in half. Sprinkle it with water until it's barely damp but not soggy.

2. Sprinkle the coneflower seeds on one half of the paper towel. Fold the towel in half so the seeds are between two layers of moist towel. Seal the towel in a plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator for eight to 12 weeks. This cold treatment mimics winter conditions and helps the seeds break dormancy so they can germinate.

3. Fill seedling pots with moistened potting soil. Sow two coneflower seeds in each pot, planting them 1/4 inch deep. Cover the pots with a plastic bag to retain moisture and keep the pots in a warm room to germinate.

4. Remove the bag once the seeds sprout and provide the seedlings with full sunlight. Water the plants when the soil surface dries.

5. Transplant the coneflowers outside once they produce their second set of true leaves and after average nighttime temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Transplant them to a full-sun, well-draining perennial bed.

6. Provide coneflowers with approximately 1 inch of water a week during the growing season. Sprinkle up to 1 inch of compost around each plant in the spring to replenish the nutrients in the soil. Things You Will Need

• Paper bag
• Tray
• Envelope or jar
• Paper towel
• Sealable plastic bag
• Seedling pot
• Potting soil
• Clear plastic
• Compost
Tip
In areas with mild winters you can sow coneflower seeds in the fall. Fall-planted seeds don't require cold treatment because they will receive it naturally during the winter.




Ephedra - Is It Safe And Effective?

By Nick Nilsson

Burn fat while you sleep! Eat whatever you want and still lose weight! Don't suffer through hours of grueling exercise to burn fat!

You've probably heard all these phrases before but are the fat burners containing ephedra that these claims are attached to really that effective and are they safe?

The primary ingredient in fat burners is the herb ephedra, also known as ma huang, or it's manufactured version ephedrine. It has been used in Chinese herbal medicine quite safely and effectively for thousands of years. It is often combined with synthetic or herbal versions of caffeine (e.g. guarana, yerba mate or kola nut) and aspirin (e.g. white willow bark).

But does it burn fat?

The answer to that question is yes. Ephedra does effectively help the body to preferentially burn fat for energy. But, according to medical studies, there can be side effects, some of which are quite serious.

Ephedra works to burn fat through several means.

-Its chemical makeup increases the breakdown of fatty tissue for fuel. -Its stimulatory properties help to increase resting metabolism. This process is known as thermogenesis, which is essentially excess heat production. You body burns more calories simply by producing more body heat. -When ephedra is combined with caffeine and aspirin, it may have appetite suppressant effects. -The nervous system stimulation you get can help you maintain your energy levels, which can aid you in your exercise program.

When used according to instructions and in moderate doses, studies suggest that fat-burning formulas containing ephedra, caffeine and aspirin can be safely and effectively used to SUPPLEMENT a good fat-burning program.

Fat burners should never be used as the sole means to achieve fat loss. A good fat loss program must also address diet and exercise, contrary to the hype you see on television and in print. Anyone who relies solely on pills to lose fat is usually doomed to regain the lost weight and potentially quite rapidly after they stop taking the pills.

There is a reason for this weight gain. These pills are effective, therefore the person does not necessarily have to change the habits that made them overweight in the first place. When a person discontinues use of ephedra without changing those habits, almost inevitably the weight will come back.

The fat-burning effects of ephedra do not come without a price, however. Ephedra has a number of side effects and should not be taken by people with certain conditions.

Some of these side effects may include: jitteriness, sleeplessness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, skin flushing or tingling and nausea.

People who should not take ephedra include those suffering from heart disease, anxiety attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes, adrenal disease, thyroid disease or prostate disorders. If you are taking medication for high blood pressure or are taking antidepressants or MAO inhibitors, you should stay away from ephedra. Also, it is not recommended for pregnant women to use this herb.

Now that you know some of the pros and cons of taking ephedra supplements you, along with your doctor, can use this information to help decide whether or not ephedra is right for you.

For more information on fat loss and exercise, visit http://www.fitstep.com/Library/Tips/tip_index.htm



Echinacea to relieve anxiety?

By Sharon Biggs Waller

Echinacea, or coneflower, is a native prairie plant, and it's usually found growing in gardens. "For years we've been selling it as an immune booster," says Mylese Tucker, co-owner of Nature's Cupboard in Chesterton and Michigan City. "It's also been discussed as to whether you should take it long term or just for a few weeks, so you don't overstimulate your immune system. People with autoimmune disorders or allergies to ragweed or goldenrod may want to talk to their doctors before using it."

However, a new study from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on a unique strain of echinacea has proven that it can also treat anxiety. The Narrow-leaved Coneflower Root (Echinacea angustifoliae radix) can reduce anxiety and tension and restore healthy brain chemistry with no side effects. The root of this strain contains substances that bind to specific brain receptors, which tell the body to calm down. The study proved that the dosage was a big component: when taken in high amounts, echinacea is the familiar immune stimulant; when taken in low dose, usually 20 mg, stress and tension are relieved. Volunteers in the study experienced a reduction in anxiety after only one day of use. The study also compared the supplement to the commonly prescribed antianxiety drug Librium, and found that it was the same or better and without the side effect of drowsiness.


How To Plant and Care for Coneflower

(Amy, A healthy Life For Me)

How To Plant and Care for Coneflower a special flower to grown in your yard.

When most people hear the name Coneflower or ‘Echinacea’ they think of the purple daisy like flower that blooms in mid summer to fall. However, this perennial garden rock star comes in a variety of colors. Purple Coneflower is the most common, but you can find white, red, salmon, dark pink colors and many more.

Coneflower is so easy to grow and attractive and draws so many birds, butterflies and bees that you simply must grow it if you have room.

Plant Coneflower during the autumn or spring in good soil. If you plant it in the heat of summer you will be fighting with mother natures heat to get the roots established.

It will need full sun with room to grow. Most varieties grow 2-4 feet tall and 1-2’ wide. In summer cut blooms as soon as they begin to fade to encourage new blooms and prolong the blooming season. With regular dead heading, cone flower will continue to bloom throughout the summer. Coneflower drops seeds from its flower heads and readily reseeds. If you can leave blooms late in the season, many birds such as the golden finch will pick the seeds directly from the stalk through fall and winter.

Coneflower is bothered by very few pests or diseases and makes a wonderful cut flower with its strong stems. With the abundance of rain that we have had over the last few weeks, you may see your plants start to wilt. Once the ground around their roots becomes saturated, they cannot take up any more water or nutrients and wilt. There isn’t much you can do, except to make sure you have a good loose soil that allows the water to drain.

You will need to divide your coneflower after about three years to allow healthy growth. Clumps can easily be replanted.

Don’t hesitate to mix in a variety of Coneflower into your flower beds. This garden all star looks stunning growing next to Asters, Butterfly Bush, and Lambs Ear.


The Benefits of Echinacea

(Fitday Editor)

Echinacea, a native North American plant, is something that horticultural experts are often very familiar with. Its brightly colored and attractive flowers dot the landscapes of large portions of the continent. They also show up in lots of home gardens and commercial landscaping installations, as well as some authentic horticultural restoration projects.

Benefits of Echinacea

Echinacea has been known to have some restorative qualities and medicinal uses. Today, the effectiveness of echinacea is somewhat debated, but modern research has shown the potential for echinacea as a tool for fighting viruses and keeping the immune system healthy.

Echinacea is most commonly used to ward off the common cold. It can be used to treat a range of illnesses, such as fever, cold, flu or viral illnesses, as well as some kinds of infections. Researchers say that echinacea can help boost the immune system by fighting off virus microbes. It is also said to have anti-inflammatory properties. Some herbalists and others call echinacea a "blood purifier" and refer to phagocytes, natural elements that the body develops to combat viral microbes. Experts claim that echinacea can help the body produce these phagocytes.

Although some studies have not found that echinacea is effective in treating colds and viruses, other studies have found that taking echinacea supplements can cut down the risk of contracting a cold by nearly 50% in some individuals. That makes echinacea a popular herbal remedy, even though it's hard to say how effective it is in any given case. Trials at universities and other research centers continue to look at how the herb might aid the body in its natural capacity to shrug off some of the common seasonal viruses that currently threaten the global community.

Echinacea and Goldenseal

Echinacea is often taken together with goldenseal. This herbal remedy can help fight the inflammatory and congestive elements of the common cold by soothing conditions in the inner membranes of the nose and throat. It also has some anti-inflammatory and immune boosting abilities, according to researchers. Lots of herbal remedy providers package echinacea together with goldenseal for a double punch against cold and flu viruses.

Potential Risks of Echinacea

Potential side effects for echinacea range from minor issues like dizziness to larger problems. Echinacea can trigger asthma attacks in individuals with respiratory conditions. Doctors often warn against using herbal supplements like echinacea for those who are already on a lot of medications, as some kinds of drug interactions can apply. Before starting on a regimen of echinacea or some other herbal home remedy, it's a good idea to have an in-depth discussion with your local family doctor about the risks and benefits of echinacea or another herbal supplement product. With the right care and attention to detail, echinacea could be worth looking at as a helper for fighting off the kinds of viruses that are creating epidemics in today's population during each flu season.


Purple Coneflowers Characteristics

By Molly Allman

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) belongs to the Asteraceae family and bears dailylike flowers on straight stems above clumps of dense foliage. Flowers generally bloom from spring until frost. Echinacea flowers are generally used as borders, in containers and in gardens planted alongside other perennials. Purple coneflower has characteristics which distinguish it from other coneflowers.

Indentification

Purple coneflower has coarsely toothed foliage that forms a dense clump from which the tall, rigid stems emerge. Purple coneflower grows a single flower atop a 2- to 5-foot stem. The flowers have droopy, lavender petals that surround a purplish-brown, spiky, domed center. If not deadheaded, flowers heads turn to a bristly seed head that attracts finches. The purple coneflower resembles its close relative Rudbeckia spp.

Growing Conditions

Purple coneflower is an easy-to-care-for perennial and hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 through 9. Plants thrive in well-drained soil, but do tolerate drought, making them ideal for xeriscaping. Purple coneflower prefers full sun, but tolerates light shade, especially in hot weather; shade enhances the color of the petals. Plants readily self-sow if flower heads are left to produce seed, but plants are not known to be invasive.

Maintenance

Purple coneflower is a low-maintenance plant and propagation is usually done by seed. Plants do not like their roots disturbed, so do not divide unless the plants appear crowded. After division, plants are known to develop numerous stems and few flowers. Deadheading encourages new flower growth, extending the blooming period. Removing spent flowers also prevents self-sowing. Flower heads that remain on stems create a winter interest and the seeds attract birds.

Landsape Uses

Purple coneflowers' long, rigid stems make them excellent for cut flowers, but they also have many other uses. Because they are long-bloomers, groups of purple coneflowers are often planted in areas such as borders, meadows and naturalized gardens. Plants are often grouped in mass plantings along with black-eyed Susans to create a wildflower or woodland garden.


Does Echinacea Really Fight Colds?

By Joe Leech

Echinacea is a popular herbal supplement.

It’s used as a natural remedy for preventing and treating the common cold… but does it work?

This article reviews the known benefits of echinacea.

What Is Echinacea?

What-Is-EchinaceaEchinacea, also called purple coneflower, is a flowering plant from the Asteraceae family.

It’s native to North America and was first used as a traditional medicine by the American Indians.

There are nine species, but only three are used as medicine:

• Echinacea purpurea
• Echinacea angustifolia
• Echinacea pallida

The plant is dried to make capsules or prepared as a liquid for supplementation. The products are often very different from each other because they:

• contain different parts of the plant – roots, flowers, extracts
• are made differently – dehydrated, extracts, expressed juice
• have different chemicals – the proposed active ingredients
• are of different strengths
• may have various other ingredients added.
Active Ingredients

Echinacea is thought to have immune boosting, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects.

However, how it works is not fully understood by researchers.

It seems like the active ingredients are one or a combination of different chemicals such as alkamides, caffeic acid derivatives, polysaccharides and glycoproteins.

Summary: Echinacea is plant from North America. It’s often formed into capsules or a liquid and used as medicine for issues related to immunity.
Can Echinacea Prevent or Cure the Common Cold?

The common cold is a viral condition that adults get on average 2 to 4 times a year.

Many claim echinacea can:

• prevent a cold or upper respiratory tract infection (URTI)
• reduce the length of sickness
• improve symptoms
• reduce repeat infection

Research on the topic is mixed as many studies use various types of echinacea products. Some also looked at clinical inoculation of colds (giving people a cold), while others looked at naturally developed colds.

Here is a look at the evidence for each claim:

Prevention

Several studies have investigated whether echinacea can prevent a cold.

Taken as a daily supplement it may help to prevent sickness, however, it’s not entirely clear.

One meta-analysis of 14 studies found a 58% reduction in cold occurrence from a daily supplement. However, that review has been criticised as it compares all types of echinacea products and this may not be scientifically correct.

A more recent review concluded that echinacea may have a “weak positive” effect. Whether or not it is clinically relevant – meaning whether it will actually prevent a cold – is not known.

Reduces length of sickness

Taking echinacea at the first signs of a cold may reduce the length of sickness, although again these claims are highly variable.

The same meta-analysis comparing various types of echinacea found a 1.4 day reduction in sickness duration when compared to placebo.

However, a 2014 review found that of seven studies only one had a significant impact on the duration of colds.

Improves symptoms

There is no evidence that echinacea improves cold symptom severity.

A review of three studies looked at whether echinacea decreased the severity of symptoms such as sneezing, sore throat, cough, and headache. Researchers found no significant effects.

Reduces repeat sickness

A recent review of 6 studies, including almost 2500 patients, looked at whether echinacea supplementation can reduce repeat sickness.

Researchers found that in those with sub-optimal immune systems, echinacea use halved their risk of recurrent respiratory infections

Illnesses such as pneumonia and tonsillitis were also less frequent with echinacea use.

But again, this review compared all types of echinacea products so it’s hard to pinpoint which is best.

Summary: It remains unclear if echinacea has benefits for the common cold. There is some (weak) evidence that it may help prevent colds, reduce the duration slightly and reduce the risk of repeat infections.
Are There Any Other Benefits?

Aside from colds, there are claims that echinacea can have many other benefits.

These include:

• Fighting cancer
• Healing skin wounds
• Reducing anxiety
• Controlling blood pressure
• Increase exercise performance
• Treat inflammation
• Treat herpes
• Stimulate the immune system
• Reduce vaginal yeast infections

It sounds promising but the reality is that much less research has been done on these possible benefits.

The current scientific evidence is either very weak or non-existent.

Summary: Not enough research has been done to support the use of echinacea for other benefits including cancer, anxiety and exercise performance.
How to Take It

How-to-Take-ItEchinacea is typically taken orally as a capsule or as a liquid.

Most take it when they feel a cold coming on but others use it as a daily supplement.

Capsules are often taken 3 times a day (900mg-1500mg) and a tincture of echinacea (alcohol extract) is usually taken as 2.5ml 3 times a day or up to 10ml daily.

But note there are no standard recommendations for how to take it or what is an optimal dose.

You can also find echinacea as a herbal tea and a cream for wound healing.

Summary: Echinacea is commonly taken orally as a capsule or liquid. There is no known optimal dose.
Are There Any Side Effects?

Echinacea is generally regarded as safe.

However, there are some special considerations to think about:

• some people may be allergic, particularly those allergic to chrysanthemums, daisies, marigolds and ragweed
• children may develop a rash
• it may worsen asthma symptoms
• it’s not recommended if you have an autoimmune disease, like celiac disease, due to its possible immune boosting effects
• it may affect other medications you are taking.

Additionally, the long-term safety of echinacea is unknown.

If you’re thinking about taking it, talk to your doctor, particularly if you have allergies, asthma, an autoimmune condition or are on other medication.

Summary: Echinacea is thought to be safe, however some people may experience an allergic reaction, rash or increased asthma symptoms.
Benefits of Echinacea: Does It Really Work?

There is no clear evidence that echinacea can prevent or cure the common cold.

There seems to be some weak positive effects, but these are inconsistent.

Despite the lack of evidence, there are plenty of people that insist it works for them during the cold season. If this is you and you don’t experience side effects, then it’s likely a safe choice.



Does Taking Echinacea Really Work?

By Lisa Ryan

It never fails: Mention you’re coming down with a cold, and people will start pushing echinacea on you. But aside from a vague sense that it’s something like non-branded Airborne, how much do you actually know about echinacea? For our own sanity (and yours), the Cut talked with some experts to figure out the actual benefits of the herb, how it works, and why you should take it. Next time you get repeatedly sneezed on in the subway or receive a hug from an especially snot-nosed toddler, you’ll know where to turn.

What even is echinacea? Nearly impossible to spell and only slightly easier to pronounce (it’s eck-en-ay-sha, basically), echinacea is an herb that contains therapeutic chemicals and has been used as a health remedy for over 400 years. Registered dietitian and nutritionist Amy Shapiro told the Cut that the entire plant is actually beneficial — from its roots to its leaves.

