Coneflower or Echinacea is a wild flower that naturally develops in humid low lands and meadows along the mid-west area. These flowers are commonly used as garden plants for its attractive purple color. Besides being a favorite garden plant, Echinacea is also known to have potential benefits for health problems.
Echinacea has three varieties including Echinacea pallida, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea. All of them are helpful in boosting the immune system as well as in fighting infections. However, the pallida and the purpurea varieties are proven more effective.
Echinacea is believed to stimulate the immune system of the body through improving the function of the white blood cells. This way, infections and other harmful elements cannot easily attack the body. Echinacea is known to be one of the most accepted herbal medicines for infections in the respiratory system. The benefits of Echinacea to the immune system are being examined comprehensively for patients who have AIDS and cancer. Some studies say that the stimulation of the immune system using Echinacea can actually cause faster progression of AIDS and cancer while some researches suggest otherwise. There are clinical studies that indicate the antifungal and antiviral effects of Echinacea that may add to its infection fighting ability. Further studies are still needed to know the benefits and side effects in using Echinacea in treating illnesses and infections.
Some countries in Europe use Echinacea as additional treatment for different types of cancers. Doctors in Europe use Echinacea injections in relieving infections in the urinary tract. These treatments are also widely available in the United States.
Echinacea has been used topically in treating people with psoriasis and eczema. The herb is included in many topical remedies for hemorrhoids as well as in some topical treatment products for insect bites. It is also used in protecting the skin from harmful effects of the sun.
Most parts of the coneflower can be utilized as herbal medicine including the stems, roots, flowers and the leaves. Manufacturers use these parts in making various natural products. Medical preparations with Echinacea are best for treating viral infections, bacterial infections and disorders in the immune system.
Wound infections can also be treated with Echinacea. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help in improving the healing process in the skin. Many natural herbalists has tested Echinacea in treating abscesses, skin sores, canker sores and other inflammations. You can put Echinacea directly on your affected spot or take it orally. It is also believed that Echinacea can treat chronic fatigue or CFS.
However, some experts advise that you need to be cautious in taking Echinacea despite the fact that it has many health benefits. Due to its effect to the immune system of the body, it is suggested not to take the herb if you are suffering from leukemia, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, autoimmune disorders including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis.
If you use Echinacea for more than eight weeks, it may cause hepatotoxicity so you must not take the herb together with other hepatoxic drugs including amiodarone, methotrexate, ketoconazole and anabolic steroids. Pregnant and lactating women are discouraged in taking Echinacea as well as children under the age of two years. For adults, it is necessary to begin with small doses of the medication.