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Echinacea is native to North America and was widely used by eclectic physicians.
A botanical medicine, Echinacea is a member of the Daisy Family (Asteraceae) which includes edible herbs like Dandelion and Arnica. Purple Coneflower is one of its few common names, given its appearance is a head with purple, pink petals and cone-shaped centre.
A jack-of-all-trades type medicine, Echinacea has been used throughout history particularly in Wester Herbal Medicine to fight illness, relieve inflammation and as a lymphatic.
Used widely in Native American culture, Echinacea has also been studied and used in Western medicine for a long time, with the first published report about Echinacea and its chemical compounds published back in 1897.
We asked Wanderlust Naturopath, Shelley McKenzie to give us a 21st century update on this staple botanical medicine.
“Echinacea stimulates the immune system, so it makes for a great winter supplement to support the immune system,” says Shelley.
It also improves our resistance to infections so that when we do fall ill, the sickness doesn’t last as long, and we can bounce back and return to health sooner.
Skin issues wearing you down? Echinacea has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties, so it is often found in natural skin care products, especially when acne is a health focus.
What else can it do, we hear you ask? Well, this humble little herb punches above its weight and can also be used to treat wounds.
“As a topical cream, Echinacea can be used to promote wound healing and help with skin healing. Use it on anything from a cut, scrape or sore to heal,” Shelley says.
And to keep an eye on our long term health, Echinacea has a very high number of antioxidants so it can help reduce oxidative stress, a state which has been linked to chronic health concerns..
Shelley suggests that if you are feeling like your immune system needs a little support, , take Echinacea in an oral liquid or tincture, which you can consume on its own or with 30ml of water or juice.
Drinking Echinacea as a herbal tea is also a great way to reap the benefits, and if you want to support skin health, look for a natural skin cream or topical cream.
Shelley also advises that due to Echinacea’s immune stimulating properties, those with autoimmune conditions, or people who are taking immunosuppressive drugs should always consult their health care professional before using Echinacea, and high doses of Echinacea can also cause nausea and throat irritation.
With winter approaching, keeping some of the ol’ faithful Echinacea close by can support your health and wellness this winter.
Supporting reference texts:
Bone, A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs
Braun & Cohen, 2015, Herbs & Natural Supplements
Mills & Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy
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