But what does it do? Echinacea is believed to boost the immune system — so in other words, if you take it when you’re coming down with a cold or flu, it’s supposed to help you fight off the illness and get better faster. But Dr. Chris D’Adamo, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told the Cut that studies go back and forth on whether it actually helps prevent the common cold. For instance, one study found that people with a cold who drink tea with echinacea in it every day for five days felt better faster than those who just drank normal tea. But at the same time, another study found echinacea doesn’t really “significantly” change the severity and length of a cold. The science is enough to convince Dr. D’Adamo, though — he says he takes it, personally.

When should I take it? Even though the science is out on echinacea’s effect on colds, both Dr. D’Adamo and Shapiro agree that, by and large, the herbal remedy is at least somewhat beneficial. However, the positive benefits of echinacea are only seen if you take them at the first sign of a cold and flu, or if you’ve been exposed to someone who may be sick (in which case you can take it preventatively). “It may help treat a cold but you have to get it at the very first sign,” D’Adamo stressed. “Once you’re full on in it with congestion and feeling terrible, it’s unlikely to do anything.”

Does it do anything else I should know about? On top of probably helping stave off cold and flu, echinacea is also a great anti-inflammatory remedy, Shapiro said. If you find yourself coming down with some general form of pain — from a headache to a sore throat — you can take the herb to help reduce whatever inflammation is afflicting you. On top of that, because echinacea can help relax your gastrointestinal tract, you could also take it as a mild laxative to get things moving.

Additionally, given its anti-inflammatory powers, echinacea can also help reduce skin inflammation. So if you feel an eczema flare-up coming on, or if you’re suffering from a bug bite or psoriasis, you can take it to ease your skin’s irritation. “All of these things go back to immunity and anti-inflammatory,” the nutrition expert noted.

How do I take it? You can take echinacea as a tablet or capsule, or you can also take it in tea form if you prefer your supplements to be as cozy as possible.

And how can I get some? You can basically find echinacea at any drugstore or natural market. Shapiro warns, however, that when it comes to buying echinacea capsules, you should make sure you’re buying from a well-known brand. Health and wellness are hot topics at the moment — and supplements aren’t regulated. So a ton of new companies are popping up all over the place trying to profit off of your quest for wellness, and their supplements might not be as good as a well-known brand, like Twin Labs or Nature’s Way. “[Bigger brands] more likely to want to protect their name as opposed to just being like, ‘Oh, let me try these and then do something else if they don’t work,’” she said.

On the other hand, Dr. D’Adamo added that it’s also a good idea to try to buy echinacea supplements that are actually organic.

Who shouldn’t take it, though? Dr. D’Adamo recommends that women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should stay away from echinacea as a precaution, since there isn’t much information out there as to what effect it could have on a baby.

Additionally, people taking immunosuppressant drugs as treatment for cancer or autoimmune diseases shouldn’t take it either, because it may interfere with those medications.

Should I take it all year long so that I’m healthy 24/7? Since echinacea can (probably) boost your immune system, it might seem logical to just take it all the time and live your healthiest possible life. But Dr. D’Adamo said that constantly taking echinacea is “unnecessary.” He recommends only taking it when you feel a cold coming on or you’ve been hanging around sick people. “I wouldn’t take it every day,” he said.


6 Health Benefits and Uses for Echinacea

By Michelle Schoffro Cook

Who hasn’t turned to this stunning beauty for help preventing or fighting off a nasty virus or to shorten the time spent suffering from a cold or flu? Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia) has become the go-to herb for just such occasions for good reason: it works. Native Americans have known this for centuries. This herb’s therapeutic reputation hasn’t always been so glowing.

Early in the last century, the Journal of the American Medical Association described the herb as a useless quack remedy. But when I started writing this blog, there were over two thousand scientific studies on echinacea. Few herbs have received so much scientific attention. Here are some of the main health benefits of echinacea: Respiratory Relief

Research in the medical journal Advances in Therapy found that echinacea extracts significantly reduce the risk of recurring respiratory infections, ear infections, tonsillitis and pharyngitis. Echinacea has also been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms of respiratory infections. In one study published in the journal Cell Immunology, researchers found that echinacea demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory properties that are likely responsible for these effects. Lymph Lover

Echinacea is a powerful lymphatic system cleanser. The lymphatic system is a network of nodes, tubules, fluid and glands that “sweep” toxins, wastes and byproducts of inflammation out of body tissues. Echinacea helps to reduce congestion and swelling and get the lymph fluid moving. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Soother

New research in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology found that echinacea combined with alpha lipoic acid, conjugated linoleic acid and quercetin effectively reduced pain and other symptoms and also improved function in people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.


Germination of Echinacea Flower Seeds

By Jackie Carroll

Echinacea is a native American wildflower that blooms from summer until late autumn. Purple species are among the most familiar, but bright yellow, orange and white types add variety to the garden. Echinacea thrives throughout U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9 in poor to average garden soil, making it a suitable choice for the San Francisco climate. It tolerates drought well, so you can use it beyond the reach of your sprinklers or water hose. Plant it along the side of the road to soften the appearance of the front of your property or in large drifts or meadows where it thrives with little care.

Indoors or Outdoors

You can germinate echinacea seeds indoors or outdoors in the garden. In a mixed border, echinacea plants look best interspersed with other garden plants in groups of three or five. Precise planting and grouping is easiest with seedlings that you have started indoors. Sowing seeds directly outdoors is practical and convenient when planting in masses or drifts.

Outdoors

In the Bay Area, plant echinacea seeds directly outdoors in early spring. Remove the sod and weeds from the area and loosen the soil by digging or tilling. Use a garden rake to level and smooth the soil. A third of a pound of echinacea seeds covers an acre, and a teaspoon or so is sufficient for 100 square feet. Spread the proper amount of seeds evenly over the area and scratch them in with a garden rake. Water gently to avoid runoff and seed loss or pooling.

Indoors

You can start the seeds indoors in flats and transfer them to 3-inch pots when they are 2 inches tall, or sow them in individual pots. Fill the containers to within 1/2 inch of the top with potting soil and moisten the soil. Place the seeds on top of the soil and cover them with 1/8 inch of additional soil. Place the containers inside a plastic bag and seal it to maintain a moist environment; remove the bag after the seeds germinate. They need complete darkness and temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate.

Seedling Care

After the seedlings germinate, place them in a sunny, preferably south-facing window or provide supplemental florescent lighting. Water the plants often enough to keep the soil moist, but don't allow it to become soggy. Pour off water that collects in the trays under the pots. You don't need to fertilize the seedlings.



When Do Coneflowers Bloom?

By Amy Rodriguez

Resembling a badminton shuttlecock, coneflowers (Echinacea) offer gardeners an extended bloom period compared to other flowers. With pink, white and lavender blossoms, these stunning perennials are highly drought tolerant for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. Growing to 5 feet tall, coneflowers are often used as a natural landscaping choice that lights up a garden with numerous solitary blooms each year.

Typical Blooming Period

The main blooming period for coneflowers is between June and October. Deep green foliage illuminates the growing flower stalks from below; the blossoms typically stretch higher than the surrounding leaf stalks for a brilliant show. Depending on the cultivar, coneflowers spread their petals between 4 and 8 inches wide. Coneflowers use summer's extended sunlight period to create these large blossoms to attract beneficial insects, such as soldier beetles, so that troublesome pests, such as aphids, stay naturally controlled.

Shade Considerations

If your region is prone to hot spells during the summer, the coneflower plant welcomes some dappled shade to help the blossoms retain their stunning color; excessive heat affects the blooms by dulling their overall color. However, coneflowers are sensitive to too much shade. With the lack of sunlight, the plant's foliage cannot produce enough energy through photosynthesis to generate the glorious flowers. In fact, your garden may produce only a few smaller flowers or none at all. Coneflowers have deep taproots extending into the soil; this strong root system allows the plant to sustain itself through warm summer days for the best blooming potential.

Deadheading

Gardeners looking for the longest blooming time should deadhead some of the flowers. If you remove the flowerheads on select plants early in the summer after they fully bloom, these cut coneflowers will bloom again in the early fall in response; plants that are not deadheaded provide only summer blooms. In fact, deadheading all of your coneflowers in the early summer after blooming results in a gorgeous fall display of blooms. In a sense, you control the blooming period for these flowers; they bloom in both the summer and fall, or you choose one season for a concentrated collection of striking flowers.

Bird Attraction

Fall-blooming coneflowers attract birds once they begin to wilt and lose their petals; the stem and attached seeds remain upright as a beacon for hungry birds. As a result, your garden becomes a bird-watching paradise that also helps with reproduction. Birds consuming the coneflower seeds disperse them afterward to spread the plant's growing area. It is possible to leave the dead stem stalks attached to the plant throughout the winter until the spring arrives. Cutting the stalks away in the spring allows the plant to ready its energy for future summertime blooms.



How to Water Coneflowers (Echinacea)

(San Francisco Gate)

For nearly year-round interest, select coneflowers (echinacea) for your perennial beds and borders. These tall, upright flowers bloom reliably from early summer until fall. After the blossoms finally fade and the foliage dies back, the attractive seed heads attract foraging birds to the winter garden. In summer, the flowers attract butterflies and bees to the perennial bed. Coneflowers thrive in almost every climate, withstanding both heat and cold. Although drought-tolerant, coneflowers bloom best with consistent watering and careful moisture management.

1. Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch, such as bark, over the bed after planting. Mulch retains soil moisture by slowing the evaporative process. Replenish the mulch layer to the 2-inch depth each spring after the coneflowers resume growth.

2. Irrigate approximately once weekly during dry weather, supplying up to an inch of water. Coneflowers typically require no irrigation during rainy weather if at least an inch of rain has fallen in the previous 10 days.

3. Water at the base of the plant, wetting only the soil and not the coneflower foliage. Water slowly and deeply so the moisture penetrates deep into the soil. Coneflowers have long taproots so the soil should feel slightly moist to at least a 6-inch depth.

4. Supply irrigation in the morning before the heat of the day so the water has time to penetrate the soil before hot sunlight causes evaporation. Early watering also ensures any moisture on the plant evaporates before nightfall, which minimizes the chance of fungal infections.

Things You Will Need
• Mulch

◘Tip

Overwatering is as damaging to coneflowers as underwatering. If the soil feels muddy, soggy or sticky, hold off on irrigation until the soil has dried out.

Coneflowers don't require irrigation during the dormant or semidormant winter months, even when the foliage remains green in mild climates.



History Of Purple Coneflowers

By Bonnie L. Grant

Purple coneflower is a North American native and was discovered in the United States. This native wildflower has wormed its way into the hearts of gardeners everywhere with its stunningly beautiful flowers and herbal benefits. Purple coneflower plants are easy to grow and are now available globally in a variety of hues and cultivars but they started out as just a group of 9 Echinacea species indigenous to the U.S.

About Purple Coneflower Plants

Purple coneflower is an apt name for some of the plants in the Echinacea species but not all of them produce purple blooms. The name is representative of Echinacea purpurea, a plant in the Aster family. These plants were victims of the incorrect botanical classing that is only recently being unraveled thanks to DNA testing. Incorrect placement is one of the common heirloom flower facts that affects many species and families. Originally designated in the family Rudbeckia, older literature still lists the plant in that family rather than the correct, Echinacea.

Coneflowers are in the Asteraceae family and produce the characteristic rayed flowers of that group. The genus name, Echinacea, comes from the Greek word ‘chinos,’ meaning hedgehog. This is due to the prickly crown of seeds left behind by spend flowers. The perennial rhizomous plant can get 11 to nearly 60 inches tall.

Flowers are rayed, sterile and purple, with the center disc florets orange. These plants are stars for numerous bees, flies and butterflies as well as hummingbirds.

Purple Coneflowers in History

The history of purple coneflowers starts in the 17th century in a forest in the southeastern United States. John Banister was studying the native flora in Virginia and happened across the lovely blooms. He harvested the seeds and sent them to England in 1699, where the plant became popular in European gardens by the late 1800’s.

More than one kind of “flower power” was occurring in the 1960s as German botanists began to improve upon the species and expand the available cultivars. Echinacea didn’t really take off in popularity until the 1980s and in 1998, it won the Perennial Plant of the Year prize.

Purple coneflower is now a common garden staple thanks to intense breeding programs developed off the theory that Echinacea purpurea can cross with other plants in the genus. This has led to white, yellow and orange flowers that were previously unknown in the group, as well as double flowering varieties. A delightful cultivar is just waiting out there for you to fall in love with and add to your garden.

Uses of Purple Coneflower

The history of purple coneflowers indicates that the plant had several medicinal properties. One of the more interesting Echinacea heirloom flower facts claims that it has become popular as an herbal supplement to increase the immune system. It is thought to fight the common cold but there is no evidence to prove this beyond the testimonials of people like me who religiously take the supplement and never get colds.

In addition to its reported immune system benefits, it was used as a general cure by our Native populations for over 400 years. The First Nations people used the roots and either chewed them or made tea to extract the benefits. In the 18th and 19th centuries, European settlers got the plant from the indigenous people and used it to treat then common outbreaks of such diseases as Scarlet Fever, Dipheria and Syphilis.

In Germany, extracted juice from the plant is approved for assisting in tissue regeneration. Echinacea is market as an antiviral and it also seems to stimulate white blood cell formation. Although the FDA has not approved the supplement and its health benefit claims, it is a widely distributed herbal drug that comes in tea or pill form, tincture or extract.

The long history of purple coneflowers being used as a medicinal herb might indicate that there is something there, in spite of the FDA. Some people swear by the supplement and others have no benefit from its use. It is wise to check with your doctor before trying any herbal supplement.


Echinacea: A Common Medicinal for a Variety of Ailments

By Sean and Monica Mitzel (Sovereign Sonrise Permafarm)

Herbs are useful for more than just flavoring food. They can add nutrients to your diet including vitamins and minerals, help alleviate symptoms of a cold/flu, improve your immune system, and even reduce inflammation, stop bleeding, and heal minor burns/bee stings. Wildcrafting is a good way of gathering herbs that you may need. But a way to secure your herbal medicine cabinet is to learn to grow your own.

My last blog post was about mullein, which is something that grows prolifically in the wild and is great for making an oil to soothe ear aches/infections and also helping relieve chest congestion. Today, I’m going to cover another great herb that can be cultivated in your garden: Echinacea purpurea, or Purple Coneflower.

Echinacea as Medicinal Plant

A member of the Asteraceae family, this easy-to-grow plant is a native of North America. Its stalk will grow from 2-5 feet topped by a lovely lavender flower with brownish centers. Though it prefers moist soil it can also be found in dry prairies, and, once established, can do well even in drought conditions (which is great for gardeners!).

When planting this flower, choose a sunny spot — it does not do well in shade. The flower blooms in the summer and reseeds itself in the fall. This year I left the Echinacea in my garden alone to allow them to reseed for next year hoping to at least double my crop.

Echinacea has a rich history, used by several Native American tribes of North America for different purposes, the chief one being as an analgesic (it relieved fever, headaches, and provided pain relief). Echinacea is a natural remedy to turn to the next time you or a family member come down with a cold.

Adding this herb to your garden will allow you to be able to have it on hand when you need it. You can quickly whip up an infusion or, plan ahead a little, and make a tincture which allows the medicinal qualities to be preserved for use at anytime.

In the United States, we tend to rely more heavily on prescription medication, but that situation is different in Europe. For instance, in Germany, experts have deemed Echinacea a natural antibiotic, because it suppresses viral activities. Echinacea also contains phenols, flavonoids, copper, iron, iodine, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E.

These are some benefits of Echinacea:

• Alleviates symptoms of colds, coughs, flu, and upper respiratory conditions
• Soothes sore throat and enlarged lymph nodes
• Eases the symptoms of urinary tract infections
• Fights infections
• Strengthens the immune system by promoting T-cell activation (which may cause issues with people with auto-immune diseases)

Preparation: Using fresh is preferred since drying can decrease the medicinal potency, however you may dry it for use as an infusion if you desire.

Directions:

1. Check herb for bugs, remove any dirt, and chop plant parts (the more exposure to the alcohol the better).

2. Make sure the plant is completely covered by the alcohol and cover tightly.

3. Store in a cool, dark place for a minimum of two weeks (four weeks will create a stronger tincture). Shake the jar 1-3 times a day.

4. Strain through cheesecloth and store in an amber dropper jar, in a cool, dark location. For a stronger tincture you may change the herb: alcohol ratio from 1:8 to 1:4 but just make sure the herb is fully covered by the alcohol.

To use: For best results, take at the first sign of illness or if you know you’ve been exposed to illness. Take 15-30 ml three times a day. Do not take for more than 10 days in a row. Echinacea is NOT an everyday tonic, if you are wanting to support your immune system during the winter months, consider brewing up elderberry syrup instead.


Where Are the Seeds on Echinacea?

