Echinacea; your immune boosting super star!
This pretty purple herb is great for activating your immune system to fight colds, the flu, and respiratory issues. It’s safe for kids, and according to the Mayo clinic is safe for pregnant and nursing moms as well. This week after my husband’s entire extended family including us got a horrid stomach flu/ severe cold from being together on Christmas, I was REALLY WISHING that my Echinacea tincture was done already and I could load absolutely everyone up with some immune support. Sadly for me, it had only been 1 week since I made the tincture and I still needed another 1-5 weeks to bring it to full strength. Goes to show the benefit of being prepared!
Echinacea is a strong, potent perennial that everyone should have in their herbal apothecary. Even the traditional medical community used to value it very highly before the advent of antibiotics in the 50s. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 13 separate European studies have found that when taken properly, Echinacea will reduce cold symptoms and shorten the duration of a cold.
What does it mean to take Echinacea properly?
Most experts recommend taking it for 10 days then taking at least a few day break when treating acute conditions. When treating a chronic infection it is suggested to take a weaker dose for 2-3 weeks then take a break for a week. While it does not build up in the body or begin having a toxic effect, it evidently does begin to lose its effectiveness when taken without a break. Unlike Elderberry, which you can take as an immune boosting tonic, Echinacea is most effective when begun right at the beginning of a cold or when you are already surrounded by illness.
What does Echinacea do that is so amazing anyway?
It contains polysaccharides that, “Act by sequestering attacks of various microbes and lets the body heal itself. . . They have an immunostimulant effect which results in production of leucocytes (white blood cells.)” The white blood cells then kill the infectious organisms. (Nutritional Herbology) So basically like I said above, the Echinacea kick-starts your immune system to start fighting off (and destroying!) the invading germs and helps knock out the illness.
What to use?
When either harvesting or purchasing Echinacea, stick to the above-ground parts like flowers, leaves and stems. According to Dr. Axe, the aerial parts have more of the polysaccharides that trigger the immune function and are more effective. The roots, on the other hand, have more volatile oils. Also, be careful what you buy when purchasing an already made tincture; a study done by the University of Maryland Medical Center actually found that out of 11 brands of Echinacea tincture, only 4 actually contained the amount of herb that they advertised, and 10% didn’t have any Echinacea at all! For as cheap & easy as it is to make your own tincture, I would strongly recommend buying dried herbs and making your own tincture.
How to take this delightful herb?
It can be taken multiple ways, but according to Susan Weed a tincture is much more effective than taking capsules. As we have said before, it is also much more potent and convenient than drinking quarts of tea.
The dosing suggestions that I found are somewhat varied.
– Susan Weed suggests 1 drop of tincture per pound of body weight. She suggests taking a full dose every 1-2 hours for severe illness, or every 3-4 hours for a less intense sickness for the first 24 hours then gradually decreasing the dose as your body repairs itself.
– Natural doctor Jennifer Brett recommends that adults take 1 tsp. of tincture every 1-3 hours for an acute problem for the first 24-48 hours then reducing the dose to 2 tsp. per day.
– Herbs for Children’s Health suggests small frequent doses. An adult would take 1/2 tsp of tincture every 30-40 minutes, then spread out the doses after the first 24 hours.
I want to encourage you to obtain some Echinacea soon (and maybe consider planting it in your garden in the spring since it’s so pretty!) and prepare yourself a tincture so that you are ready the next time folks around you start throwing up and coming down with colds! You can check out my post on tinctures to make your own soon, or wait a few days until I have my post on specifically making an Echinacea tincture published. I know I’m definitely looking forward to having this Echinacea tincture ready to use.