Echinacea: all its properties and health benefits

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Echinacea purpurea, better known as echinacea, is a herbaceous perennial plant with pinkish or purple tones, believed to have been used by North American Indian tribes centuries ago to heal arrow wounds and snake bites

There are 23 species of this plant, of which purpurea is the best known and most widely used variety in Europe. From echinacea, you can take advantage of everything, root, leaves and flowers, because it is loaded with useful medicinal properties to combat common respiratory infections.

Nowadays, it is easy to find medicines based on fresh echinacea. But before rushing to use them, more research should be done on their benefits, uses and contraindications.

  • Scientific name: Echinacea
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Class: Magnoliopsida
  • Order: Asterales

what are the properties of echinacea?

Of the properties of this medicinal plant, the following can be highlighted:

  • Immunostimulant and antiseptic. It highlights its ability to stimulate the formation of white blood cells, both lymphocytes and macrophage cells, which are part of the body’s mechanism to fight bacteria and viruses
  • Anti-inflammatory. It has been observed to increase the proliferation of cytokines, proteins that act as regulators of immune and inflammatory responses
  • Antiviral. It has shown high efficacy in treating viruses such as rhinovirus, influenza virus, adenovirus type 3 and type 11, and herpes simplex virus type 1.
  • Healing. It helps to regenerate the skin, so its topical use is used to treat problems of the epidermis, such as eczema or atopic dermatitis.
  • Antioxidant. It contains many antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids and others called alkamides, which can help maintain the function of antioxidants

Benefits of echinacea

This medicinal plant has a potent antiviral activity and chemical components such as alkylamines, glycoproteins, polysaccharides and caffeic acid derivatives, which give it the virtue of strengthening the immune system, thus contributing to the protection of cells against viral attacks.

It has also been proven that it possesses amino acids, beta-carotene, riboflavin, fiber, lecithin, minerals, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Since 1930, when the German doctor Gerhard Madaus brought the first seeds to Europe, most of the research on the clinical and pharmacology of this plant has been conducted in Europe, and the discoveries related to its healing benefits are still ongoing

Following are some benefits derived from echinacea.

It is effective in combating respiratory diseases

The European Medicines Agency “approves the well-established use of Echinacea purpurea, orally, both in the prevention and treatment of the common cold”

This conclusion is based on several studies demonstrating the efficacy of echinacea in the treatment of infectious diseases of viral origin. Therefore, it is commonly used to mitigate the symptoms of diseases such as sinusitis, pharyngitis, flu or colds

Its effectiveness in strengthening the immune system, being a natural antibiotic capable of activating the production of leukocytes, and its anti-inflammatory action, helps to reduce fever, mucus and cough, typical of the common cold and other diseases of the respiratory system.

It is effective in treating skin problems

The topical use of echinacea in the healing of lesions is widespread. Because this plant is a powerful cicatrizant, it favors the formation of granulation tissue

To this can be added its antiviral property, which makes it effective in healing burns, eczema, herpes, bites, psoriasis outbreaks and skin ulcers.

Echinacea root is also used topically for the relief of blemishes and pimples that accompany mild acne.

Finally, a recent study conducted in Hungary indicated that echinacea purpurea extract has shown good results in treating atopic dermatitis.

It is useful for healing infections

Echinacea helps to partially repair tissues affected by infection, through the inhibition of the activity of tissue and bacterial hyaluronidase enzyme, an enzyme that is part of the body’s defensive mechanism, which includes connective tissue substances such as hyaluronic acid; therefore, it acts as a barrier against harmful agents.

It is known that some microorganisms activate hyaluronidase, and this begins to destroy the integrity of hyaluronic acid, thus weakening the barriers and allowing the entry of pathogens, which freely invade, penetrate the membranes and kill the affected cells.

This is where echinacea intervenes by inhibiting the action of hyaluronidase by binding to this enzyme, thus reducing the number of microorganisms that destroy the defensive barriers. For this reason, it is used to combat infections of the vagina, urinary tract and ear

how to take echinacea?

For all the benefits it brings, echinacea is in great demand and can be found in the form of tablets, which are used to strengthen the natural defenses.

But it is also available in drops, syrup, dry extract, tincture and infusion. It is important to note that it should be taken only on medical advice and prolonged use should be avoided

Many health professionals argue that it is best to start taking it when you notice the mildest symptoms of a cold, to prevent its progression.

How long can echinacea be taken?

There are two treatment options:

  • Symptomatic treatment. It is recommended to take this plant with the appearance of the first flu-like symptoms, but without exceeding 10 days in its administration.
  • Preventive treatment. Treatments of a few days with echinacea are recommended for one or two months, followed by similar periods of rest

Contraindications of Echinacea

Contrary to what is often said, medicinal plants are not harmless, but like drugs, they must be used with care. The contraindications of echinacea are:

  • Due to its immunostimulant properties, it is not recommended in people with autoimmune diseases and immunodeficiencies.
  • It is not recommended for use in patients on immunosuppressant therapy.
  • Echinacea consumption is not recommended for children under 12 years of age without medical supervision.

Modern medicine has inherited the ancestral wisdom of ancient indigenous peoples and has improved the use they gave to plants, so now more than every echinacea is appreciated for its healing benefits.

German Fuertes Otero
German Fuertes Otero
CEO at M.D. from Stanford Medicine: Stanford, California, US, M.Sc. from University of Cambridge: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK and University of Oxford: Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK. PhD at Harvard University Harvard Catalyst: Cambridge, MA, US.

Aunque pueda contener afirmaciones, datos o apuntes procedentes de instituciones o profesionales sanitarios y la información contenida en PharmaSalud esté redactada por profesionales en medicina, recomendamos al lector que cualquier duda relacionada con la salud sea consultada con un profesional del ámbito sanitario.

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