(San Francisco Gate)

Echinacea species, commonly known as coneflowers, are rugged prairie wildflowers native to North America. The cold- and drought-tolerant plants, which thrive in poor, dry soil, are suitable for growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. Coneflower attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden from summer until early autumn. The seeds in the plump cone sustain songbirds throughout the winter.

Finding the Seeds

Coneflower blooms grow atop sturdy, 2- to 5-foot stems. The drooping, lavender, daisylike petals radiate from a spiny, purplish-brown, cone-shaped center. The cone, or seed head, holds seeds that develop in autumn. If the ripe seeds aren't harvested, they fall naturally from the dry seed head and are dispersed by wind and water and on the feet, feathers and fur of birds and animals.

When to Harvest

Harvest seed heads from coneflowers during autumn of the second year. Stop watering coneflowers in late summer, because the drought-tolerant plants don't need the water and the moisture may damage the seeds. Don't harvest as soon as the flowers wilt; instead, monitor the progress of the seeds, which look like bristles extending from the seed heads. Harvest the seed heads when the seeds are plump and not thin and flat. It's okay to harvest slightly green seed heads, but if the seeds inside aren't plump, they won't continue to fill out after the head is harvested. Always harvest seed heads from the largest, healthiest blooms. Seeds left on the plant nourish birds throughout the winter, and those that remain on the ground in spring may reseed and grow new plants.

Harvesting and Drying

Remove the seed heads from coneflower plants by snipping the stem just below each seed head with a pair of scissors. Drop the seed heads into a bucket, bowl or paper sack, and then spread the seeds in a single layer in a tray or shallow cardboard box such as a clean pizza box. Shake the box occasionally so that the seeds dry evenly, which may take up to a month. Once the seeds are dry, separate the chaff -- the dry outer casing of the seed -- and other plant debris from the seeds. In the home garden, the easiest method is to break open the dry seed heads and remove the seeds by hand. Removing seeds from a large number of seed heads is a more complicated process that involves rubbing the seed heads against a screen or sieve to divide the debris from the seeds.

Storing and Using Seeds

Be sure the coneflower seeds are completely dry; otherwise, they are likely to mold and mildew over winter. To test for dryness, press your fingernail into a seed. An unripe seed is soft and pliable but a ripe, dry seed is hard and cracks when pressed. If you want new coneflowers for the next season, broadcast them on your prepared garden space immediately, because they need 3 months of cold weather to germinate. If you wish to save the seeds for a future season, store them in a paper envelope, and then label the envelope, noting the type of seeds and the date of harvest. Store the envelope in a cool, dry place. When properly stored, coneflower seeds last up to three years.


How to Harvest Echinacea for Tea

By Jenny Harrington

Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) is both an ornamental and an herb. It grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. The large purple flowers add color to summer and fall gardens. Those left to mature will develop attractive cone-shaped seed heads that attract birds and supply winter interest. Coneflowers also provide a key ingredient in many herbal tea blends. Although all parts of the plant are edible, the leaves and flower buds are most commonly harvested for herbal tea.

1. Harvest coneflowers beginning in their second year. Pick leaves anytime during the flowering cycle, or harvest the flowers when the buds just begin to open.

2. Cut through the stem with a sharp pair of shears. Make the cut just above the lowest set of leaves for foliage harvesting, or cut above the topmost leaf set if you are only harvesting flower buds.

3. Strip the leaves from the stem after harvest. Cut off the flower buds just behind the flower head. Dispose of the remaining stem.

4. Spread the flower buds and leaves out on a drying screen. Place them in a warm, dry room with good circulation where they aren't exposed to intense light or heat. Dry the coneflower parts for five to seven days, or until they feel brittle and papery.

5. Store the dried coneflower leaves and flowers in a sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place until use.

Things You Will Need
• Shears
• Screen
• Storage container

Naturopathy for cold and cough

By Mita Majumdar

Don't resort to popping pills and syrups to treat cold and cough; instead try naturopathy.

‘Cough gone, sugar under control. Feeling fresh and fit. Am excited to return to resume work,’ tweeted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after he had undergone naturopathy treatment for his chronic cough and high blood sugar levels.

Cold and cough is not a disease in itself. It is a symptom that your body’s immune system is fighting a virus. Naturopathic treatment just helps boost these defence mechanisms to function better. And for seasonal disturbances in the form of cold and cough, naturopathy can be one of the best solutions. Here’s how to use ginger for coughs and colds

Here are a few ways you can treat cough and cold using naturopathy.

1. Hydrotherapy for cold and cough

Hydrotherapy is the use of water as a method of healing. Hydrotherapy called the Cold Sock treatment is good for nasal congestion due to cold.

For this therapy you need a pair of cotton socks and a pair of woollen socks. Follow this procedure.

• Soak the foot part of the cotton socks in cold water and wring them thoroughly.
• Put your feet in a basin of hot water and soak them till they are hot.
• Remove your feet from hot water, dry them off quickly, and immediately put on the cold socks.
• Quickly put on the woollen socks over the cold socks.
• Go to bed immediately, and cover yourself. Your feet should not be uncovered at any point in time.

You can expect to get relief from congestion within 30 minutes.

The therapy works on the principle that cold water constricts the superficial blood vessels stimulating them, and hot water causes expansion of vessels, thereby relaxing them. This causes increase in circulation, decrease in inflammation, and it improves elimination of congestion.

2. Nasal irrigation

Nasal irrigation means flushing out your nasal cavity with a saline solution. Irrigation of nasal cavity is perhaps one of the oldest techniques based on yogic practices. It serves a dual purpose – one, nasal irrigation clears congestion by removing the mucus, and two, helps reduce inflammation and allergy by removing bacteria and virus which are the source of inflammation.

Research too has shown that this could be a recommended method for symptomatic relief of viral and bacterial cold.

So, how do you do it? Use the time honoured, clinically tested and approved neti pot for cleansing your nasal cavity.

• Make the saline solution: Dissolve one-fourth (for finely ground) to half a teaspoon (for coarsely ground) of non-iodized salt in 8 ounces of warm sterilized water. Says Benjamin Bleier, of American Rhinologic Society, ‘While multiple companies offer premixed salt packets which are convenient and relatively inexpensive, patients may elect to make their own saline at home. A common recipe involves the addition of 2-3 teaspoons of iodine free salt and 1/4-1/2 teaspoons of baking soda to 1 litre of sterile water.’Use boiled or distilled water. Cool the water to ‘warm’ before using if you are boiling the water. Also make sure you have not used too much or too less salt. Taste it before using it in the neti pot.
• Clean the neti pot before and after every use. Do not share your neti pot.
• For comfortable flow of water through the nasal passage, ensure correct head position. The Himalayan Institute suggests leaning over the sink so you are looking directly into the basin and then rotating your head to the side so that one nostril is directly above the other.
• Gently insert the spout into the upper nostril. Keep your mouth open and breathe in and out through your mouth.
• Raise the neti pot gradually to allow the saline solution to flow in through the upper nostril and out through the lower nostril.
• Once you are done, rotate your head so you are looking into the sink. Exhale sharply through both nostrils to clear the nasal passage of excess mucus and water.
• Repeat with other nostril.
• Wash the neti pot with hot water and mild soap. Dry before storing it.

3. Build immunity through right nutrition

Food you eat is not going to kill the cold and cough bacteria/ virus directly. But they are going to boost your immune system, so that your body can resist and fight the pathogens more effectively. Here are some foods that are going to strengthen your immune system.

•Foods that contain vitamin C. Fruits such as guava, orange, and lemon are very rich sources of vitamin C. So are vegetables such as broccoli and bell pepper. Vitamin C not only protects against immune system deficiencies, it also protects against cardiovascular disease and eye diseases. If you have cold and cough, you may need to go higher than the recommended daily dose of 75-90 mg for adults. Normally, doctors recommend 500 mg/day to achieve health results.
•Foods rich in vitamin A and iron. Vitamin A is an immune boosting nutrient that helps produce white blood cells by the body. White blood cells fight the virus and other pathogens and keep mucous membranes healthy. A Chinese study revealed that preschool children given vitamin A and iron supplement had the lowest incidence rate of respiratory-related illnesses and fewest symptoms of runny nose, cough, and fever. [4] Sweet potato, carrots, leafy greens, bell pepper, fish, liver, pumpkin, peach, papaya, mango, all of these are packed with vitamin A. For iron, include dried apricot, watermelon, broccoli, parsley, wheatgrass juice, cooked spinach, beet greens, spirulina, red-leaf lettuce; fortified cereals, and meats such as chicken lamb, egg yolk, shrimp, and clams in your diet.
•Garlic: Garlic is rich in manganese, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins B6 and C. it is known to reduce inflammation and boost immune function as it has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties. 2 -3 cloves of garlic a day may do the trick. However, researchers have not found much evidence regarding the effects of garlic in preventing or treating the common cold. [5]
•Probiotics:Probiotics are living micro-organisms that have health benefits when consumed in adequate amount. They are quite effective for digestive diseases, respiratory diseases, and viral diseases. They have also been found to have immune boosting properties. Although studies have also shown that they may have marginal preventive effect on common cold, do include it in your diet as it won’t harm you either way. [6]

4. Herbs for treating cold and cough

Echinacea – Studies have shown that aerial parts of Echinacea might be effective for early treatment of colds in adults but not always and not for everyone. Other parts of Echinacea only help in preventing colds. ‘Most consumers and physicians are not aware that products available under the term Echinacea differ appreciably in their composition, mainly due to the use of variable plant material, extraction methods and the addition of other components,’ according to a review study done in Germany. [7] Some of the common home remedies that help you to deal with cough

Elderberry – Elderberry helps treat flu symptoms, cold, and sinusitis. 15 ml of elderberry syrup, four times a day for 5 days can relieve symptoms on average 4 days earlier as compared with no treatment. [8] The herbal supplement is quite effective for influenza characterized by abrupt onset of fever, headache, myalgia, sore throat and non-productive cough.

There are other herbs too that are claimed to be effective, but scientific evidence of their efficacy is lacking.

You can also try some desi remedies for cold and cough –

•Crush tulsi (sweet basil) leaves, add a teaspoon of honey and a spoonful of fresh juice extracted from ginger. Consume it to get relief from cough.
• Add few black pepper corns and cumin seeds to a glass of water. Boil the water, and then add a little jaggery (gur) to it. It will help relieve chest congestion.
• A wonderful relief from aching throat and runny nose, especially in children, is a combination of milk and turmeric. To a glass of milk add a pinch of turmeric powder or a pinch of turmeric paste (obtained by grinding the turmeric rhizome).
• Drink plenty of water and herbal tea; eat lightly, and get sufficient rest.


Health Benefits of Echinacea

(Admin, Healing Through)

Are you getting a cold? If so, you may be curious about the health benefits of Echinacea. This exciting plant extract comes in a variety of formats, including capsule supplements, essential oils and herbal teas, so it’s a practical way to minimize the duration and severity of the common cold.

While results from using this plant extract will vary, there are many people who do believe in the power and potential of Echinacea. When you try it, you may just become another “true believer!”

To help you learn about the health benefits of Echinacea, we’ve created a practical and detailed guide. Our guide will focus on what the plant extract is, which forms are available, what Echinacea does, whether or not it’s safe for pregnant (or breastfeeding women) and which dosages are best for kids.

What Is Echinacea, Anyway?

Echinacea is an herbal remedy that people often use in order to treat the common cold. Many people believe that this plant turbo-charges the immune system and thereby reduces the severity and/or length of colds.

This extract is derived from a flowering plant which is known as a Purple Cornflower or a Black-eyed Susan. For thousands of years, Native Americans and Native Canadians have utilized this extract in order to feel better, faster. Today, people from all backgrounds and walks of life rely on this extract in order to give their immune systems extra support.

The Purple Coneflower (also known as the Black-eyed Susan) grows in America and Canada and all parts of this flowering plant species are used during the production of Echinacea extract. This means that root matter, stems and petals (as well as leaves) are all carefully processed in order to extract their health-boosting Echinacea essence!

Which Formula Will Be Best?

All forms of Echinacea which are pure and organic should offer advantages to cold sufferers or to anyone who wants superb immune system support. Therefore, how you decide to use Echinacea is really up to you! To help you make a wise decision, let’s talk about which formats are commonly available.

Supplement capsules are one option and these are very convenient for most people. After all, anyone who chooses Echinacea capsules will simply need to pop a capsule or two each day in order to access high concentrations of active ingredients. In general, these supplements do not cause unwanted side effects.

Another option is essential oil of Echinacea, which may be applied to the skin, inhaled or diffused. Lastly, you may choose a tea which is infused with this plant extract.

What Is This Extract Good For?

Echinacea is famous as a way to reduce the duration and severity of the common cold, so it’s really best for those who do have colds and don’t want to suffer through the full timeline of a common cold, which is typically about five days.

Any type of infection may benefit from treatment with all-natural Echinacea extract – however, in general, it is most effective against colds and infections of the upper respiratory area.

So, how does this extract work? Well, studies have shown that Echinacea boosts white blood cell counts and this may be responsible for its ability to spark faster recovery from certain infections. In particular, Echinacea’s capacity to increase the activity of the micro-phages within these white blood cells is considered to be beneficial to infection fighting.

In terms of side effects, this is a very mild and safe formula which is ok for most people to take. However, in some people, it does cause a bit of a sick stomach. Those who are allergic to this extract may suffer from typical allergic reaction symptoms, such as rashes or headache.

In addition, men and women who have asthma and are allergic to this substance (allergies are a major trigger for asthma) may find that they have asthma attacks as a result. In a worst-case scenario, a severe allergic reaction may trigger Anaphylaxis.

Is This Extract Safe for Pregnant/Breastfeeding Women?

According to a Canadian study, pregnant women who use Echinacea don’t have higher incidences of birth defects or other issues. Women who used the extract while expecting had the same number of problems as the control group (who didn’t take the extract). Therefore, women should feel pretty safe using organic supplements of this type. However, in general, pregnant women are discouraged from using herbal supplements and other herbal products while they are expecting (just to be on the safe side).

This Canadian MotherRisk program study was the first one ever conducted, and, although its results are very promising, other studies may uncover problems. Women should consult with their doctors if they are pregnant and wish to try holistic treatments.

Breastfeeding women should avoid taking Goldenseal along with Echinacea. Quite often, cold-busting supplements contain blends of extracts and this is one blend to avoid while you’re lactating.

In terms of the safety of this extract for those who are breastfeeding, there is a lack of clinical data. Therefore, it’s probably best to refrain from using the extract while you’re giving your baby mother’s milk. In the future, research may reveal more information about whether or not Echinacea is safe.

Dosage for Kids

176 to 300 mgs of Echinacea Purpurea or 300 mgs of Echinacea Angustifolia will be an appropriate dosage for most children or most adults. In other words, the typical recommended dosage is the same for kids and grown-ups.

To be on the safe side, ask your child’s pediatrician or your family doctor which dosage is best. A pharmacist or holistic health practitioner may also be able to provide information about this. A doctor will always be the best resource for information about which medications (conventional or alternative) are right for your child.

How to Buy Echinacea

Buying this type of herbal product is actually very easy, as long as you shop online. When you do choose a trusted formula from a reputable online retailer, you’ll be able to order this health-boosting formula without leaving the comfort and privacy of your own home. In addition, you may be able to save money, as formulas which are sold online are often less expensive than formulas which are sold at bricks-and-mortar retailers in local communities.

As well, shopping online will allow you to access a world of options. For example, you may look for the purest, organic formulas from the world’s premier manufacturers. We won’t name brands here, as this guide is impartial. However, we do recommend that you choose organic and non-GMO formulas which don’t contain fillers. You will need a pure product with a high level of active ingredient in order to boost your chances of strengthening your immune system.

Echinacea does have its detractors and some clinical studies find that the extract doesn’t work as well as it’s hyped up to. Other studies do pinpoint some benefits from using this type of extract formula. The best way to find out if this safe and time-honored extract is right for you is probably to try it for yourself. Take it when the first symptoms of a common cold or upper respiratory infection appear and then track your results. If you find that you get better a lot faster than normal, Echinacea may be working for you.

Now that you know more about this formula, you’ll be ready to decide whether or not it’s right for you. No matter which formula you choose, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In other words, don’t use more essential oil or take more capsules (or drink more tea) than you’re supposed to. When it comes to herbal remedies, more isn’t always better.


Good clean food will ward off winter bugs and viruses

By Fiann Ó Nuallain

Fiann Ó Nualláin says there are dozens of foods that can help you fight off the armies of bacteria and viruses that attack your system in winter.

This weekend’s topic is warding off winter bugs. No, not the garden variety, but the human kind.

Yes this is the season of the winter vomiting bug and other Norovirus outbreaks that cause everything from sniffly nose to the runs.

However, the garden and pantry can boost our defences and help us keep our energies up for weeding, propagating and enjoying the garden. In fact enjoying the garden may be what the doctor ordered.

The winter vomiting bug is a name given to seasonal outbreaks of Norovirus but in fact, it is the same agent for gastroenteritis and sundry digestive system upsets.

