Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) Overview

Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) other names: American Cone Flower, Black Sampson, Black Susans, Brauneria Angustifolia, Brauneria Pallida, Comb Flower, Coneflower, Echinacea Angustifolia, Echinacea Pallida, Echinacea Purpurea, Echinaceawurzel, Échinacée, Échinacée Angustifolia, Échinacée Pallida, Échinacée Pourpre, Échinacée Purpurea, Equinácea, Fleur à Hérisson, Hedgehog, Igelkopfwurzel, Indian Head, Kansas Snakeroot, Narrow-Leaved Purple Cone Flower, Pale Coneflower, Purple Cone Flower, Purpursonnenhutkraut, Purpursonnenhutwurzel, Racine d'echininacea, Red Sunflower, Rock-Up-Hat, Roter Sonnenhut, Rudbeckie Pourpre, Schmallblaettrige Kegelblumenwurzel, Schmallblaettriger Sonnenhut, Scurvy Root, Snakeroot, Sonnenhutwurzel.

Native to the north American continent, the Echinacea herb is a perennial plant found growing out from the prairie states northwards up to Pennsylvania, populations of the herb, however, also grow in the cooler northern regions of some of the southern states in the US. The echinacea has a stout and bristly stem that bears a lot of hairy, and linear or lanceolate leaves, where are tapered at both ends and give it a distinctive shape. The Echinacea is characterized by its flowers, and each one of the distinctive and rich purple flowers bears 12 to 20 large and spread out, dull-purple rays marked by a conical disk consisting of numerous tubular florets in the middle, the echinacea normally is in full bloom from June through October in most places. There are two distinct species of this well known herb, and a weaker species known as E. purpurea is often used instead of the E. augustifolia for industrial purposes and if the latter species is scarce or too expensive to buy - the more potent and famous of the two plants is the E. augustifolia spp.

Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) flower

A pleasant sweetish smell and a faint aroma characterizes the Echinacea herb, the herb leaves behind a tingling sensation in the mouth which is almost similar to the taste of aconite herb, but the flavor of the Echinacea is without the  lasting sensation of numbness and it is also bereft of any dangerous poison. Freshness and the oldness of the herb can be measured by tasting the Echinacea powder - this is one normal way of determining the freshness of specimens for herbal use.

Extensive literature exist covering all the properties of the Echinacea herb, these writings on the herb have become so vast and the hyperbole given off by its many advocates so extensive that the real property of the herb is now difficult to separate from the false claims. Some of the real uses of this remarkable herb, include the use of the herb in the prevention and treatment of the common cold and the symptoms such as sore throat connected to such infections, in such cases the consumption of an hydro alcoholic extract of the fresh or recently dried whole plant - which must include the above ground portion of the herb will be very effective, indeed, this is one of the main uses of the herb.

Echinacea has also been recommended by certain German authorities for use as an herbal remedy, in the supportive or auxiliary role, during the treatment of recurrent infections arising in the urinary and respiratory systems. Topical treatments have also been derived from the herb, and external applications of the herb can be effective and very useful in the complete treatment of all hard to heal wounds superficially affecting the skin. The great benefit of the Echinacea lies in the fact that very significant or great side effects have not been seen or reported from studies, however, remedies made from the herb have been known to trigger certain allergic reactions and some forms of allergies induced by the herb cannot be discounted, this is especially so, with any of the plants in this particular plant family.

Many years ago, the remedies made from the Echinacea were usually and extensively adulterated with the herb known as the Parthenium integrifolium L., common name - the “prairie dock” or “Missouri snakeroot". This was so extensive that many of the earliest scientific studies done on the herb, had to be invalidated as the Echinacea was often confused with the other plant. For this reason, and because adulteration can never be ruled out even today, all potential users of herbal remedies made from the Echinacea are strongly advised to obtain the very best and high quality products available on the market. All Echinacea users must take time for careful investigation of the product and consider the reputation of the manufacturer before proceeding with the purchase of the Echinacea based remedy - this is a good procedure to follow in the purchase of any other plant extract if possible.

