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Health Benefits of Echinacea

Echinacea, being indigenous to North America, was thus widely used by Indians as a medication against colds, flu, and other infections; applied topically it could cure different wounds (cuts, burns, and insect bites). Actually, preparations made of this plant were believed to be a “cure-all” medicine, able to heal any disease – from cough to cancer.

Europeans got acquainted with Echinacea much later than Native Americans, but they started to believe its beneficial impact on the human organism not less than the discoverers of the plant’s effectiveness. Therefore, Echinacea preserved its status of a powerful medicinal herb throughout history. People treated scarlet fever, syphilis, malaria, blood poisoning, and diphtheria with it.

In fact, Europeans turned out to be true believers in Echinacea’s power: Americans preferred antibiotics and did not even try to prove the plant’s benefits scientifically. Europeans, on the other hand, made great efforts to disclose the secret of Echinacea’s curing power. Germans occupied the leading position in the research studies, which resulted in the isolation of the main herb’s constituents: flavonoids, oils, polysaccharides, phenols (cichoric, caffeic, and caftaric acids and echinacoside), and alkylamides. It also contains copper, iron, iodine, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E. Due to this combination of ingredients Echinacea works as a natural antibiotic, which can suppress viruses’ activity and promote immune stimulating effect through the activation of T-cells (immune system natural bacteria killers).

All the conducted trials made the scientists state that though Echinacea itself does not cure diseases, it helps the body resist and fight the illnesses, making it stronger. People, who take this plant’s preparations, tend to fall ill less often, experience milder symptoms, and recover sooner.

The diseases, against which Echinacea is a strong helping hand, are respiratory problems, bronchitis, sore throat, enlarged prostate glands, urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast (candida) infections, ear infections (otitits), sinusitis, hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Topically it can help heal eczema, psoriasis, and slow-healing wounds. Echinacea is added to anti-hemorrhoids medications; it is also a mighty skin protector from the sun damage.

In spite of some claims that Echinacea has no side effects, studies show that some people may experience allergic reactions, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, muscle aches, nausea, sore throat, temporary numbness of the tongue and upset stomach.

The trials have no official results on the use of Echinacea by pregnant and breastfeeding women (though there are no facts that it may cause any birth defects either) and children under 12. Immunocompromized persons are advised to avoid the use of this plant, since it is likely that it may accelerate the development of the conditions like cancer, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, and HIV AIDS.

It is also worthy to note that in Germany Echinacea is approved to treat colds, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and slow-healing wounds. However, treatment period is restricted to 8 weeks at a time. In the United States its use is said to be safe if followed to the doctor’s or manufacturer’s instructions.

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