It presents with stomach pain, cramping, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting with ancillary symptoms of elevated temperature, dehydration and fatigue. It is highly contagious.

Incubation is on average 12 to 48 hours, with the illness normally persisting for one to three days but it can, with younger children and older adults, extend for four to six days.

Age can affect symptoms too, with diarrhoea more prevalent in adults and vomiting the main symptom in children.

So, as gardeners what can we do? What in the garden is to our advantage?

Well if you don’t have an elderberry, order one, it is still okay to plant out. If you have one, I hope you made some jam from the berries earlier in the year.

If not, your local health store will help you out. The phytochemicals in elderberries have the ability to disarm viruses, including norovirus.

They stop the virus from replicating and the high vitamin c content supercharges your immune system to kill off all the nasties.

This is still a good weekend to plant out garlic sets. Garlic actually benefits from a period of cold, which prompts stronger growth later in spring. If your soil is heavy and holds water, try growing them in containers with good drainage.

Raw, chopped or chewed garlic contains the immune boosting allicin which boosts the disease-fighting capabilities of white blood cells.

It’s a killer on the tongue to try munching a raw clove, but make a pesto or salad to dilute the sharp taste and burning sensation.

Cooking kills the active ingredient — so it has to be raw.

What I love about garlic is that it activates what scientists call our natural killer cells — if that doesn’t inspire confidence.

A real killer on the tongue, killing the nasties but also improving the good gut flora that traditional antibiotics normally decimate.

Plus the bad breath will keep loved ones away and limit the contagion factor.

There are many antimicrobial herbs that we can cultivate in the garden and many that overwinter in a polytunnel or bright porch.

My favourites are oregano, rosemary, lavender, thyme — all great in cooking and simple teas — all have phytochemicals that damage or destroy viral particles.

All are still for sale in the garden centre this week and even in some supermarket chains.

They will look great in a windowsill planter until ready for garden planting in spring and make a great Christmas present too, nothing says I care like a care package of plants especially ones that keep you fit and well.

I say ‘nothing’ — if we discount chocolate, sex and a good book — and not necessarily in that order. Might I recommend one of the Holistic Gardener books (Mercier press) — hint hint ... if there’s no chance of nudge-nudge.

Back to reality — rosemary tea helps break down all those comfort food fats that we will be soon indulging in.

Not just waist line defence for vanity sake, but helpful because it is a sluggish digestive system and adding extra weight can lower your body’s natural defences to colds, flus and winter ailments.

Thyme is especially good, as it is also an immunostimulant and naturally bactericidal, fungicidal and antiviral — its phytochemicals actively kill microbes and trigger the formation of more white blood cells.

When we get sick our body sends what are known as macrophages to eat up the invading bodies — rather like the Pac-man game — to munch all the dots and get you to the next level.

However, it is a slow process and sometimes those dots replicate faster than we can manage or the illness overwhelms the system.

Thyme actually speeds up how our macrophages munch and destroy. Oregano acts in a similar way.

When it comes to growing immunostimulants, it is not just garlic and thyme, you can opt for some pretty ones too like echinacea.

Traditionally used in supplement form to build up white cell count, echinacea is renowned for fighting infections.

It is full of an antibiotic phytochemical called echinacoside, capable of destroying or limiting a broad range of bacteria, fungi and protozoa, and also viruses.

Echinacea not only agitates the immune system into creating more T cells, it also boosts the ability of our macrophages to physically destroy and remove viral content from our system.

All these plants share traits that help your natural healing to be more effective.

Many conventional medicines are about killing everything off or dulling the pain/ symptoms long enough for the illness to run its course.

As a gardener I learned to feed the soil and not the plant for a better outcome.

I take that philosophy into other aspects of life. Treat the cause, not mollify the symptoms, should be the role of healthcare.

Now I know I rattle on a lot about getting outdoors to boost your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. However, sticking the last of the tulip bulbs down can combat the sniffles.

It is not so much the vitamin D we get from a touch of sunshine , it is not even the endorphin boost we get from blue sky or the serotonin release we get when we touch soil — its actually the touch of cold this time of year that may just do some good.

There is an old Irish saying “green winters — full graveyards”.

Cold suppresses garden pests and diseases but also human pathogens too. Viruses and bacteria thrive in warmth and a bit of cold knocks them off kilter. Now don’t try sitting in the fridge.

Hypothermia or serious drops in the body’s core temperature actually suppresses the immune system and that’s the grain of truth in the myth of going outside with wet hair or no coat causes colds.

Just go for a walk or do a bit of deadheading.

Cold weather actually stimulates the immune system and in response to the slight chill, we also automatically raise our levels of norepinephrine which plays a role in positive mood and our capacity to concentrate (don’t need the flu tablet with extra caffeine) and which sends blood to the muscles and has the knock-on effect of not just an elevated sense of wellbeing, but has a detox and decongestant action.

Don’t overdo it, but a spot of light gardening may be as good a medicine as laughter, and perhaps better than a pharmaceutical cocktail.

No matter what the winter ailment —coughing, sneezing, snotting, vomiting, diarrhoea and if you’re like me, crying — then the big issue is dehydration. So drink plenty of fluids.

It doesn’t all have to be plain water. Don’t be afraid to start by having a cup of tea — an amino acid vital to optimal immune system functioning known as L-theanine is abundant in black and green tea.

I’m a fan of green tea. It not only stimulates the liver to secrete interferon (our natural virus killer), but it contains many potent antioxidant compounds to neutralise free radicals that inhibit the healthy functioning of our immune system.

If you are really suffering, then coconut water is restorative and full of electrolytes to rehydrate.

Chamomile tea can settle the stomach and calm nerves.

If you are not up to raking a few leaves, then you might like to try rice water (the water you have boiled rice in), as it supplies some nourishment to the convalescing system and it also helps to constipate — meaning less diarrhoea.

Apple cider vinegar is a natural detoxificant, which cleanses without depleting vital nutrients from the system.

The body needs calories to fuel its recovery, so starving is not an option. No matter how bad you feel — try something.

If you can, get some vitamin B6 into you. It is found in sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin and squash seeds as well as nuts and raisins, it supports immune function and mood.

Take a duvet day but have a celebration snack/ meal.

Doing something positive eradicates negative loops.

Real food is real health. Enjoy both.


Be prepared for cold and flu season with naturopathic medicine

By Amy Punke (NATURAL JOURNEY)

Do you feel like you are constantly getting sick this time of year? Do you feel like your family just keeps passing around the same colds and flus all season?

"In Canada, the flu season lasts from November to March, resulting in an estimated 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths each year. Children have the highest influenza infection rates, and act as key spreaders of flu infections to adults" (www.seroyal.com). But, there are a lot things you and your family can do to prevent illness and also, if you do get sick, to shorten the duration of symptoms.

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Take vitamin C daily. As the body does not store vitamin C, a daily dose is recommended. Take a preventative dose of 1,000mg two times per day during the flu season. If you feel like you are getting sick, it is possible to increase your vitamin C dosage up to 2,000mg, three to four times per day. Should you experience loose stools, decrease you dosage.

2) Take a vitamin D supplement. A lot of research is showing that despite sun exposure in the summer, many Canadians remain vitamin D deficient. In this case, supplementation is necessary. Low vitamin D levels have been found to increase your risk of upper respiratory tract infections. Vitamin D is also essential in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth and aids in the absorption and the use of calcium and phosphorus in the body. It is important to note, since vitamin D is fat-soluble, after long-term supplementation at high levels, it may accumulate in tissues and can become toxic. Please talk to your health care provider before starting a vitamin D supplement to make sure the dose is right for you. You can also ask your doctor to check your vitamin D status on your next routine blood work.

3) Try botanical medicines, herbs like echinacea, goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and berberis. These herbs have potent anti-microbial properties and help increase the immune fighting cells in your body.

4) Take a high-quality probiotic daily. In a recent clinical trial, 57 schoolchildren were randomized to receive either a placebo or a professional grade probiotic plus vitamin C for six months. Children in the probiotic plus vitamin C group had 33 per cent less incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, a significant reduction in the duration of symptoms and also a 30 per cent decrease in the days absent from school (www.seroyal.com). Choose a probiotic with at least 12 billion CFU of live micro-organisms per serving and one that has been kept refrigerated.

While I have mentioned some general guidelines, naturopathic medicine is about treating the root cause and providing an individualized treatment plan. Please consult a qualified health care provider before starting any natural therapies to see if they are right for you.


Does echinacea prevent colds?

By Claudia Hammond

Echinacea is often advised for warding off the winter sniffles, says Claudia Hammond, but does it actually work?

If you find yourself about to go down with a cold this winter, the chances are that at some point a friend will suggest you take echinacea. Some swear by it to ward off a cold when they feel the first stirrings of a sore throat. Others take it once a cold is full-blown, in the hope that it will speed their recovery. Native Americans have long valued echinacea for its medical properties, but in the 20th Century its use spread to many countries after it became popular in Germany. In today’s health food shops ­ you can see dozens of different kinds of preparations. The question is, does it work?

Every couple of years a new study is published showing that echinacea either does or doesn’t reduce your risk of contracting a cold. Part of the reason for this mixed picture is that it comes in so many forms. Of the nine different species, all from the daisy family, there are three which are often used medicinally - the pinky-purple echinacea purpurea, the pale purple coneflower and the slightly shorter echinacea angustifolia. To complicate things more, some preparations use the root, others the flower, the leaves or the whole plant and then it can be pressed for its juice, made into a tincture or dried and put into tablets. Different research studies use different preparations, making them hard to compare.

No one is even agreed on exactly which ingredients in echinacea might prevent or aid recovery from a cold, or whether it’s the combination of ingredients that’s crucial. Echinacea contains four types of compounds which might boost the immune system: alkamides, glycoproteins, polysaccharides and caffeic acid derivatives, but not all these substances are found in every species of echinacea, nor in every part of the plant.

So does it make a difference to your chances of contracting a cold? After years of mixed results, in 2007 scientists at the University Of Connecticut in the US conducted a meta-analysis, combining and reanalysing the data from the 1600 participants in previous trials. The results seemed good news for echinacea fans, with newspapers proclaiming that supplements could halve your chances of getting a cold. The problem is that the plant is so versatile that the original studies involved not only different species of echinacea, but different parts of the plant, extracted in different ways. You could argue that this is like pooling the results of studies measuring different treatments, since chemically not every species of part of the plant is the same.

Full review

Then earlier this year came the most comprehensive review so far – a Cochrane review that scanned the literature and included only the very best studies. They looked for randomised controlled studies where people were given either echinacea or a placebo and neither they nor the staff administering the preparations knew which they were getting. From the 82 trials they assessed they ended up with 24 which fulfilled the criteria, mostly from the US and Germany. Still, they weren’t always convinced that the people wouldn’t guess what they were taking. One trial used capsules containing vegetable oil as a placebo. Another used the manufacturers’ own staff who might be familiar with the taste of their own product.

In some studies people were given echinacea and then deliberately exposed to a cold virus to see whether they became infected. In others, people had the echinacea on hand and were instructed to start taking it the moment they felt a tickle in their throat or starting sneezing.

Their results were slightly disappointing for those hoping to avoid colds in the future. They found that when you looked at these well-conducted trials, none of them showed on their own that echinacea prevented colds. But on a more positive note, when they pooled the results of the best studies, giving them a much larger group of people, those who took echinacea did turn out to be less likely to get a cold, even if only 10 to 20% less likely. The authors suggest that perhaps the reason that these effects didn’t show up in individual studies, is that they had such small numbers of people taking part in them. Of course with the pooled result there’s still the problem that the people in different studies took different forms of echinacea.

Immune trigger

We also need to bear in mind that these studies all excluded people with an underlying illness. Not everyone wants to boost their immune systems. A healthy immune system has been described to me as a dog on a lead that’s out in the park. It’s straining at the leash ready to shoot off at any moment if it can get free. You want it to keep on walking at a steady pace with you, not to break free and go rushing off too far. Similarly, you want the immune system to work reliably, but not to go too far. Auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis involve an immune system that has become too active and organisations such as the National Institute of Health in the US advise patients with these conditions not to take echinacea.

So the next time you feel your throat getting a bit sore and fear you’re going down with a cold, you could try taking some echinacea, but bear in mind no one yet knows exactly which kind you should take. And until they do, then on average there’s an 80-90% chance you will still get the cold. It might make a difference, but only a small one.


Growing Echinacea from Seed: The Importance of Cold Stratification

By Eron Drew (Tierra Garden Organics)

Where I live, the snow is rapidly melting, leaving behind a landscape that seems almost barren and asleep. However, for many native plants and quite a few garden perennials, it is this act of freezing and thawing that awakens them and actually increases their ability to survive and reproduce.

Cold stratification is the term used to describe this very basic need; the need for winter. Winter has the ability to soften the outer seed coat of some of nature’s toughest seeds through the action of freezing and thawing in a moist environment. For many plants that require stratification, this process can take up to 2 months and typically occurs between 34 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

During that time, the seed coat softens and embryonic growth is stimulated. Eventually, the embryo bursts through the softened coat and begins the process of germination.

For those of us who enjoy starting our own flowers, there are some classic perennials that require a period of cold stratification to increase germination. One example is Echinacea, a personal favorite of mine. Echinacea is a plant gifted with many benefits.

Most home herbalists are aware of its medicinal properties and gardeners love it for its beauty, low maintenance requirements and as a mid to late season nectar source for beneficial insects. For these reasons, Echinacea has a place in nearly every garden and farm. But purchasing mature Echinacea plants from a nursery can be expensive and often some of the most interesting varieties (rare or endangered native prairie Echinacea varieties have only been available in seed form recently) are not available commercially.

For these reasons, I started growing my own Echinacea from seed a number of years ago. In the beginning, I had mixed success. Without a period of cold stratification, the germination rate for this garden beauty can plummet to less than 30 percent. However, with stratification, it is possible to germinate nearly 100 percent of all Echinacea seeds that are started.

Cold is Good

Cold stratification is a process that is easily replicated at home in a controlled environment. After the seed is planted into a good quality potting mix, water thoroughly until the soil is completely saturated but no longer dripping out the bottom drain holes (I like to plant one seed per cell in a 78 cell container). Then, wrap the top of the container in clear plastic wrap and secure it loosely with duct tape. Put a piece of tape on the top of the plastic wrap with a label indicating both the date the seed was planted and the date that you are removing the container from cold stratification. Also include the name of the cultivar that was planted in the container if starting multiple varieties or species at the same time. Place the container onto a cookie sheet or nested in another hole-less tray that will catch any excess moisture and eliminate any dripping or mess.

When all of these steps are complete, slide the tray into a spare refrigerator (like the drink fridge you keep in the garage) and place a note on the outside door of the fridge with the date the seed was started and the date the tray should be removed from cold stratification. Typically, 30 days is enough stratification time for Echinacea.

Other species may take longer. During those 30 days, check on the container about once a week and make sure that the soil is still sufficiently moist. If need be, pull out the container and water thoroughly. This should only need to happen once in the 30 day period since the plastic wrap will help to retain soil moisture.

After the period of stratification has finished, pull the container out from the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and continue the seed starting ritual like usual including any heat mats or lighting that you typically use for your vegetable starts. For ensured success, follow the germination temperature guidelines specified on the seed packet. Temperature can be controlled by adding a thermostat onto your heat mat.

For those of us who like to collect seed heads from plants we already own or from native plants (ex: Balsam Root), an even easier hands-off approach is to take the saved seed (good quality, mature seed heads), plant it into a ½-gallon or similarly sized pot, place the pot in the shade outside your house for the summer and then water the pot intermittently over the fall and allow it to freeze and/or get snowed on over the winter.

Come spring, move the pot into a sunnier location and water regularly without overwatering. Take note of the rate of germination and experiment with overwintering your seeds in different locations around your yard to see if germination increases or decreases with location.

Cold stratification can be a lot of fun! With practice and persistence you will be able to grow more than enough Echinacea for your needs as well as those of your family and friends. Good luck and Happy Gardening.


Echinacea: A Common Medicinal for a Variety of Ailments

By Sean and Monica Mitzel (Sovereign Sonrise Permafarm)

Herbs are useful for more than just flavoring food. They can add nutrients to your diet including vitamins and minerals, help alleviate symptoms of a cold/flu, improve your immune system, and even reduce inflammation, stop bleeding, and heal minor burns/bee stings. Wildcrafting is a good way of gathering herbs that you may need. But a way to secure your herbal medicine cabinet is to learn to grow your own.

My last blog post was about mullein, which is something that grows prolifically in the wild and is great for making an oil to soothe ear aches/infections and also helping relieve chest congestion. Today, I’m going to cover another great herb that can be cultivated in your garden: Echinacea purpurea, or Purple Coneflower.

Echinacea as Medicinal Plant

A member of the Asteraceae family, this easy-to-grow plant is a native of North America. Its stalk will grow from 2-5 feet topped by a lovely lavender flower with brownish centers. Though it prefers moist soil it can also be found in dry prairies, and, once established, can do well even in drought conditions (which is great for gardeners!).

