Thursday, November 16, 2006

Echinacea Herb for the Cold and Flu Season

Winter is coming quickly, and the air has taken on a nippy chill - that means cold and flu season. Taking care to improve your immune system and combat colds or even the flu can save you pain and suffering, and could reduce your number of sick-days this year. Echinacea has been used for many years to not only prevent common illness, but also has a wide variety of medicinal purposes. The plan resembles a Black-Eyed Susan, and is sometimes referred to as the purple cone flower. It is a North American perennial, indigenous to the central plains where it can often be found on the side of the road, in fields, the dry open woods, and in the prairies.

There are several parts of the echinacea purpurea plant that are used in herbal medicine, mainly the root and the leaves. Both are have mild antibacterial and antiviral properties, are are proven in German research to have the ability to strengthen the body's immune system, as well as the ability to prevent and naturally treat colds and flu. Others have cited it as a homeopathic treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, indigestion, gastroenteritis, and it is used for diet and weight loss. It can aid in the healing of wounds, both by drinking it for general healing, but also used in compresses to help prevent infection. The native Americans used it to treat snake bites, allegedly because it grows from a thick black root. It has also been known to be effective against virus activity in cases of herpes as well as flu, and can reduce the severity of sore throat, runny nose, and reduce the duration of the illness. The herb's antibacterial properties can stimulate the healing of wounds and skin conditions such as burns, bug bites, ulcers, psoriasis, acne and eczema. Echinacea also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve arthritis and lymphatic swelling.

Echinacea helps to kick the immune system into a disease fighting state, and is considered by herbalists to be one of the best blood purifiers, as well as an effective antibiotic, activating the body's immune system, and increasing the chances of fighting off any disease. Echinacea has even been known to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever, and ironically grows in areas known to cause hay fever to some people. It's an interesting revelation in the theory that for every ailment, there is a cure growing nearby.

You can take echinacea in the same way that you would take most herbs, such as in capsule form, and is also palatable in the form of tea. Be sure that if you are taking echinacea to improve your immune system that you are aware of what toxins you are putting into your system as well, such as sugar - one of the most common immune system suppressors in our diets. Other culprits include white flour, tobacco, red meat, coffee, and alcohol. This could mean re-thinking the trip to Starbucks and McDonalds, while smoking a cigarette on the way to work...yeah, we've all done it!