Echinacea was among the herbs frequently used by Native Americans of the southwest plains in poultices, mouthwashes and teas. Now a popular garden perennial, the plant displays purple blossoms and grows as high as 5 feet. Herbalists value the dried root of echinacea for its broad-based action against many types of viral and bacterial illnesses such as colds, bronchitis, ear infections, influenza and cystitis. Laboratory testing shows that it contains echinacoside, an ingredient that may have antibiotic effects. Another ingredient, echinacein, is believed to block some mechanisms that enable infectious viruses or bacteria to invade body tissue.
In the laboratory, echinacea seems to bolster the immune system`s white blood cells in their battle against foreign microorganisms; it may increase the production of T cells, which join other white blood cells in the fight against infectious agents.
Echinacea can also be effective as a topical medicine for eczema and other skin problems.
Taken internally for:
Applied externally for:
Over the counter:
Available in dried form in bulk, and in teas, capsules and tinctures.
Tea: 2 tsp. dried root boiled in 1 cup water, and simmered for 15 minutes.
Combinations: Echinacea used with yarrow or uva ursi to treat cystitis.