When planting this flower, choose a sunny spot — it does not do well in shade. The flower blooms in the summer and reseeds itself in the fall. This year I left the Echinacea in my garden alone to allow them to reseed for next year hoping to at least double my crop.

Echinacea has a rich history, used by several Native American tribes of North America for different purposes, the chief one being as an analgesic (it relieved fever, headaches, and provided pain relief). Echinacea is a natural remedy to turn to the next time you or a family member come down with a cold.

Adding this herb to your garden will allow you to be able to have it on hand when you need it. You can quickly whip up an infusion or, plan ahead a little, and make a tincture which allows the medicinal qualities to be preserved for use at anytime.

In the United States, we tend to rely more heavily on prescription medication, but that situation is different in Europe. For instance, in Germany, experts have deemed Echinacea a natural antibiotic, because it suppresses viral activities. Echinacea also contains phenols, flavonoids, copper, iron, iodine, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E.

These are some benefits of Echinacea:

• Alleviates symptoms of colds, coughs, flu, and upper respiratory conditions
• Soothes sore throat and enlarged lymph nodes
• Eases the symptoms of urinary tract infections
• Fights infections
• Strengthens the immune system by promoting T-cell activation (which may cause issues with people with auto-immune diseases)

Preparation: Using fresh is preferred since drying can decrease the medicinal potency, however you may dry it for use as an infusion if you desire.

Echinacea Tincture

Ingredients:

• 8 oz alcohol (I use Everclear but you can use vodka as well)
• 1 oz fresh flower/leaves/roots (only do this if you have a large stand since you are pulling the entire plant)
• Glass jar

Directions:

1. Check herb for bugs, remove any dirt, and chop plant parts (the more exposure to the alcohol the better).

2. Make sure the plant is completely covered by the alcohol and cover tightly.

3. Store in a cool, dark place for a minimum of two weeks (four weeks will create a stronger tincture). Shake the jar 1-3 times a day.

4. Strain through cheesecloth and store in an amber dropper jar, in a cool, dark location. For a stronger tincture you may change the herb: alcohol ratio from 1:8 to 1:4 but just make sure the herb is fully covered by the alcohol.

To use: For best results, take at the first sign of illness or if you know you’ve been exposed to illness. Take 15-30 ml three times a day. Do not take for more than 10 days in a row. Echinacea is NOT an everyday tonic, if you are wanting to support your immune system during the winter months, consider brewing up elderberry syrup instead.

This is NOT medical advice; this is for educational purposes only. You should always check with your doctor before trying any of these remedies.

Check out our online community for ways to help in your local food movement, learn about more medicinal herbs and much more. Sean and Monica are available for consulting work regarding property analysis and design, personal coaching and speaking engagements.


Echinacea: A Natural Remedy That Protects Your Immune System and Helps Prevent Colds

(Best Health)

Echinacea is an immune system booster that is used to prevent and treat colds

Echinacea is a plant-based natural remedy, most often used as a tincture to fight the viruses and bacteria that cause common colds.

Echinacea flowers are easy to grow and consist of a conical orange spiky head surrounded by pale pink to purple petals. Both the root and flower are used medicinally.

How to use echinacea

There are many echinacea preparations on the market’tinctures, powders, dried, teas and capsules. Along with being sold in various forms, different products use different parts of the plant and different species of Echinacea.

University of Connecticut researchers reviewed 5 echinacea studies and found that a liquid extract made from fresh, aboveground parts of the species E. purpurea consistently reduced chances for catching a cold. When using echinacea extract, follow the package directions carefully.

Skip this herb if you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds or daisies.

Do a freshness test

To find the best alcohol-based echinacea tincture’or to judge the freshness of one that’s been sitting in your medicine cabinet’put a drop on your tongue. A tingling or numbing sensation means you’ve got a winner. Scientists say the ‘tingle test’ reveals the presence of compounds called isobutylamides. Found in echinacea leaves, flowers and roots and in high-quality remedies, isobutylamides help white blood cells in the body engulf and destroy invading viruses and bacteria.

A brief history of echinacea

Before antibiotics, there was echinacea. This North American botanical was widely used by native peoples and settlers for colds, flu, wounds, sore gums and even venereal disease. It fell out of favour when bacteria-vanquishing sulpha drugs burst onto the scene in the middle of the twentieth century, but a German-led revival in the use of echinacea as a cure for the common cold has given this herb a prominent place in health food stores and newspaper headlines.

Modern studies and research on echinacea

Research in the 1990s suggested that echinacea could prevent colds and short-circuit sniffles, congestion and that run-down feeling you get if you do catch one. But many of those studies were sponsored by remedy manufacturers and not rigorously conducted, so scientists stepped in with better-designed experiments. Alas, the results were often ‘flatly negative,’ as one echinacea researcher from the University of Wisconsin-Madison described his own results.

In 2002, a pair of National Institutes of Health studies found that the dried roots of 2 species, E. purpurea and E. angustifolia, didn’t ease symptoms in adults and that E. purpurea juice didn’t help colds in kids, either.

A 2005 study at the University of Virginia, in which 437 brave volunteers agreed to have cold viruses dripped into their noses, sought to fix a fault critics found with the earlier study’namely that participants didn’t take echinacea ahead of time, as they might in the real world. In the new study, half the volunteers took echinacea for a week beforehand and half got a placebo. They all then spent 5 days in hotel rooms while scientists monitored their symptoms and immune system response. The verdict: echinacea was a dud; it didn’t help treat cold symptoms or improve immunity.

However, as the disappointing results mounted, herbalists began pointing out problems with the research. Higher doses or an alcohol extract of fresh echinacea flowers and leaves might have worked better. Starting to take the herbs sooner could have improved the outcome. After a University of Wisconsin study of 719 people with cold symptoms found no ‘statistically significant’ benefit for echinacea, the executive director of the nonprofit American Botanical Council pointed out that ‘echinacea products are not all alike.’

It was a valid point. Levels of active ingredients that seem to boost the immune system vary in different echinacea species and in different parts of the plant, and in fresh versus dried plants. Doses vary, too. That means the healing potential of different echinacea products may vary widely, as well. Underlining this, a 2007 University of Connecticut review of 14 echinacea studies found glimmers of hope. The researchers concluded that taking echinacea at the start of a cold could shorten its duration by 1.4 days, while taking it regularly during cold season could cut your risk for catching a cold in half.


The Many Health Benefits of Echinacea

(Green Living Ideas)

For hundreds of years people have been using the herb Echinacea as a way to cure various ailments. Whether it be to help build up the immune system, treat an urinary tract infection or remedy a skin condition, Echinacea comes in a variety of forms and can be used to treat an array of illnesses.

What is Echinacea?

Echinacea is a herbaceous flower that is used to make herbal supplements that can be taken orally, as well as liquid extracts or as a tea. Echinacea is alternatively known as the American cone flower, purple corn flower, comb flower, black Susan, black Sampson, hedgehog, Indian head, scurvy root, Kansas snakeroot and snakeroot.

Echinacea is an alternative form of medicine that people often use in place of traditional prescription drugs. However, it is important to realize that herbs are not green drugs- herbs are natural enhancers of various parts of the body and immune system, and do not consist of one “active” ingredient that serves a specific purpose.

Think of prescription drugs as a “quick fix” and herbs as long-term promoter of well-being and over-all health. Using herbs equals healthier, well-balanced bodies, and a healthier bodies equals a healthier and more well-balanced planet.

Health Benefits of Echinacea

Echinacea has long been known as the herb that boosts your over-all immune system and help ward off the common cold. While vaccines (such as flu shots) can be received in order to immunize against specific strands of viruses, Echinacea boosts the immune system in ways which are non-specific.

So, unlike antibiotics, which are designed to kill specific types of bacteria, Echinacea helps our own immune system better equipped to fighting bacteria, viruses and atypical cells– even cancer cells.

Some other uses for Echinacea include inflammatory relief due to skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It has also been known to stave off bronchitis, candida, herpes, and an assortment of other infections. Echinacea is also supposed to facilitate the quick healing of skin abrasions, as well as lessen symptoms and recovery time of viruses.

The next time you feel yourself coming down with a cold, experience a skin rash or cut open your hand from slamming it in the garage door, try Echinacea rather than automatically reaching for over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Not only will you save money in the long run, you will be helping humanity pave the way for a safe, healthy, non-toxic Earth.


9 Amazing Benefits Of Echinacea For Skin, Hair And Health

By Maanasi Radhakrishnan

Do you love to use old school natural remedies or herbal products instead of painting your body with cosmetics laced with harmful chemicals? Then here is your chance to add one more natural remedy to your list – The Echinacea!

The Echinacea is a generic name for all the nine species of the flowering plants that come from the daisy family. The Echinacea is a perennial shrub that is found in the central and eastern parts of North America. But this article is all about Echinacea Purpurea. This shrub bears beautiful purple flowers with long petals springing from the head that look a lot like a miniature version of sunflowers. The Echinacea is known for its herbal, antibiotic, anti-bacterial and healing properties. Want to know what magic Echinacea can work on your body?

Echinacea Benefits for Skin:

The Echinacea smells like honey and has a myriad of skin benefits. There are several branded products available in the market, such as anti-aging serums, moisturizing lotions and skin refreshers that are fortified with the goodness of Echinacea extracts.

1. Fights Acne:

Acne is the most common skin problem, especially among teens and young adults. Acne creams containing organic Echinacea extracts works like a magic on your face. It soothes the skin by bringing down the swelling of the skin tissues. It helps fight the acne-causing bacteria and provides freedom from acne in the long run.

2. Diminishes Wrinkles:

Overnight creams rich in Echinacea extracts have an amazing effect on fine lines and wrinkles. When used in time, it helps in reducing the appearance of wrinkles by up to 55%. Echinacea is rich in tannins, the substance that works like an astringent and has a shrinking effect on the skin cells. Isn’t it just incredible how a pretty flower can revive your skin’s youth?

3. Soothes the Scorching Skin:

Did your child skid off his bicycle and scratched his knees and elbows? Echinacea purpurea will work like a topical disinfectant on such wounds. It has an analgesic effect on irritated skin. If you have boils, small wounds, rash, burn or cut, you can apply dried Echinacea powder, tincture or cream on to the affected area. It will accelerate the healing process by promoting cellular regeneration. Echinacea works great for people with psoriasis and eczema as well. It reduces the inflammation and redness of the skin, thereby alleviating the discomfort.

Echinacea Benefits for Hair:

You can grow the Echinacea shrub in your yard but it is fairly difficult to incorporate it directly into your hair care routine. To get the best of this shrub, you can go for shampoos and serums fortified with its extract.

4. Promotes Hair Growth:

Echinacea helps control hair fall and promotes hair growth, making your hair feel fuller again. It does so by enhancing blood circulation to the scalp and strengthening the hair follicles.

5. Fights Dandruff:

Echinacea is known to be one of the best herbal anti-dandruff remedies. Its anti-microbial properties eliminate dandruff altogether when used over a period of time. Dandruff also causes itchy scalp and results into development of tiny bumps in the scalp due to scratching, which further worsens the irritation. Using Echinacea-based shampoo will not only provide relief from dandruff but also the resulting nuisance. People with psoriasis or eczema can benefit a lot from using shampoo containing Echinacea extract on their scalp.

6. For Lustrous Hair:

You can make your own hair-mask by mixing freshly extracted aloe vera gel, Echinacea tincture and some tea tree oil. It is the ultimate recipe for healthy hair. Aloe vera and tea tree oil will moisturize your hair while Echinacea will fight against bacteria that may result into dandruff and infections of the scalp. This hair-mask has a calming effect on your nerves and smells great too. Always remember, it is clean hair that has a healthy shine.

Echinacea Benefits for Health:

Given its medicinal properties, Echinacea has been used as a home remedy since several decades to treat medical conditions like cold, flu, sore throat and bacterial infections.

7. Combats the Cold and Flu:

Got a runny nose? Don’t you worry! Echinacea tincture is just the thing for you. A timely dose of Echinacea can reduce the duration of your condition. As soon as the symptoms of cold and flu begin to surface, a recommended dosage of Echinacea will do the trick. Echinacea for colds is beneficial, especially if you get cold due to bacterial infection.

8. Boosts Your Immune System:

Researchers have found that the highly active polysaccharides in Echinacea boost the synthesis of T-cells. The T-cells are responsible for fighting infections and protecting the body from attack of viruses and bacteria. Echinacea also increases the viability of white blood cells, keeping your immune system in top-notch condition.

9. Echinacea Supplements for Multiple Health Benefits:

Echinacea is also available in the form of supplements that can be taken orally. These supplements are proven effective against infections of the ear, urinary tract and upper respiratory system. Echinacea supplements provide substantial relief against the symptoms of hay fever, gingivitis, inflamed sinuses, painful throat, and inflamed lymph nodes.

Nutritional Value of Echinacea Plant:

The Echinacea roots and flowers are filled with nutrients as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial enzymes, which make it a special herb. Echinacea is rich in proteins, tannins, iron and copper content. It is loaded with vitamins A, C and E as well as fatty acids. Echinacea smells great because of the aromatic oils that it holds within itself. The polyacetylenes and polysaccharides are the chief ingredients that lend Echinacea its potent medicinal properties.

No wonder, Echinacea rose to popularity in the USA in the 1980s. Beauty products and medicines containing Echinacea extracts are safe to use. These herbal products are the best way to incorporate the goodness Echinacea in your beauty regimen, especially when it does not grow where you reside. However, some people may not respond well to Echinacea. It is advisable you talk to your doctor before using Echinacea, especially when you are considering consumption of Echinacea tincture or powder.

Go natural this summer – let nature heal your body and make it healthy again!


8 Benefits of Echinacea

  • Source:
(Sequoia)

Echinacea is an herbal supplement used to boost immune function. It’s useful for colds and upper respiratory infections, and it has been used as immune support by those undergoing cancer treatments. Here are some of the benefits of using echinacea.

1) Echinacea Can Help Prevent Sickness

Echinacea strengthens your immune system by stimulating the production of T-cells. It also increases the ability of your white cells to fend off pathogenic invaders.

A compound known as echinacein, found in echinacea, helps keep germs from penetrating healthy cells, so that viruses and bacteria don’t take hold in your body.

2) Echinacea Can Shorten the Symptoms of Illness

Even if you begin taking echinacea after you’re already sick, it can help to reduce your recovery time.

3) Echinacea May Be Used as a Topical Disinfectant

Echinacea helps protect your healthy cells from invasion by bacteria and viruses, even if you apply the herb topically. This means you can use it to keep cuts and scratches from getting infected. Not only will it keep the wound from getting infected, but it will speed the healing process. When used externally as a topical disinfectant, echinacea also has analgesic properties.

4) Echinacea is a Powerful Treatment

Echinacea is known to be particularly effective in speeding the recovery process of a number of common illnesses. Some illnesses against which echinacea supplements may be particularly effective include:

• Urinary tract infection
• Sore throat pain
• Enlarged lymph glands
• Upper respiratory infection
• Enlarged prostate
• Vaginal yeast infections
• Bronchitis
• Hay fever
• Sinusitis
• Ear infections
• Gingivitis
• Canker sores

5) Echinacea May Benefit Psoriasis and Eczema

When applied topically to breakouts of psoriasis and eczema, echinacea has been shown to be an effective treatment.

6) Echinacea is Good for Slow-Healing Wounds

Topically applied, echinacea can dramatically speed wound healing, so it’s often used for the treatment of slow-healing wounds. It also helps to relieve the pain of the wound and can protect slow-healing wounds from infection. Echinacea is also frequently used as a hemorrhoid remedy, and is often added to over-the-counter hemorrhoid medications.

7) Echinacea Helps Heal Sunburn

When applied topically to sunburns, echinacea’s healing properties help speed the recovery process.

8) Echinacea Helps Resolve Recurrent Infections

Echinacea is particularly effective in helping to resolve recurring infections, such as ear infections. When used for a few weeks, echinacea’s immune-boosting compounds accumulate in the body, making its immune-boosting effects cumulative.

However, echinacea can lose its effectiveness over time, and may ultimately damage your immune system by inhibiting the production of T-cells if you make it a permanent part of your health routine. It might not be a good idea to use echinacea supplements in any form, including tea, daily for longer than eight consecutive weeks.


Echinacea:The Art of Tincturing

By Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox

We cultivate the echinaceas because they are handsome perennial-flowering plants that add height and color to our gardens and show off their splendid coneheads throughout the summer and into the fall. Butterflies and birds are attracted to these pink, purple, pale lavender, white, and yellow coneflowers. After the flowering season, when the plants go dormant in the colder weather, we reap the health benefits of echinacea by harvesting the roots and making our own tinctures. This is not difficult to do, and it is both rewarding and fulfilling work. We feel that making tinctures from our own organically grown plants is the best medicine possible.

