Echinacea was popularised in Europe by Alfred Vogel, who spent time in North America with First Nations Oglala-Lakota peoples and was shown some of the uses of this herbal medicine by Ben Black Elk medicine man, who presented him with echinacea seeds at the end of his stay. Traditional uses included external use for snake bite, wounds and bruising. Apparently tribesmen learned about this herb’s healing properties by observing the wapiti elks who consumed it when they were sick or wounded
In more recent times, Professor Kerry Bone seems to have a love affair with Echinacea and continues to deepen his research into the therapeutic benefits and biochemical properties of it.
Echinacea has three varieties which are used medicinally in Australia – purpurea, angustifolia and palladia. Each variety will have ardent followers while others like to use a combination. Purpurea is the variety most commonly used in European preparations, while angustifolia has the strong alkylamides. Pallida is a hardier variant, all are native to Northern America.
The benefits of the root, leaf and stem, or flower differ, with the root of Echinacea angustifolia being preferred for its high content of alkylamides. It is this constituent which gives the tingly or numb sensation when consuming the extract. The American Eclectics recognised good quality Echinacea root as “leaving a persistent tingling sensation” when chewed. Clinical research has shown that Echinacea increases phagocytosis and white cell count, with resultant immune cell activation and modulation.
As such, it may provide relief of respiratory symptoms such as upper respiratory tract infections, the common cold and assist respiration during air travel.
Echinacea is stimulating, cooling and antiseptic, removing dead cells and metabolic byproducts from the lymphatic system and the blood. It disperses stagnation and debris before these turn into malignant accumulations.
I love the tingle of a good Echinacea tincture and always feel invigorated by it. If taken at the first sign of a cold, a few drops 3 x day seems to be enough to ward it off. At the end stage of a disease, its lymphatic cleansing action may be attributed to its acrid and cool properties, which help it to outthrust pathogens, clear heat and disperse phlegm.
Some cautions exist for the use of echinacea alongside immune-suppressive drugs, auto-immune conditions and allergies to the asteracea family. Asthmatics should use with caution or as part of a formula as it modulates cytokines. Work with a professional if unsure.