Disclaimer. I am not a licensed health practitioner. This is just another post on an item you might wish to have available if needed so that a physician can treat you and your family as best as possible. No medication, including those available over the counter, should be taken without consulting a physician. Information shared here is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not medical advice nor a substitute for licensed medical care. A qualified, licensed physician or other medical provider should be consulted before beginning any herbal or conventional treatment.
Great Plains Indians historically used echinacea in alleviating pain, and it's been used in German medicine for over one hundred years in treating sore throats and upper respiratory infections. Echinacea sales rocketed a few decades ago in this country as it was touted in the popular press for treating colds and flu. Echinacea isn't my first choice for those conditions. It's not even second or third. But it is a powerful herb, and one you probably don't want to be without in some form.
The three most popular species of echinacea, and the most researched--Echinacea angustifolia, pallida, and purpurea, probably shouldn't be thought of as interchangeable. Dr. Patrick Jones (author of HomeGrown Herbalist) favors purpurea for being a more robust plant. He also suggests that Rudbeckia hirta and Rudbeckia lancinata may be acceptable substitutes for echinacea. Stephen Buhner (author of Herbal Antibiotics) and Sam Coffman (author of The Herbal Medic) assert that these species are not interchangeable. The arguments boil down to the following:
- angustifolia and pallida roots are more medicinal than purpurea roots.
- purpurea flowers are more medicinal than angustifolia and pallida flowers.
- purpurea is not effective for influenza.
- If purpurea is all that you have, use double to triple the recommended dosage for treatment.
- angustifolia is what Buhner and Coffman recommend for treating snake and spider bites
- Jones generally uses only the aerial parts of purpurea, except in snake and spider bites, where he also uses the root.
Fresh juice. The fresh juice of the aerial parts of purpurea are fantastic, and indeed this is often used in German medicine. The juice is most potent when the flowers are in seed. Everything above the ground is juiced. It is best used when fresh and is taken up to six times per day in acute conditions.
Tincture. According to Dr. Buhner, the tincture is best prepared in the following manner:
- Fresh flower heads in seed, in a 1:2 ratio of one part herb to two parts alcohol, or
- Dried root, 1:5 ratio. Both use 70% alcohol (140 proof).
- Snake and poisonous spider bites--Internally, take 30 drops each hour. Externally, apply as a poultice or soak, if possible, and change every 2-4 hours.
- Strep throat--full strength, held in mouth, mixed with lots of saliva, swirled around, and slowly swallowed.
- Septicemia, typhoid, and diphtheria--1 teaspoon of angustifolia tincture every 30 minutes, held in mouth for 1 minute before swallowing. Take 30 minutes after taking piperine to get it into the bloodstream even more quickly.
- Influenza--Use tincture in equal amounts with red root and licorice tinctures, 30 drops every hour until symptoms resolve. This is most effective when taken at the first sign of illness, the first signs of a sore throat. Use full strength, held in the mouth, mixed with lots of saliva, and swallowed as slowly as possible.
- Urinary tract infections--1 teaspoon every 2 hours.
- External wounds, and especially infected wounds--1/2 to 1 teaspoon every 30-60 minutes.
- sore throat and tonsillitis;
Poultice: Mix echinacea powder with water until it is thick and place the sludge on the affected area for pain relief as well as treating infection and hastening healing.
Note that for influenza and other viruses afflicting the nose and throat, capsules of echinacea are not effective. Echinacea does indeed possess remarkable anti-viral properties, but it only works if it comes into direct contact with the affected tissue. Capsules take the echinacea past the irritated throat directly to the stomach. Tinctures, especially when swished around in the mouth, let the echinacea come into direct contact with the virus, thus effectively killing the virus.
Contraindications. Avoid if allergic to ragweeds. Avoid if using clarithromycin (Biaxin) or lovastatin. Avoid in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis or tuberculosis. Echinacea may slow the breakdown of caffeine in the body, causing jitters and an increased heart rate.
Cautions: May cause joint pain, nausea, and/or dizziness in sensitive individuals or in case of overdosing.
For further reading:
Sam Coffman, The Herbal Medic, pp 224-227.
Stephen Buhner, Herbal Antivirals.
Stephen Buhner, Herbal Antibiotics, pp 268-281.
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