Health benefits

Echinacea has been used medicinally for centuries by Native Americans to combat many ailments. Echinacea stimulates the immune system and its antiviral activities help fight colds and flu, as well as promote the healing of infections.

Our personal experience over many years of using the tincture has been that echinacea keeps us healthier; we find it helps us to avoid colds and flu, that it decreases the duration and severity of these symptoms, and it helps our bodies fight infections. We take echinacea tincture during the cold and flu season, at the first signs of a cold, or when we are fighting an infection, and especially when we travel and are around large groups of people. We also apply the tincture topically to inflammations such as hangnails, bug bites, and toothaches.

Persons with impaired immune systems should avoid using immunostimulants. Also, because echinacea is a member of the aster/daisy family (which ragweed is a relative), some individuals may be allergic to it.

Cultivating echinacea

Of the nine species of echinacea, we tincture Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) and E. pallida (pale purple coneflower). Closely related to E. pallida and also known as pale purple coneflower is E. simulata, which would be an easy third choice for herb gardeners in the regions of the Ozark Mountains (to which it is endemic). E. paradoxa (yellow coneflower) is simply too rare and beautiful to dig up and tincture. E. angustifolia (narrow-leaved purple coneflower) is native to dry prairies and struggles in areas with high humidity. E. tennesseensis (Tennessee purple coneflower) and E. laevigata (smooth coneflower) are listed on the federal endangered species list. Other rare species include E. atrorubens, which grows in eastern Kansas and Oklahoma, and E. sanguinea, which is found in Louisiana and eastern Texas, with one population in southwestern Arkansas.

E. purpurea is easy to grow in most garden soils and blooms all summer in our gardens. The leaves are oval-shaped and coarsely toothed. Long purple rays (petals) stand out from the cone and droop only slightly. The cone has bright orange bristles at the top. These plants can take full sun or partial shade; they self-sow and reproduce easily from division during the dormant season. The seed does not require a moist chilling period (stratification) to germinate. Purchased seed can be planted in the late summer or fall to mimic nature’s timing. Ripe seed from your own garden plants can be shaken out of the cones as soon as they are mature and loose in the heads. Otherwise, the finches will plant for you as they feed on the protein-rich seeds.

E. pallida is native to prairies and glades from Arkansas to Wisconsin, eastern Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. It has a shorter but earlier bloom time than E. purpurea. The flowers appear from May to June in Zone 6 gardens such as ours and are finished by July. The flowers stand on tall stems. The rays are pale purple to white and are longer than E. purpurea and droop down from the cone. The leaves are also longer than E. purpurea and are lance-shaped, coarse, and hairy. E. pallida likes full sun but will tolerate light shade. It prefers rather poor, rocky soils and excellent drainage. This plant may be grown from seed or division. The seed will germinate best with a cold, damp conditioning period of four to six weeks or when planted in the fall. Fresh dry seeds, harvested and planted just as the seeds become loose in the cone, germinate the very best. E. pallida has thick taproots.

Harvesting echinacea

Most E. pallida and E. angustifolia commercial tinctures have been made with wild-crafted plants. There is concern for the declining wild populations of these plants because of the global demand for echinacea products. In cultivating these two echinacea species in the field, there ­are some promising new developments. Fortunately, most of the plants used to make E. purpurea tincture are cultivated. When buying echinacea tincture, we look for organically grown E. purpurea tincture.

As herbal consumers, we can participate in the conservation of native populations of echinacea by growing our own plants and making our own tinctures. Making herbal remedies is as grounding and fulfilling as growing our own food. We want to make our own echinacea tincture from the plants in our herb gardens because we can have our plants and our tincture, too.

Leaves and flowers can be selectively pruned and tinctured in the summer. This practice prolongs blooming and increases the air circulation around the plant. The plant should be in its second year of growth so that it has had a chance to establish a good root system. With a light hand and the intent to leave the plant in good shape, harvest flowering stems as if you were making a bouquet. Cut the stem above a node (which is a place on a stem where leaves or other stems emerge) or at the crown (which is the point at the base of a plant where the stem and root meet).

As echinacea ages, clumps are formed with new plants sprouting around the original plant. The oldest plants in the clump may decline as the younger vigorous plants compete for nutritional resources. Dividing the clumps regenerates the plants and gives a perfect opportunity to harvest the roots for tincture. For tincturing, we choose echinacea plants that are at least three years old.

We harvest echinacea roots by digging a circle 11/2 to 2 feet out from the drip line of the plant. Then we sink a garden spading fork (a shovel works, too) deeply into the soil, and lean back on the tool handle to gently lift the root ball. The roots grow deep and wide. The idea is to harvest as much root as possible.

Keep the tops of the plants intact with the roots so that the echinacea will be easy to identify from the roots of neighboring plants. Tracing the roots from the crown is a sure way to learn the differences in underground parts.

Shake and massage the soil and unwanted plant roots from the clump. This is a good time to kill a few weeds. Leave as much soil as possible in the garden.

Preparing the roots

Once harvested, we carefully separate the plants in the clump. First, we decide which new shoots to put aside for replanting and carefully trim away the roots for tincture, leaving enough for the crown of the plant to survive. Then we trim roots from the crowns that we will replant. Once this is done, it is important to loosely wrap the plants and crowns in damp paper towels and put them into plastic bags so that they don’t dry out. They will keep this way, for a few days if necessary, until we can replant them. However, we like to get them back into the earth as soon as possible (see “Replanting the crowns” on page 27 for more information).

Next comes the washing process. Scrub larger roots with a brush and rinse and rub the thinner, fibrous roots to be sure to remove any grit. Place all of the washed roots in a colander to drain.

Separate the larger roots from the finer ones. A heavy-duty sharp knife and wooden cutting board are essential for chopping the large, thick, hard stems. Slice big roots crosswise into rounds (as if cutting carrots) and then chop them into smaller pieces. Once chopped, put them aside and chop the finer roots coarsely.

Making the tincture

We use a large pharmaceutical porcelain mortar and pestle to pound the echinacea roots. Begin with the larger root pieces, using the pestle to crush them. This takes a little bit of time, but it is pleasant work. Once the hard woody pieces are pretty well mashed, remove them and add the smaller chopped roots. Make a mash out of these and then combine all of the roots. Add a little of the menstruum (see below) to the roots, to help with the pounding, if necessary.

A menstruum is the liquid used to extract the soluble principles from the herbs or roots. It can be alcohol, vinegar, or vegetable glycerin for a nonalcoholic tincture. We use 90- or 100-proof vodka, which provides the proper ratio of water to alcohol. A combination of both alcohol (at least 25 percent) and water is needed to extract all of the constituents from the herbs. If we use Everclear, which is a pure-grain alcohol at 190 proof, we dilute it with half distilled water. You can use another alcohol such as rum or gin, if you prefer.

Measure and transfer the pounded root into a clean glass jar with a plastic lid. The ratio of echinacea root to menstruum is 1 to 2. If there is 1 cup of root, add 2 cups of menstruum. Put the lid on the jar and label it with the date.

Leave (macerate) the tincture for two to six weeks, or longer if you like, in a cool, dark place. We prefer to leave our tinctures for the longer amount of time. Shake the tincture twice daily, in the morning and the evening. Aboveground tinctures (leaves, flowers, and/or stems) should only be infused for forty-eight hours, because the beneficial compounds begin to break down.

When your tincture is ready, strain it through a strainer lined with fine cheesecloth (we find that a yogurt cheese maker is ideal for this). Mash down on the roots to extract every last bit of essence from them.

Tincture should be stored in dark glass bottles in a cool place, away from light. We save bottles for this purpose and pick up new rubber droppers at the health-food store (rubber on old droppers tends to disintegrate with age). Be sure to label your tinctures and date them.

Echinacea tincture can be taken straight by the dropperful or diluted in water. Or its earthy, rather medicinal taste can be disguised in fruit juice.

Replanting the crowns

After making your tincture, you can put the echinacea crowns back in your garden (see “Preparing the roots” on page 26 for more information). First, take the crowns to a sunny place in the garden. Dig a hole 4 inches deep by 12 inches in diameter for each plant. Remove any weeds, especially the roots of perennial grasses. Break up dirt clods. Replace enough prepared soil in the hole to set the crown on so that the top surface of the plant is slightly above the top surface of the soil in the rest of the bed.

Pour a little water in around the crown to settle the soil and remove air pockets. Add more soil under the crown if it settles into the hole too deeply. Spread the plant roots out from the center of the plant. Pull the remainder of the soil around the roots. Your goal is to plant the crown so that it is at the same ground level as it was before you dug it up to harvest the roots—not too deep and not too shallow. Water around the plant and check that there are no roots sticking up above the soil.

Check back in a day or two and after rains to be sure that the roots are still under the ground. Water weekly during dry periods for six weeks or so.


How to Make Herbal Soap: Echinacea Soap

By Mar Gómez

Learn how to make herbal soap with disinfecting qualities with this echinacea soap recipe.

In The Best Natural Homemade Soaps (Robert Rose, 2014), Mar Gómez offers 40 recipes for simple luxurious soaps based on three essential ingredients: water, olive oil and caustic soda. Gómez adds a number of natural ingredients like beeswax, cocoa butter, essential oils and herbal infusions to help you customize a soap that’s perfect for you, and each soap recipe is introduced with the history and therapeutic uses of the distinctive ingredient. The following recipe is for echinacea soap.

Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) is an herb that grows wild in the grasslands of North America, but it can also be grown in your own garden.

It is well known in herbal medicine because it helps the body’s immune system quite effectively. The roots and entire plant are taken in powder form, extracts or tinctures, and, to a lesser extent, in infusions or decoctions. Externally, echinacea has a certain antibiotic effect. It acts as a fungicide, bactericide and inhibitor of viral growth.

Native Americans placed echinacea on wounds to prevent them from getting infected and to accelerate the healing process. Settlers to North America learned of the plant’s properties from the natives, but in time attributed new qualities to echinacea that had not been demonstrated previously. In fact, settlers used the plant to treat syphilis and gonorrhea.

After some years, people stopped having faith in echinacea. In the second half of the 20th century, however, its true properties were rediscovered, including its action as a barrier plant against fungi, viruses and bacteria, both on the skin and in the immune system. Echinacea Soap Recipe

• 7.5 oz mineral water
• 3 oz lye (caustic soda)
• 1.5 lbs extra virgin olive oil
• 0.35 oz beeswax
• A handful of echinacea flower petals (optional)
• 0.07 oz echinacea essential oil

1. Wearing gloves and goggles, pour mineral water into a large saucepan. Add lye slowly, stirring gently until it is dissolved. Do not splash the lye onto your body, as it can cause severe burns.

2. Using a thermometer, monitor the temperature of the lye mixture until it is between 120 degrees F and 140 degrees F.

3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat olive oil to between 120 degrees F and 140 degrees F, stirring in beeswax slowly.

4. Remove olive oil mixture from heat. Add lye mixture to olive oil mixture, stirring slowly and trying not to splash.

5. Stir occasionally, every 15 minutes or so, until the mixture thickens and congeals. (It will have a texture similar to that of light mayonnaise.)

6. Stir in echinacea petals (if using) and essential oil. Stir for 1 minute with a spoon (or with a whisk, taking care not to create any foam).

7. Pour into a greased or paper-lined soap mold. Gently tap mold to remove any air bubbles.

8. Cover with a blanket or towel and let stand for 2 days. Uncover and let stand for an additional day if the mold is very large.

9. Turn soap out of mold. Wait another day, then cut into bars as desired.

10. Dry bars for 1 month, turning occasionally to ensure they are drying uniformly. Fun Facts About Echinacea

• Echinacea’s strength as an immune-system booster has been known for a very long time. At organic stores, echinacea soap is sold for its disinfecting abilities.
• There are nine species and two subspecies of echinacea, and all grow only in the grasslands of North America. Three of them stand out for their health-enhancing properties: Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea pallida.

Echinacea Soap's Action on the Skin

• Echinacea can play a major role as an antiseptic for treating wounds, acne, boils or any other type of external attack on the skin.
• Echinacea promotes tissue regeneration and scar formation at the site of an injury. There have been rare cases of allergies with severe itching reported, so test the soap on a small area first.

Herbs for Health: The Health Benefits of Echinacea

By Steven Foster

A few weeks ago, as I flipped through a copy of USA Today while flying home from New York, I was surprised to discover a full-page ad for an echinacea product. When a reporter from the National Public Radio science desk called the same week looking for information on echinacea as a dietary supplement, I knew that echinacea had come of age as a popular medicinal herb.

Echinacea has become the decade’s best-selling herb in U.S. health-food stores.

Once an obscure plant whose name few could pronounce, echinacea has become the decade’s best-selling herb in U.S. health-food stores. By stimulating the body’s immune system to work more effectively, echinacea wards off colds and flu if taken when symptoms first appear and speeds healing of existing infections.

Three Medicinal Species

Echinacea is not just one plant but a genus of nine species native to central North Amer­ica. Three species, Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, and (to a lesser extent) E. pallida, are used in commercial herb products.

• E. purpurea , a favorite garden perennial with its brilliant late-summer display of large purple daisies on 3- to 4-foot stalks, was introduced into En­glish gardens as early as 1699 and has been under cultivation ever since. Unlike the other echinaceas, this species has a fibrous root instead of a taproot. The leaves are oval, tapering to a sharp point, with irregular teeth. It is the most widespread species of echinacea in North America, although not the most abundant, occurring in moist soils in woods, at edges of thickets and prairies, and near springs, often as a solitary plant or in small populations.

• E. angustifolia was the first species of echinacea to be marketed as a medicinal product (in 1895). The herb contains compounds that produce a numbing sensation on the tongue, which some herbalists view as evidence of its medicinal superiority over the other species. Smaller than other echinacea species, growing from 6 to 20 inches high with ray flowers no longer than 1 1/2 inches, it occurs in dry prairies and barrens in the western parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa north to Canada and west to eastern Colorado and Montana; the graves of Custer’s soldiers at Little Bighorn are dotted with these colorful plants.

Most of the commercial supply of E. angustifolia is still harvested from the wild, raising concerns that populations may be depleted or destroyed as its popularity grows. However, large-scale commercial cultivation has begun in a number of prairie states, as well as in Washington and the province of Ontario in an effort to meet the growing demand.

• E. pallida is like a large version of E. angustifolia., standing 16 to 36 inches tall with long, slender, entire leaves. Its drooping ray flowers (“petals”) may be as long as 5 inches. E. pallida occurs in glades, prairies, fields, rock outcrops, and roadsides from northeastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma, and Kansas north to Iowa and Wisconsin and east to Indiana. Most interest in this species as a source of medicine comes from Europe.

As to which of the three species is most effective in stimulating the immune system, I believe that high-quality preparations of all three are probably equally good. E. purpurea has been the most researched species while E. angustifolia has the best-documented history of clinical use.

Echinacea Uses In Europe

Until the 1930s, most echinacea products were made from E. angustifolia—or E. pallida mistakenly gathered as E. angustifolia. Supply shortages late in the decade brought a leading German manufacturer of echinacea products to the United States in search of seeds. He bought what he thought were E. angustifolia seeds from a Chicago seed company, but the resulting plants turned out to be E. purpurea. He eventually made products from them anyway. As a result, most of the scientific research conducted on echinacea in Europe since then has involved products made with E. purpurea.

Although echinacea products sold in the United States must be labeled as dietary supplements, in Germany they have long been sold over the counter as nonspecific immune-system stimulants. The more than 300 echinacea products available in Germany come in tablet, capsule, extract, tincture, salve, and ointment form as well as injectable echinacea for use by physicians to treat more serious ailments. German pediatricians are so convinced of echinacea’s effectiveness that they recommend it almost daily. How Echinacea Works

No single chemical has been found responsible for echinacea’s ability to stimulate the immune system; in fact, whole-plant extracts seem to be more effective than those containing an isolated compound. Certain polysaccharides, flavonoids, ­essential oils, caffeic acid derivatives, isobutylamides, and ­cichoric acid all may play a role in producing echinacea’s effects.

Extracts from both the root and the flowering tops increase the number of white blood cells and activate macrophages, specialized cells that patrol the bloodstream in search of invading viruses, bacteria, or other foreign particles to ingest. Echinacea extracts also increase levels of properdin, a protein that battles bacteria and viruses.

Grow It And Use Echinacea

Echinaceas thrive in full sun or part shade and moist soil in Zones 3 through 9. Plants live for many years with little care. You don’t have to destroy them to harvest them for medicinal use.

I make a tea with the flowering tops of E. purpurea. Simply pluck a flower, chop it finely, and place the pieces in a tea bag or nonreactive strainer. Pour water over the mass and steep, covered, for 15 minutes. To dry the flower heads for later use, lay them on a screen or tray and place it in a dark place with good air circulation.

Clinical Evidence

Two double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies, both conducted in Germany in 1992, support the use of echinacea products to fight colds and flu. In one, involving 180 participants, those receiving the equivalent of 900 mg per day of the dried root of E. purpurea for 10 days fared significantly better than those receiving either half that dose or a placebo.


