Echinacea

Echinacea, or else known by the names purple coneflower or black-eyed susan, has been used and is known for it's medicinal purposes. It is part of the Asteraceae family. Echinos (genus), is actually the Greek name for hedgehog and was named after this for the flowers prickily center. It is a perennial herb and fall is the best time for Echinacea to thrive. The flower is found in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe. They are found to grow in a wide variety of damp or dry places, woody areas and are for the most part, drought resistant. Echinacea is mostly used to cure or prevent the common cold and is also known to be used to lower the frequencies of vaginal yeast infections. People can find Echinacea as a pill form, a herb juice, liquid or as a tea. The different vitamins that Echinacea can contain are chromium, mangnesium, selenium, niacin, iron and zinc (Echinacea. (n.d) Retrieved January 8, 2012 from Encyclopedia: www.encyclopedia.com/topic/echinacea.aspx).

9 species
Purple cone flower
Purple cone flower

Black-eyed susan flower
Black-eyed susan flower


Echinacea angustifolia
Echinacea atrorubens
Echinacea laevigata
Echinacea pallida
Echinacea paradoxa
Echinacea purpurea
Echinacea sanguinea
Echinacea simulata
Echinacea tennesseenisis
Links to the three most popular Echinacea plants and their descriptions are highlighted above.
Echinacea angustifolia. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2012 from OLPC Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/Echinacea_angustifolia#cite_note-1
Echinacea pallida. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2012 from OLPC Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/Echinacea_pallida#cite_note-1
Echinacea purpurea. (n.d.). Retreived January 11, 2012 from OLPC Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/Echinacea_pupurea#cite_note-3
Echinacea in the different states
Echinacea in the different states


History

Echinacea was first used in the mid-19th century. It was "one of the basic anitmicrobial herbs of eclectic medicine" (Echinacea. (n.d.) Retrieved January 8, 2012 from the OLPC Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echinacea). At that time, it was used for the relief of pain, snakebites, burns, insect bites and throat infections. The root of Echinacea was also chewed to ease the pain of tooth aches. It was also used by other tribes as an analgesic and was said if hands were washed with Echinacea, it would increase the tolerance of heat (Echinacea. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2012 from Encyclopedia: www.encyclopedia.com/topic/echinacea.aspx). It was first marketed back in the 1800's. The name of Echinacea became "Meyers Blood Purifier" (Echinacea. (n.d.) Retrieved January 8, 2012 from the OLPC Wiki:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echinacea). A man from Switzerland whose job was to make herbs, announced that Echinacea was used to treat colds by the Native Americans who occupied South Dakota. It became popular because people were attracted to it's supposive wide range of medicinal purposes and the history behind it. It is widely used as an over the counter product in Germany and is currently building its popularity in the U.S. to become one of the most purchased herbal remedies.

Medicinal purposes

As of today, Echinacea is well known for colds. Some studies show and the true believers in Echinacea, say that it boosts the body's immune system. It stimuates the macrophages which are part of the immune system cells. The macrophages attack invaders such as cancer cells. It is said to stimulate the white blood cells, which are the good cells of the body that can help fight certain diseases. Sometimes Echinacea is combined with Goldenseal (another herbal supplement) or any other kind of herb that contains berberine (herb that contains properties that help fight vaginal yeast infections). With the information of Echinacea and the many studies that have unknown outcomes with this herb, comes controversy.
Colds are a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics. This could be why some cold sufferers turn to herbal remedies to lessen the duration of the cold. It seems that Echinacea is hard to compare it's effects, due to the fact that there are more than one kind of plant and all parts are used differently. According to The Nelison Co. "Americans spent $5.3 billion on cold and cough remedies at major U.S. stores in the year ending November 27." (Eric Risber AP (2010,12, 20). Got a Cold? Studies say Echinacea won't help much. Retrieved from
http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/health/medical/alternative/2010-12-20-echinacea-cold-remedy_N.htm). With the amount of money that American's are spending on this product, a research project went into finding out if the product in the bottle really contained Echinacea and it's cold fighting qualities. It was actually found that one out of every ten bottles that was distributed, there was no trace of Echinacea.
In favor of Echinacea, another study done by the University of Conneticut, they came to the conclusion that Echinacea may only shorten the duration of a cold and possibly cut your chances of catching a cold in half. Other studies of this plant do show a lot of healing properties, all having different levels of how they will work. In a study combining those participants that took echinacea and those that were given a placebo, the results together explained that "echinacea reduced the risk of catching a cold by 58%. It also found that the herb significantly shortened the duration of a cold, but there was no general agreement about the magnitude of this effect." (Nicholas Bakalar (2007, 7,24). Echinacea helps colds, major review shows. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2007/07/24/health/24echi.html).

Risks/Side effects

As with most herbal supplements, there may be side effects, or if taken in large doses, detremental to one's health. Echinacea is not supposed to be taken when a woman is pregnant or lactating. There has not been a single one case of real side effects when echinacea has been used that is fully proven. "Injections or oral dosage forms are to be used cautiously in diabetes mellitus because of fears that immunostimulants may adversely affect a patients metabolism."( Foster 1991). Since echinacea is known to stimulate immune function, it could possibly have a risk of decreasing the effectiveness of immunosuppresive drugs. It seems that if there are any side effects such as, nausea, diarrhea or abdominal pain, it could just as well coincide with the ailment than with Echinacea. However, no real evidence has been proven as of today that could be detrimental or fatal to a person.

Links to websites about Echinacea

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ECPU
http://www.naturalmedicinesofnc.org/Echinacea/Echinacea-cg.html


References

Echinacea. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2012 from Encyclopedia: www.encyclopedia.com/topic/echinacea.aspx

Echinacea. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2012 from OLPC Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/Echinacea

Echinacea angustifolia. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2012 from OLPC Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/Echinacea_angustifolia#cite_note-1

Echinacea pallida. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2012 from OLPC Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/Echinacea_pallida#cite_note-1

Echinacea purpurea. (n.d.). Retreived January 11, 2012 from OLPC Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/Echinacea_pupurea#cite_note-3

WebMD (2012,1). Echinacea for the common cold. Retrieved from www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/echinacea-common-cold

Nicholas Bakalar (2007,7,24). Echinacea helps colds, major review shows. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2007/07/24/health/24echi.html

Eric Risber, AP (2010, 12, 20). Got a Cold? Studies say Echinacea wont help much. Retrieved from www.usatoday.com/yourlife/health/medical/alternative/2010-12-20-echinacea-col-remedy_N.htm

Steven Foster. (1991). Echinacea: Natures Immune Enhancer. Vermont Healing Arts Press.

Mayo Clinic (2011,11,17).Herbal Supplements: What to know before you buy. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/herbal-supplements/SA00044.html?iref=allsearch