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Celebrating the Power of Plants for Conscious Living

How to Get the Most Out of Immune-Boosting Echinacea

 by Faye Sakellaridis

Echinacea is hailed as a powerful, natural home treatment for colds and flus. Once a staple in traditional Native American healthcare, echinacea has been recently proven to inactivate many strains of influenza, including H1N1. So why is it that this so-called ultimate cold and flu treatment ends up being a disappointment to those who turn to it during the wintry, germ-ridden seasons?

Herbal blogger Faith of Nourishing Herbalist takes this dilemma to task by examining where many go astray when it comes to echinacea, and offering tips on how to reap the full benefits of this powerful herb.

For instance, nine species of echinacea, only three of which are recognized for medicinal use. The most effective of the three is debated by herbalists (Stephen Buhner gives his vote to E. angustifolia as the most effective against influenza), but ultimately, the answer depends on the individual.

Another common misstep Faith points out occurs in the manner in which people consume it. It's best to eschew capsules, which don't allow for the plant to be absorbed into the bloodstream:

Here’s why: For echinacea to work the plant components must touch the affected membranes. The plant components responsible for giving echinacea it’s immuno-stimulating properties do not seem to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which is why they are only effective when they come into direct contact with the virus. (Source 1, Source 2

 

Consequently, one of the most effective ways to use this plant is as an infusion or decoction.

 

And if you’re not a fan of echinacea’s astringent taste flavoring your cup of tea, consider using a tincture instead!

 

As a side note, a good quality echinacea should leave a tingling sensation in the mouth and on the tongue because of it’s astringent properties. You can also use the sensation to help you determine if your echinacea stash is still fresh and potent. 

 

Brimming with sage advice, Faith further explains how understanding the anatomy of echinacea plants is a useful guide, the importance of timing, herbs to pair echinacea with for added support, and more. Read it here.