How to grow echinacea

By CHRISTINE RUSH

Have you been battling colds this whole winter long? Are you in regular close contact with children, also known as walking Petri dishes of disease? Or are you the colleague who sits as far as is professionally possible from someone like me (one tick for months of minor illnesses, two ticks for the bug-bearing infants)?

If so – and let's face it, that applies to a fair number of Kiwis – then your immune system could need a little bolstering. Echinacea has long been the No 1 herb New Zealanders turn to when warding off winter bugs. (Sleep, exercise and a fruit-and-vege-filled diet have their part to play too, of course.)

According to Richard Whelan, a Christchurch-based medical herbalist, echinacea is a potent tonic for the immune system – especially when the root is dried, ground and used in high doses, as did the Indians of the American Great Plains, from whence echinacea originates.

Many people have urged me to take echinacea over the years, but the scientifically-minded sceptic in me has resisted. If you're like me, then consider Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst's book on alternative medicine, Trick or Treatment? (Corgi, 2009). These scientists reported that compared to homeopathy or chiropractic, a number of herbal medicines have sound research-based evidence that backs up their efficacy. And when used for the treatment and prevention of common cold, echinacea was among the handful of herbs that received the top rating. (Other herbs that rated well included garlic for lowering cholesterol, kava for anxiety and St John's wort for depression.)

But Whelan says such evidence-based trials, while supportive of echinacea, are somewhat missing the point: "People who get colds and flus do so because their immunity is run down. Nature's healing power does not lie in helping a person to stop needing to take care of themselves – but in how it helps you to build up a stronger immune system whilst you address what it is that has caused you to get sick in the first place."

These endorsements would come as no surprise to our ancient foremothers, who treated a whole host of conditions and ailments with herbs. Plant-based remedies, or phytotherapy, is still common in many parts of the developing world. And plants are at the heart of modern pharmaceuticals too, being used or their chemicals synthesised to create everything from aspirin to quinine.

My local health food store has echinacea in both capsule and tincture forms. The latter was being sold either as a Echinacea angustifolia and E. purpurea combo, or combined with goldenseal, which is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. I shall start taking echinacea this week.

HOW TO GROW

Jane Wrigglesworth edits the Herb Federation of NZ newsletter and writes a monthly herbs feature for NZ Gardener magazine. She says only three of the nine species of this herb are used for medicinal purposes: Echinacea purpurea, the most common here, known as purple coneflower, as well as E. angustifolia and E. pallida.

Coneflower is a popular perennial, and its nodding, hot-pink flowers thrive in full sun and especially suit prairie-style planting. Breeders have managed to produce more upright or even double cultivars, in colours ranging from peach to yellow.

They're a rich source of nectar for bees and butterflies too.

Deadheading will encourage another flush of flowering but, if you can't be bothered, don't worry: even after the petals drop, the flower heads provide structural interest, and look fantastic dusted with frost.

If you'd like to try using them medicinally, dig up the roots of established plants, wash and chop them, then make a tincture.

Valmai Becker, a medical herbalist and former director at the Canterbury College of Natural Medicine, grows a range of herbs, including Echinacea purpurea on her "Phytofarm" in Banks Peninsula. She has grown Echinacea angustifolia in the past but alas, it was dug out by an over-enthusiastic volunteer.

She adds: "Angustifolia is much harder to grow and really does not cope with the strong grasses in New Zealand, so needs to be kept weed free to thrive." She is aiming to raise another batch from seed, which can be difficult to source. "Having seeds is one thing – germination is typically difficult with a low strike rate, but I'll see how I go."

Echinacea purpurea seeds are widely available, but need stratifying at low temperature (for example, in the fridge) for 7-10 days.

As to which of the three species is most effective in stimulating the immune system, I believe that high-quality preparations of all three are probably equally good. E. purpurea has been the most researched species while E. angustifolia has the best-documented history of clinical use.

Echinacea Uses In Europe

Until the 1930s, most echinacea products were made from E. angustifolia—or E. pallida mistakenly gathered as E. angustifolia. Supply shortages late in the decade brought a leading German manufacturer of echinacea products to the United States in search of seeds. He bought what he thought were E. angustifolia seeds from a Chicago seed company, but the resulting plants turned out to be E. purpurea. He eventually made products from them anyway. As a result, most of the scientific research conducted on echinacea in Europe since then has involved products made with E. purpurea.

Although echinacea products sold in the United States must be labeled as dietary supplements, in Germany they have long been sold over the counter as nonspecific immune-system stimulants. The more than 300 echinacea products available in Germany come in tablet, capsule, extract, tincture, salve, and ointment form as well as injectable echinacea for use by physicians to treat more serious ailments. German pediatricians are so convinced of echinacea’s effectiveness that they recommend it almost daily.

How Echinacea Works

No single chemical has been found responsible for echinacea’s ability to stimulate the immune system; in fact, whole-plant extracts seem to be more effective than those containing an isolated compound. Certain polysaccharides, flavonoids, ­essential oils, caffeic acid derivatives, isobutylamides, and ­cichoric acid all may play a role in producing echinacea’s effects.

Extracts from both the root and the flowering tops increase the number of white blood cells and activate macrophages, specialized cells that patrol the bloodstream in search of invading viruses, bacteria, or other foreign particles to ingest. Echinacea extracts also increase levels of properdin, a protein that battles bacteria and viruses.

Grow It And Use Echinacea

Echinaceas thrive in full sun or part shade and moist soil in Zones 3 through 9. Plants live for many years with little care. You don’t have to destroy them to harvest them for medicinal use.

I make a tea with the flowering tops of E. purpurea. Simply pluck a flower, chop it finely, and place the pieces in a tea bag or nonreactive strainer. Pour water over the mass and steep, covered, for 15 minutes. To dry the flower heads for later use, lay them on a screen or tray and place it in a dark place with good air circulation.

Clinical Evidence

Two double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies, both conducted in Germany in 1992, support the use of echinacea products to fight colds and flu. In one, involving 180 participants, those receiving the equivalent of 900 mg per day of the dried root of E. purpurea for 10 days fared significantly better than those receiving either half that dose or a placebo.

The other study evaluated the severity of colds and flu symptoms in 108 individuals with compromised immune systems (as shown by abnormally low blood T-cell ratios). Those in the treatment group, who had received 2 to 4 ml per day of the expressed fresh juice of E. purpurea tops for eight weeks, had fewer and briefer infections with milder symptoms than those receiving a placebo.

A recent review of twenty-six controlled clinical studies of echinacea found that twenty involved herbs such as wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) and white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) in addition to echinacea. Only six studies evaluated echinacea alone, either as the root (E. angustifolia and E. purpurea) or juice from the flowering tops (E. purpurea). The authors concluded that although echinacea seems to be an effective immunostimulant, more and better-designed studies are needed to identify the most effective part(s) to use as well as optimal methods of preparation and appropriate dosage.

The governmental agency responsible for regulating herb use in Germany, Commission E, cautions that people with diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, lupus erythematosus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and other diseases of the immune system refrain from taking echinacea. People who are allergic to ragweed or other members of the aster family (Compositae) may also be allergic to echinacea and thus should avoid it.


6 Healthy Herbs You Can Add to Your Tea

By Christina Rose

Charge up your iced tea with common herbs and plants to boost your health and immune system, and help you ward off colds and flus, cramps, stomach ailments, and more. Add them to iced or hot tea for a refreshing and healthy beverage.

All of the ingredients below have a history of being used for healing purposes. According to chef Nephi Craig, White Mountain Apache and Navajo, “Pre-contact, we were expert farmers, hunters, gatherers, fishermen and cooks.”

While these herbs could be bought at a health food store, there is a reason to forage for them. Tom Seymour, author of Foraging New England: Edible Wild Food And Medicinal Plants, said that in every instance, wild plants are more nutritious than cultivated plants. Wild plants grow on soil of their own choosing, rather than cultivated plants, which are forced to grow where they are put, he said.

There are thousands of different plants that will yield a delicious and healthy tea. Here are some of the most highly recognizable. Ask your elders if you are curious about more. Also, make sure all plants are gathered from an area that has not been exposed to pesticides or toxic chemicals. If you plan on storing the plants, be certain they are completely dry or they will mold.

Mint is refreshing and has many medicinal qualities. Crush a few fresh or dried leaves and add hot water. Let steep for a few minutes, then add honey or drink plain. Drink hot or pour it over ice for a refreshing iced tea. Medical News Today celebrates mint for its abundant antioxidants. Another article on Organic Facts states that mint aids digestion and stomach discomfort, reduces fevers, and has a multitude of other uses.

Rose Hips

According to Herb Wisdom, rose hips contain 50 percent more vitamin C than an orange, and enough vitamin A to heal scars from acne and burns, and are believed to prevent cancer and heart disease. A few weeks after the petals have fallen off the rose, a tart, round fruit, appears. Nibble them right from a wild rosebush or crush and boil them, then strain them for tea.

Echinacea

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, recognizes the use of echinacea. An article on their website states, “the Kiowa chewed ground roots for coughs and sore throats, the Cheyenne chewed roots for colds or took infusions of leaves and roots for sore mouth and throat, and the Choctaw made a tincture of it as a cough remedy.”

Many tribes also chew the root to alleviate toothaches and infections. Seymour called echinacea an immune system stimulant, and suggested using the leaves and petals for tea, so the plant’s root is preserved. “Wait until September. That is when the plant is at its most powerful. Pick a few leaves and a few petals, and air dry them in a large basket. When they are good and dry, put them in a jar. When I want some echinacea tea, I use a teaspoon of the dried stuff. Just add boiling water,” Seymour said.

Raspberry

Raspberry leaves are known to sooth some of the discomforts of pregnancy and menstruation. Boil crumbled, fresh leaves when the plant is flowering, or dry them and store them for the winter. The tea is plain, so add some mint and raspberries for flavor.

Katsi Cook, Mohawk, of the Indigenous Women's Network, said raspberries and leaves are rich in iron and contain phosphorus, potassium, magnesium—all of which assist in organ health, and in particular, women’s reproductive organs. During labor and after childbirth, raspberry tea eases contractions and reduces the chance of hemorrhage. Raspberry tea also enriches a mother's milk supply. Mix the leaves with mint and add honey for flavor.


Attractive echinacea a natural remedy

By Sabrina Hahn (The West Australian)

Echinacea has been revered as a medicinal plant for centuries for its capacity to boost the immune system and purify the blood.

I don’t think there was a single medical condition that wasn’t treated with a tincture, compress, poultice or tea made from various parts of the plant in the 19th century.

Commonly known as the purple coneflower, echinacea makes an attractive addition to the garden and is handy to have around for a cup of herbal infusion. It is a fast-growing perennial that has masses of purple daisy-like flowers throughout autumn. You can see how they are related to the sunflower family with similar shaped flowers.

GARDENING WITH SABRINA HAHN FRENCH TARRAGON GERALDTON WAX CLASSIC COREOPSIS FLOWER VINCAS

There are a few new varieties where plant breeders have crossed E. purpurea with E. angustifolia and E. paradoxa to get different-shaped petals and colours. Echinacea flowers range from crimson to white, yellow, gold and pink and burgundy. The old-fashioned echinacea grows to about 1m in height, but the newer varieties only grow to 60cm.

Once established, echinacea is very hardy and suits dappled light or morning sun. It attracts bees, butterflies and other nectar and pollen-feeding insects, and makes a great cut flower, lasting for a couple of weeks in a vase.

I like echinacea mass-planted along with other bright coloured perennials, such as coreopsis, rudbeckia and salvias. The old-fashioned taller varieties lend themselves well to a meadow mixed planting scheme. They also fit in with vegies and other herbs, bringing pollinators to your patch.

Echinacea can be divided up and shared among friends or to fill in gaps in the garden. When they finish flowering, cut them down to near ground level, dig up the clumps and divide them up.

If you want them to mass flower, liquid fertilise when they shoot away in spring and use a mineral-based fertiliser at the start of summer. As with all things green, add some organic matter into the soil with compost and manure.

Echinacea angustifolia and E. pallida are the two species that are used for therapeutic purposes, so don’t expect much from the new hybrids. There is not much scientific evidence on the restorative nature of echinacea, but you will find many uses for the plant in herbal medicine books.


Largest ever clinical study into echinacea finds herbal remedy CAN protect against colds

By Leon Watson

The herbal remedy echinacea can prevent colds and is of most benefit to people who are prone to them, according to the largest ever clinical study of the herbal medicine.

Researchers found that taking three daily doses of the common remedy for four months reduced the number of colds.

The duration of the illness suffered by patients also went down by an average of 26 per cent.

According to the results of tests on 750 people, the treatment also cut the number of recurrent colds suffered by those with weak immune systems or a history of catching several bouts each year by 60 per cent.

Several previous studies, including an overview of evidence by the highly respected Cochrane Library, had suggested that echinacea could soothe symptoms and cut colds short, but there was only limited evidence it could prevent the illness from ever taking hold.

The most recent major paper into the therapy, by the American College of Physicians, had found that it did not prevent colds or significantly reduce the length or severity symptoms.

But the new study by experts from the Cardiff University Common Cold Centre suggested that taking Echinaforce, a common form of the herb extract, could not only reduce the risk of colds but reduce the amount of paracetamol patients took while ill.

The research, which was part-funded by A. Vogel, the Swiss manufacturers of Echinaforce, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

It was primarily designed to test the safety of the treatment, and found that it caused no adverse sideeffects in the participants, who were all over the age of 18.

The MHRA, the British drugs regulator, warned parents earlier this year that Echinacea should not be given to children under 12 because of the risk of 'severe' allergic reactions including rashes and swelling of the mouth and tongue.

Echinacea is extracted from the Eastern Purple Coneflower, which is found in North America, and has long been used as a herbal remedy for the common cold.

It is purported to work by fighting viruses, which cause up to 95 per cent of all colds and flu, and studies suggest it can also boost weak immune systems if swallowed.

Patients mixed 25 drops of Echinaforce or a placebo with water and held it in their mouths for 10 seconds before swallowing it, three times per day over a four month period.

Those who took the treatment suffered 149 bouts of illness compared with 188 in the placebo group, a difference described by researchers as 'borderline significant', but the total number of days spent with flu was reduced from 850 to 672, a 'highly significant' change.

Recurring infections were cut from 100 episodes in 43 patients to 65 episodes in 28 patients, a difference of 59 per cent, the authors wrote.

Roland Schoop, a medical researcher for Bioforce, the British arm of A. Vogel, and one of the study's authors, told the Daily Telegraph: 'We were actually pretty amazed when we found this 26 per cent difference in cold episodes.'

University of London researcher Dr Margaret Richie, who was not involved in the study, added: 'The clinical trial indicates that echinacea supports low-running immune systems but does not overstimulate well-supported ones.'


Ask An Adult: Does Echinacea Actually Work?

(The Debrief)

The Debrief: Is Echinacea a miracle cure or a load of bullshit?

Echinacea: miracle cure or snake oil? If you’ve ever had a cold, which is probably 100% of the people reading this article, then the odds are that someone, at some point, has told you to go and get yourself some echinacea while waxing lyrical about the virtues of this all-natural fixer.

There are people who swear by the stuff, who take it when they feel the first stirrings of a swollen gland and say that it wards a cold off like nothing else. There are also those who take it once theire snot fest is already in full swing and insist that it speeds up their recovery time. And then, there are those who pop it religiously like a supplement because ‘prevention is better than cure’ and insists that they never get sick (except when they, inevitably, do).

It’s no surprise that we’re all so obsessed with staying well. In 2013, , the last time official figures were released, 131 million sick days were taken. The most common reason given for these absences was ‘minor illness’, which covers our dear old friends the common cough and cold.

The magical echinacea plant traditionally hails from North America and Native Americans have long-valued its medicinal properties. Today, you’ll find it in health food shops, supermarkets, local pharmacies and high street shops like Boots. There are dozens of different brands and forms, ranging from tablets to concentrates.

The question is this: does echinacea actually work?

A quick Google on the subject is a) inconclusive and b) confusing. It seems that every two years or so a new study is published showing that echinacea definitely does reduce your risk of getting a cold, followed by one a couple of years later arguing the exact opposite.

To clear things up a bit we spoke to Professor Ronald Eccles, director of The Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University.

What exactly is echinacea?

It’s a plant, of the daisy family, of which there are nine different species. Three are most commonly used medicinally – the pinky-purple echinacea purpurea, the pale purple coneflower and the slightly shorter echinacea angustifolia.

Professor Eccles says, ‘It’s like talking about tea or any other sort of plant. If you buy 500g of Paracetemol you know what you’re getting, but there are so many different types around, using the term ‘echinacea’ for all of them is tricky. It’s a matter of quality, just because it says echinacea on the label doesn’t mean anything. It’s about how much is in there, how it was extracted, where the plant was grown.’

So, how do you know what you’re getting?

Different manufacturers prepare it in different ways. That’s why it can sometimes come in a liquid form while another brand produces it as a tablet.