The herb is a native species of the central areas of the North American continent and mainly the central US. Cultivation of the Echinacea, and in particular the E. purpurea spp, which is easier to manage, is now run commercially both in Europe and in many parts of the US. The echinacea is grown from the stored seeds during the spring and echinacea is also propagated at times by root division during the winter, the echinacea thrives in very rich and sandy soils. Harvesting of the Echinacea flowers occur when the plants are in full bloom, and the roots of 4-year-old plants are gathered normally, during the autumn season.

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Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) Health Benefits

Echinacea is an herb. Several species of the echinacea plant are used to make medicine from its leaves, flower, and root.

Echinacea is widely used to fight infections, especially the common cold and other upper respiratory infections. Some people take echinacea at the first sign of a cold, hoping they will be able to keep the cold from developing. Other people take echinacea after cold symptoms have started, hoping they can make symptoms less severe. The people who use echinacea to treat symptoms have the right idea. Research to date shows that echinacea probably modestly reduces cold symptoms, but it’s not clear whether it helps prevent colds from developing. 

Echinacea is also used against many other infections including the flu, urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, genital herpes, bloodstream infections (septicemia), gum disease, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections, syphilis, typhoid, malaria, and diphtheria.

Other uses not related to infection include chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), rheumatism, migraines, acid indigestion, pain, dizziness, rattlesnake bites, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) image

Sometimes people apply echinacea to their skin to treat boils, abscesses, skin wounds, ulcers, burns, eczema, psoriasis, UV radiation skin damage, herpes simplex, bee stings, and hemorrhoids.

Echinacea species are native to North America and were used as traditional herbal remedies by the Great Plains Indian tribes. Later, settlers followed the Indians’ example and began using echinacea for medicinal purposes as well. For a time, echinacea enjoyed official status as a result of being listed in the US National Formulary from 1916-1950. However, use of echinacea fell out of favor in the United States with the discovery of antibiotics and due to the lack of scientific evidence supporting its use. But now, people are becoming interested in echinacea again because some antibiotics don’t work as well as they used to against certain bacteria.

Commercially available echinacea products come in many forms including tablets, juice, and tea.

There are concerns about the quality of some echinacea products on the market. Echinacea products are frequently mislabeled, and some may not even contain echinacea, despite label claims. Don’t be fooled by the term “standardized.” It doesn’t necessarily indicate accurate labeling. Also, some echinacea products have been contaminated with selenium, arsenic, and lead.

Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) Side effects

Echinacea is likely safe for most people when used short-term. There is not enough information to know if echinacea is safe for long-term use. Some side effects have been reported such as fever, nausea, vomiting, unpleasant taste, stomach pain, diarrhea, sore throat, dry mouth, headache, numbness of the tongue, dizziness, insomnia, disorientation, and joint and muscle aches.

Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia) plant

Echinacea is possibly safe in children. Echinacea seems to be safe in most children ages 2-11 years. However, about 7% of these children may experience a rash that could be due to an allergic reaction. There is some concern that allergic reactions to echinacea could be more severe in some children. For this reason, some regulatory organizations have recommended against giving echinacea to children under 12 years of age.

Echinacea is most likely to cause allergic reactions in children and adults who are allergic to ragweed, mums, marigolds, or daisies. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking echinacea.

Applying echinacea to the skin can cause redness, itchiness, or a rash. 

Pregnancy or breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of echinacea during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

“Auto-immune disorders” such as such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a skin disorder called pemphigus vulgaris, or others: Echinacea might have an effect on the immune system that could make these conditions worse. Don’t take echinacea if you have an auto-immune disorder.

An inherited tendency toward allergies (atopy): People with this condition are more likely to develop an allergic reaction to echinacea. It’s best to avoid exposure to echinacea if you have this condition.