Maintaining a strong immune system is a smart decision during this time. This can be achieved in many ways. The substances we put into our bodies, the air we breathe, and the amount of sleep we get all help or hinder our immune systems. Vitamins, supplements, and herbs can add to our lifestyle to give us an edge when we are under stress or have been exposed to illness. Let’s discuss how echinacea can give us a boost when we are not living a healthy lifestyle.
Three species of Echinacea are used as herbal remedies:
- Echinacea Angustifolia – narrow-leaved coneflower
- Echinacea Pallida – pale purple coneflower
- Echinacea Purpurea – purple coneflower, eastern purple coneflower
The purple coneflower is in the sunflower category and has striking purple leaves with a plump pollen center, shaped like a cone. They grow wild in midwestern, eastern, and southeastern United States as well as the Canadian Province of Ontario. Over the last twenty years, this herb has reached recognition in most households as a trusted herb for colds, flu’s, and for fighting infections.
Fun Facts about Echinacea
This plant is perineal and is pollinated by butterflies and bees. They are generally a summer and fall bloom, depending on the region. The plants thrive in full sun locations.
Its individual flowers (florets) within the flower head are hermaphroditic, having both male and female organs in each flower.
Echinacea Purpurea is used in pharmaceuticals for activation and stimulation of leukocytes and phagocytocis.
Native Americans used the plant to treat many ailments, including wounds, burns, insect bites, toothaches, throat infections, pain, cough, stomach cramps, and snake bites.
Studies show the positive effects of Echinacea on the following disorders, while some are anecdotal:
1 Common cold
2 Anti-inflammatory effects
3 Boosting the immune system
4 Upper respiratory tract infections
5 Yeast infections
6 Genital Herpes
7 Urinary tract infections
8 Gum disease
11 Chronic fatigue syndrome
14 Streptococcus infection
Studies concluded that echinacea could reduce a person’s chances of catching a cold by approximately 58 percent. They found that the herbal remedy also reduces the length of time a cold lasts by 1.4 days.
Taking echinacea with the first symptoms of illness can lessen the chance that it will become severe. Taking echinacea throughout an illness is likely to shorten the duration of the illness.
Forms of Echinacea
If you are new to taking herbs and natural remedies, it may be a little overwhelming when trying to decide which form to take and how much. Knowing a master herbalist can help you in making these decisions as they will take into consideration your health history to come up with an individual plan for you. Jennifer Vollbrecht is a Master Herbalist and is trained in the use of herbs as well as any contraindications to their use.
Some forms of herbs do not taste great. If you are accustomed to taking herbs in tea and tincture form, you will likely get used to the taste. However, you can also mix them with a little bit of juice to cut the bitterness. Capsule forms of herbs will not give you an undesirable after-taste and can be tolerated by most.
Echinacea comes in pressed tablet form and gel capsules. Gel capsules can be absorbed well by the body and are more desirable by those who get stomach upset easily. Each bottle has a recommended dosage, however, your needs will vary. The number of capsules you should take in daily will depend on your symptoms and disorder. Contact your Naturopathic Physician or Master Herbalist for a thorough evaluation. Many practitioners will provide appointments by video call for your convenience. This will also lessen the chance of having sick patients sitting in waiting rooms together.
Echinacea in tea form has a pleasant taste, although some may perceive as bitter. Many echinacea teas are blended with other immune-fighting herbs which will increase the benefits and add to the flavor. Mixing echinacea tea with ginger and lemon will increase the healing properties. Generally, teas are only steeped for a few minutes. When using good quality whole leaf organic tea, you can steep multiple times. Continue to add boiling water over the used tea leaves, multiple times to extract more tea flavor.
For the full effect of medicinal herbs -steeping for longer times is encouraged. See below.
An infusion is generally a tea that has been steeped in an air-tight container for longer than five minutes. Green and black teas will have a bitter taste if you steep for longer than 2-4 minutes. However, herbal teas can withstand being steeped for several hours. I like to make medicinal teas at night, in a mason jar with a seal-tight lid. I let them steep on the counter all night. In the morning I strain the tea into another mason jar and drink at room temp, heat up in a mug, or place in the fridge for iced tea. Mixing infusions with juice will make it more tolerable for children and those who do not desire a strong tea.
A decoction is made from herbs that require more heat to extract the desired properties.
An herbal decoction is employed when extracting constituents from hard or woody plant parts such as roots, bark, seeds, berries, and mushrooms.The Herbal Academy
To make a decoction:
1 Add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of desired plant parts to one cup of cold water in a medium-sized pan.
2 Bring to a gentle boil.
3 Place a lid on the pot.
4 Simmer for twenty to forty minutes.
5 Set pan aside and let cool.
6 Strain and drink.
7 You can reuse the plants to repeat the process for another batch.
Alcohol or glycerin-based tinctures extract herbs over several weeks before they are strained out. Tinctures are portable and can be stored at room temperature. Tinctures made from alcohol are extremely strong in flavor and are not tolerated well by most children. Glycerin-based tinctures are better suitable for children. Choose a good quality brand from a well-known company or make your own. Choose organic herbs whenever possible.
How to make a tincture
1 Place a handful of desired herbs into a mason jar.
2 Cover with 80 – 100 proof alcohol (vodka is the most common, while brandy and rum are also used with good results.)
3 Make sure alcohol covers at least 2 inches over the herbs.
4 Store away from direct light for one month.
5 Some herbalists suggest shaking the bottle each day.
6 Strain the liquid and place in jars with a sealable top or dropper-top.
Refer back to You, Me, and Uni for helpful information on herbs and natural remedies. Check out the articles on the site to increase your knowledge and awareness during a time when having a healthy immune system is paramount.
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden is a freelance writer and editor in Gainesville, Florida.