‘This is the problem with a lot of herbal medicines,’ Professor Eccles says. While some manfacturers use the root, others might have used the flower, the leaves or the whole plant. So some brands products might actually have a higher concentration of the plant in them than others.

Because of this, Professor Eccles warns that ‘It’s difficult to get a clear picture’ of how well it works. Right, so that’s why all of the studies are conflicting.

Ok, so how is it supposed to work?

Basically, nobody can agree. No one seems to be able to say, definitively, exactly which ingredients in echinacea might prevent and/or aid recovery from a cold.

Echinacea contains four types of compounds which might boost the immune system: alkamides, glycoproteins, polysaccharides and caffeic acid derivatives – but, not all of these are found in every species, nor are they all present in every part of the plant.

Professor Eccles says, ‘I don’t think there’s anyone living who fully understands how the immune system works. What is the active ingredient in echinacea? We don’t know. We don’t fully understand how it works with our body at the moment.’

Why is it so popular then?

Professor Eccles says, ‘Echinace has a very long history, which goes back to Native North Americans. They used it to treat wounds and it was brought to Europe.’

He points out that while we might not know exactly how it works, many people report good results from taking it. He also reminds us, ‘Morphine – our most potent medicine – came from the humble poppy. It was different because we were able to focus in on the one active ingredient and extract it, but just because we can’t do that doesn’t mean echinacea doesn’t work. It might be that there are several active ingredients and we can't isolate them all.’

Right, so, should we bother taking it?

‘It’s safe’ says Professor Eccles. ‘There’s no risk, but it really depends on which one you buy – how it was extracted from the plant, how fresh it was and so on. You should buy the best quality herbal medicine and give it a go. It might not work for everyone, but it might work for you.’

There you have it. As clear as mud! Echinacea might stop you getting sick, but, it also might not. Nobody really knows. So, the next time you feel a cold coming on you could try taking it, you might still get the cold, but you never know.

And, if you’re going to buy it, you’re better off buying the best quality available, which contains the highest concentration of the plant possible.


Farmacy Skin-Care Products Harness Healing Powers of Echinacea

By Monica Michael Willis

A self-professed plant geek, Mark Veeder grew up on a farm in Earlton, New York. He entered vegetables in 4-H competitions and paged through seed catalogs as if they were comic books. Somewhere between then and now, Veeder found himself heading a Manhattan marketing firm with clients like Kate Spade New York and Mercedes-Benz. But all the while, he kept a hand in the soil at his weekend home upstate.

Then, in 1999, says Veeder, “I was in my garden, and I saw these mysterious pink flowers tinged with bright green.” He recognized the hallmarks of echinacea, but instinct told him the find was special, and perhaps rare. Veeder sent tissue samples off to scientists, who determined that he had not only discovered a new strain of Echinacea purpurea, but that the unusual variety was especially powerful. The cultivar, which Veeder named Green Envy and patented in 2010, contained the highest levels of cichoric acid—a phytochemical with restorative and antioxidant properties—ever registered.

“We’ve all heard about echinacea’s health benefits,” says Veeder of the immune-booster commonly used in supplements. “But I was interested in finding other applications.” Because cichoric acid has been shown to support collagen production and brighten and firm skin, he partnered with a lab in New Jersey to turn Green Envy into Farmacy, an all-natural line of skin creams, lip balms, and more. The products debuted at Sephora in September.

For Veeder, the venture’s benefits go well beyond the cosmetic. To ensure a steady supply of the plant, he teamed up with a farmer named Robert Beyfuss, who had just leased an old airstrip in Cairo, New York, mere miles from where the marketing exec spent his childhood. “Bob actually helped my dad start his place way back when,” Veeder says. The roughly half-mile stretch of land is only a two-hour drive from the lab, so the plants can be delivered straight from the field to get fresh, cold-pressed root extractions for Farmacy’s concoctions. Veeder and Beyfuss have hired area residents in an attempt to retain local talent that might otherwise leave Greene County in search of better opportunities—an ambitious goal that Veeder downplays with humility: “I wish I had a sexier story to tell,” he says. “But Farmacy really started with a cool new plant in my backyard.”


Health Benefits of Echinacea

(Organic Facts)

The health benefits of echinacea include its ability to boost the immune system, prevent cancer, eliminate bacterial and viral infections, reduce inflammation, improve skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, protect respiratory health, speed healing and recovery times, manages allergies, boost oral health, and prevent recurrent infections like ear infections.

Echinacea includes a group of herbaceous, flowering plants that are highly prized for their medicinal and healthy properties. There are nine main species of the Echinacea genus, and they are commonly called coneflowers, such as the Pale Purple Coneflower or the Tennessee Coneflower. The flowers themselves are beautiful, and some varieties can grow up to 4 feet in height. Their colorful heads are easy to distinguish, and you can commonly find them in eastern and central North America, the regions they are native to. It is commonly classified as an herb, although many other people think of it as a flower; much of this disparity comes from the different ways in which it can be used. The different strains of echinacea also contain different active chemicals, including a variety of phenolic compounds like cichoric acid, caftaric acid, echinacoside, and various other polysaccharides and alkylamides.

echinaceaIn terms of their medical usage, certain species are used for different purposes, having a variety of chemical components that make them useful for various conditions. The juices can be extracted or pressed out; the roots and the herbs can be used in various applications as well. The Plains Indians used echinacea for hundreds of years in their herbal remedies, and even in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was turned to as an herbal option for keeping people healthy. It has long been known as one of the best ways to prevent colds.

However, echinacea can cease to have an effect and can actually impact your T cells in a negative way if used in large doses consistently. It should be overused, but when you need it, nothing works better! Let’s explore some of the many health benefits that this herb can provide! Health Benefits of Echinacea

Immuse System Booster: Perhaps the most common usage of echinacea relates to its impact on the immune system. Much of this is derived from the chemical constituents within echinacea that can directly affect the chemical processes of the immune system. Studies have shown that regular intake of echinacea can reduce your chances of catching a cold by 50% and if you are already ill, taking echinacea can help reduce the duration of your cold by 1.4 days. For this reason, echinacea is used by millions of people every year when they are trying to eliminate the annoying symptoms of the common cold.

Cancer Prevention: Echinacea’s ability to affect the immune system specifically relates to how it handles foreign substances within the body. Echinacea has been connected to preventing cancer because it stimulates the body’s immune system to eliminate cancerous cells. Although echinacea is not necessarily considered an antioxidant, it can certainly help eliminate free radicals by stimulating the proper immune system cells, like T cells, thereby helping to prevent the development of cancer.

Bacteria and Viruses: Echinacea does more than stimulate T-cells, it also increases the production of white blood cells in the body, which are the main soldiers in the battle against illness going on in our bodies every day. Furthermore, echinacea contains a compound called echinacein, which actually inhibits bacteria and viruses from penetrating healthy cells, thereby greatly reducing the chances of contracting any type of infection while consuming echinacea in either supplemental or natural form.

Inflammation: The active chemical components in echinacea have been proven to reduce inflammation and the associate pain of that irritation. For this reason, echinacea is often recommended as a “cure-all” for aches and pains in the joints. For this same reason, echinacea oil is often spread on the skin to reduce the inflammation people suffer from being in the sun for too long.

Skin Conditions: For the same reason as it can be helpful for sunburn, it can also help heal other skin conditions. Echinacea has been recommended to patients for many years as a way to help heal psoriasis and eczema. If spread on the affected area, improvement can be seen quite rapidly, and besides healing the irritation and inflammation, it also prevents any open sores from becoming infected, due to its powerful antibacterial and antiviral powers.

Respiratory Conditions: The anti-inflammatory capacity of echinacea extends to the respiratory tracts, so for those patients who regularly suffer from conditions like bronchitis, echinacea can help to reduce the irritation and mucus deposition in those tracts, thereby helping you to heal faster.

Recurrent Infections: Some of the worst, and most annoying, illnesses are recurring. For example, ear infections are known to occur very often once a person has suffered through it once. This sort of recurrence can make life very unpleasant. Echinacea allows for various immune-boosting compounds to build up and remain in the body, tacitly altering the structure and reactivity of our immune system. Studies have shown a reduction in ear infections when echinacea is consistently consumed as a way to build up resistance to further infections.

Oral Health: Studies have shown a connection between the intake of echinacea and a reduction in gingivitis, which makes sense, considering that gingivitis is a bacterial infection. Regular echinacea supplementation can be an effective way of helping to keep your teeth strong and healthy.

Wound Healing and Recovery: Not only does echinacea stimulate the immune system to fight against infection and illness, it also speeds up the recovery time and wound healing process in case you do fall ill, or injure yourself. It can speed up the formation of new skin cells and get you back on your feet by eliminating bacteria from the system quicker than other medications. Also, any wound that you suffer from an accident or injury can be protected from developing infections at the same time as it is speedily healed.

A Few Words of Caution: Some people have reported allergic reactions to echinacea, so obviously speak to your doctor before beginning any treatment regimen. Furthermore, if you are taking other painkillers, echinacea can negatively impact your liver. Also, some people report headaches and stomach aches. However, the overall benefits of echinacea far outweigh the potential negatives.


Echinacea May Boost Immune System More Than Previously Thought

(ABS News)

A new study published Sunday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases said the supplement echinacea may help bolster the immune system more than previously thought and may shorten and even prevent colds.

"We showed that patients who took echinacea could decrease the risk of developing a cold by 58 percent as well as decrease the duration of a cold by over a day and half," said Dr. Craig Coleman of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy.

Echinacea comes from the purple coneflower plant. It is made into teas and pills that are said to help build cold resistance. Coleman and his colleagues analyzed 1,600 patients from 14 previous studies on the herb.

"When you combine them together, you get a very nice conglomerate," Coleman said.

The World Health Organization recognized echinacea as a cold treatment in 1999. But other studies have shown opposite results. In 2000, German scientists reported echinacea could help treat colds, but not prevent them. And a 2005 New England Journal of Medicine study, which included more than 400 patients, said echinacea had no effects on colds.

But Health Magazine's Samantha Heller said echinacea isn't for everyone.

"It should not be used by people with compromised immune systems, pregnant or lactating women," she said. "Since they're not regulated, you don't always know what you're getting."

To help make sure you're getting the real thing look for a label from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). It is an independent group that puts a seal of approval on supplements.



Natural cold remedies

(WJHG)

CLEVELAND CLINIC - The average adult will catch two to three colds this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Melissa Young is a wellness expert at Cleveland Clinic. She says when you feel a cold coming on, vitamin C and zinc are good places to start.

"There have been some very clear studies on the benefit of decreasing your severity of symptoms and shortening perhaps cold symptoms with vitamin C, as well as zinc," Dr. Young says.

A typical dose of vitamin C is 1,000 milligrams. Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli.

Zinc can be taken as a capsule or a lozenge up to four times daily for one or two days only. Dr. Young says it's not recommended for extended periods.

She also recommends elderberry, an herb that can be found as a syrup, capsule or lozenge. Research suggests it can be helpful in fighting off colds if taken at the first sign of symptoms.

Dr. Young says echinacea is another natural remedy that's well-known and readily available with antiviral and bacterial properties.

"It's one of those that actually seems to support the immune cells that fight off infection and it is one that you want to start as soon as you develop symptoms," Dr. Young says.

Dr. Young suggests taking echinacea four times daily until symptoms subside. But she warns that people with severe ragweed allergy may want avoid this herb.


Herb from plant may aid in cold, flu prevention

(The Wall Street Journal)

The Ache: Cold and flu season is here, and with it, a healthy dose of misery.

The Claim: Echinacea, a herbal remedy made from a flowering plant, can prevent respiratory infections—or even help treat them once they begin.

The Verdict: A study in 2015 found a hot drink containing echinacea to be as good as prescription Tamiflu for treating influenza, and a large 2012 study found the remedy cut down on the number of days suffered with colds. The results don’t apply to all formulations of echinacea, which can vary widely, and scientists caution that people at high risk for flu complications shouldn’t forgo more-tested prescription medications.

“If you are getting plenty of fluids and plenty of rest and you want to take echinacea, it seems like a reasonable thing to do and unlikely to harm you,” says Pritish K. Tosh, associate professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. But people at risk for flu complications, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, should instead take an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu, he adds. Risks for complications are elevated in people 65 years and older or those with chronic health conditions, such as asthma or heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Echinacea—long debated as a possible nostrum for colds and flus—is typically sold as capsules or as a tincture, or alcohol extract, which can be mixed with water and taken several times daily. Laboratory research suggests the herbal remedy may hamper the ability of viruses to infect a host. It also may regulate the immune system, either by stimulating it or preventing an overreaction responsible for symptoms, scientists say.



Can Echinacea Melt Winter’s Colds and Flu?

By Laura Johannes

Studies from 2015 and 2012 support some claims

The Ache: Cold and flu season is here, and with it, a healthy dose of misery.

The Claim: Echinacea, a herbal remedy made from a flowering plant, can prevent respiratory infections—or even help treat them once they begin.

The Verdict: A study in 2015 found a hot drink containing echinacea to be as good as prescription Tamiflu for treating influenza, and a large 2012 study found the remedy cut down on the number of days suffered with colds. The results don’t apply to all formulations of echinacea, which can vary widely, and scientists caution that people at high risk for flu complications shouldn’t forgo more-tested prescription medications.

“If you are getting plenty of fluids and plenty of rest and you want to take echinacea, it seems like a reasonable thing to do and unlikely to harm you,” says Pritish K. Tosh, associate professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. But people at risk for flu complications, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, should instead take an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu, he adds. Risks for complications are elevated in people 65 years and older or those with chronic health conditions, such as asthma or heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Echinacea—long debated as a possible nostrum for colds and flus—is typically sold as capsules or as a tincture, or alcohol extract, which can be mixed with water and taken several times daily. Laboratory research suggests the herbal remedy may hamper the ability of viruses to infect a host. It also may regulate the immune system, either by stimulating it or preventing an overreaction responsible for symptoms, scientists say.

Determining if echinacea effectively combats colds and flus has been complicated by the wide variety of preparations available, says Ronald B. Turner, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville. Some preparations use mainly the roots of the plants, whereas others use the aboveground portions, such as flowers, leaves and seeds, scientists say.

Preparation and extraction methods also vary, says Stefan Gafner, chief science officer at the American Botanical Council, an Austin, Texas, nonprofit research and educational group that receives funding from the dietary-supplement industry. Dr. Gafner, a natural-products chemist, says it is a good idea to choose a product that has been studied in a clinical trial, because results from one trial don’t necessarily apply to other products.

Two studies in recent years have involved echinacea products from Switzerland’s Bioforce AG, which the company says are prepared with fresh flowers grown near its Roggwil, Switzerland, plant.

In a four-month, 755-person study, those taking Bioforce’s A. Vogel Echinaforce brand tincture had 149 colds, compared with 188 for those taking a placebo. The report, published in 2012 in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, said the difference wasn’t “statistically significant,” meaning it could be due to chance.

The report also found placebo participants suffered 26% more days with colds, a difference that was statistically significant, says study co-author Roland Schoop, a medical adviser at Bioforce, which funded the study. The research also found a statistically significant difference in individuals experiencing more than one cold per season, and an analysis of the data found the herb particularly helpful at preventing colds in those who are stressed out, smokers or lacking sleep, Dr. Schoop says. The product, sold in the U.S. by Swiss Naturals Inc., commonly known as Bioforce USA of New York, costs $22.99 for a bottle that typically lasts a month.

Another study, of 473 adults, published in 2015 in Current Therapeutic Research and also funded by Bioforce, found a hot drink blend of echinacea and elderberry showed comparable efficacy to Tamiflu in treating symptoms of influenza. An advantage of echinacea is that it can be obtained without a prescription---helpful because it is important to start treatment as soon as possible after flu symptoms begin, says study co-author Peter Fisher, director of research at Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. Echinacea also may work more broadly than Tamiflu on a variety of viral illnesses, says Dr. Fisher, who occasionally does paid consulting work for Bioforce. The hot drink preparation—currently available in a dozen countries including Great Britain, Switzerland and Canada—is expected to go on sale in the U.S. later in 2016.

The flu study’s conclusions are undermined by the fact that the researchers only confirmed actual influenza in a small number of the patients studied, leaving open the possibility they may have been suffering from viruses that Tamiflu doesn’t target, says Dr. Turner, of the University of Virginia. Dr. Turner was first author of a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005, that found no benefit for echinacea in colds.

“In reviewing the data publicly available, we do not think the study has validity in evaluating patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza,” says Tara Iannuccillo, a spokeswoman for Roche Group ’s Genentech unit, which sells Tamiflu.

Bioforce’s Dr. Schoop says the study used a less-sensitive test for flu virus, as the more sophisticated tests are very expensive. The expensive tests wouldn’t be available at a doctor’s office anyway, he adds.

Echinacea is generally safe, scientists say, but should be avoided by people with allergies to flowers in a similar family, such as daisies or dandelions.

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