This super herb is one of the most well-known herbs for supporting immune systems. A key herb in any herbalist’s armoury, it forms the basis of most immune blends I make up. I like to blend two: Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia inline with the preparations made by our highest quality herbal supplier.
Which bit should I use?
All parts of the plant are useable but the most potent is the root. Obviously, if you use the root of a plant, you lose the plant so it’s best to allow it to grow for a while before digging it up so you get larger roots and to keep plants for the following year.
What’s it like?
A really good extract and a herb decoction have the most surprising and peculiar effect in the mouth! I find that the super-strength Echinacea can leave me with a tingling tongue for about 30 minutes. I feel as though my taste buds are fizzing! However, whilst this might be pretty odd, it is a sure-fire indicator that the echinacea you are taking has a high level of the currently understood primary constituent: alkylamides.
Ensure it’s good quality
Like with any natural product, the quality is affected by many things such as harvesting methods, post-harvest production (such as drying) and the manufacture into a product. This can leave proprietary products with as little as zero active constituent! Be sure to buy a good quality over-the-counter brand.
There is the inevitable issue of adulteration with Parthenium integrifolium being substituted in particular in the US. This is likely due to the dwindling stocks of wild echinacea due to loss of habitat and over-harvesting.
Traditionally used for snakebite: after the observation of rattlesnakes who, when provoked, bite themselves (!) and then suck the plant before hiding to recuperate. Modern herbalists now use it in a multitude of ways.
Actions: these are so many it would seem pointless just listing them here but amongst the most commonly used for would be the enhancement of many aspects of the immune system’s defenses, the external application for infected wounds, ulceration of different types, gastrointestinal disturbance and skin disorders.
Why am I sick?
Whilst there are obvious benefits from taking a herb in order to boost oneself, and echinacea can be a brilliant prophylactic, as a herbalist, I feel the imperative to ask why the situation arose in the first place. We don’t ‘catch’ every bug going even though we might have been in a crammed train carriage next to someone who is full of cold.
When we are feeling physically run down, it may due to eg lack of sleep or poor dietary choices and that makes us more susceptible to catching infections. If we have had a row with a loved one, or are feeling unloved, lonely, rejected and those intrinsic places of emotional need are depleted, our defenses are lowered. It is also the environment which we create in our bodies which the herbs is acting in. So, even the most fabulous herbs are not miracle workers. Listen in to your body and as well as taking the herbs, take the actions to keep yourself as well as you can. If we can get curious about the circumstances of our catching in infection and take responsible action for gauging our own choices and activities in relation to our health then future illnesses may be much better circumvented.
NOTE: A generally safe herb, it is best avoided as long-term therapy in immunosuppressed conditions.