Meet Echinacea, Your Herbal Immune AllyBy Dr Dunner October 09, 2018
The Great Plains Native Americans first discovered echinacea’s medicinal properties after observing injured and sick elk seek out the plant. Native Americans used the herb as a pain reliever and antidote; herbalists in Switzerland were the first to use echinacea to treat upper respiratory infections like colds. At Dr.Dünner, we’ve proudly carried that tradition of Swiss herbalism onward, leveraging the power of echinacea in our immune blends.
Echinacea held esteemed medicinal regard worldwide for more than 400 years, until the discovery of antibiotics in the 1950s replaced many of echinacea’s use cases. However, as WebMD notes, “people are becoming interested in echinacea again because some antibiotics don’t work as well as they used to against certain bacteria.”
Here’s four key ways that echinacea helps the body combat immune challenges:
Believed to shorten colds
The University of Connecticut’s School of Pharmacy conducted a meta-analysis of 14 randomized, placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed clinical trials of echinacea’s effectiveness as a cold treatment. This meta-study evaluated echinacea’s effect on preventing colds in more than 1,300 patients, and echinacea’s ability to shorten the span of a cold in more than 1,600 patients. Results found echinacea to shorten a cold by an average of 1.4 days and to reduce the chances of catching a cold by 58%.
In Germany, where the government regulates dietary herbs, echinacea purpurea is federally approved as a natural remedy for upper respiratory infections, including but not limited to colds. Echinacea has been shown to combat inflammation, which is at the root of many health afflictions. According to researchers at the University of British Columbia, regular echinacea consumption can alleviate and even reverse inflammation response.
Echinacea combats inflammation in two ways: by stimulating hyaluronic acid production and by disturbing the chain of enzymes that leads to inflammation. Hyaluronic acid is like “glue” that keeps cells together and is a key player in tissue regeneration. Echinacea also contains compounds called alkamides that work to inhibit enzymes in the inflammation chain.
Attacks harmful bacteria and germs
Echinacea contains a multitude of active compounds that work to attack foreign pathogens. A biochemical called echinacein works to deactivate the tissue-dissolving enzymes that many germs produce. Echinacea also contains echinacoside, an agent with antibiotic properties to directly target bacteria. According to a study published in Pharmaceutical Biology, echinacea exhibits antimicrobial properties against various bacteria and fungi.
Boosts the immune system to fight intruders
Echinacea works by making the body’s immune cells more efficient, preparing them to leap into action at the sign of unwanted microbes. When echinacea’s water-soluble polysaccharides reach an infected area, they stimulate the body to produce healthy white blood cells (leukocytes). These white blood cells leap into phagocytic action, meaning that they envelop infectious invaders and dismantle them.
All species of echinacea contain phenols, plant compounds that stimulate both white blood cells and spleen cells. Concentration of both of these types of immune cells increases after ingestion of echinacea, and the body’s core temperature rises. Higher body temperature accelerates cell activity, equipping disease-fighting cells to act more rapidly.
Phenols are also packed with antioxidants, which fight toxins in the body. Echinacea is a great source of Vitamin C, beta-carotene, flavonoids, selenium, zinc and other health-supporting properties.
Better equips the immune system into the future
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service reports that studies 10-day regimen of echinacea is as effective as an immune system stimulant. In fact, taking echinacea regularly may work synergistically with the flu vaccine to make vaccination more effective at staving off the disease. Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 755 participants found that regular echinacea use resulted in a 60% decrease in recurrent colds, suggesting the potential for echinacea to impact the immune system on a long-term basis.
What to know
- Before stocking up on echinacea this season, know what’s going into the product you’re consuming. A consumer safety review of echinacea supplement brands revealed several products not to contain the quantity of echinacea advertised — and one echinacea supplement to be contaminated with lead. Echinacea products have also been contaminated with selenium and arsenic, according to WebMD.
- Furthermore, echinacea is a plant with many strains, not all of which work the same way for the immune system. Always purchase your echinacea from a trusted, reputable brand. Ensure that the ingredients and processing procedures are up to standard for an end product that is pure and unadulterated by contaminants.
- Herbalists believe that liquid forms of echinacea retain more active properties than capsules, proving more effective. When shopping, look for echinacea in a liquid form, like our Sambu Guard and Sambu Guard for Kids.
Cheers to good health!