Herb of the Month – January – Enchinacea Root

This well known plant should always be on hand in the winter months. It was used extensively by most Native Americans. It is well researched and considered to be a broad spectrum anti-infective remedy. It works well with other herbs to fight infection anywhere in the body, be it internal or external. Enchinacea Root is very good for respiratory infections, colds and flu.

Botanical names: Echinacea augustifolia or Echinacea purpurea- -both effective but augustifolia is usually more expensive, and some herbalists feel it is better.
Family: Compositae
Common name: Purple coneflower, Red sunflower, Kansas snakeroot
Part used: The root, sometimes flower or juice
Collection: Autumn this is when root energy is the greatest.
Description: Purple daisy-like plant with yellow cone center.
Main Actions: Antimicrobial, both viral and bacterial. Stimulates immune system. Detoxifies and clears lymph. It increases white blood cells, the cells which fight infection, specifically macrophages, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Has been found to block virus receptors on cell surfaces by stimulating the release of interferon.
Uses: For the common cold, flu, upper respiratory infections such as tonsillitis or sore throat use alone or combine with yarrow flower or osha root. For urinary tract infections use with uva ursi. For gum infections like gingivitis, mix with myrrh and gargle. For external boils or infected cuts, use externally with comfrey root in a paste or lotion. Historically has been used for snake bites with good results.
Combinations: Combines well with other plants depending on the area of body involved.
Preparation and dosage: Decoction: (a tea) Add 1 to 2 teaspoons root to 1 cup water. Bring slowly to a boil and simmer 10-15 minutes. Use 3 x daily. May make up a 2 day batch and keep unused portion in covered jar in refigerator. Heat as necessary. Add honey to cut mucus and sweeten.
Tincture: 1-4 ml 3x daily in a little water. (One ml is about 30 drops. Four ml is about 3/4 of a teaspoon.)
Safety: Mild herb with minimal chronic toxicity.
Caution: Echinacea is considered to be an immune stimulent but should not be used as an adaptogen (tonic) over long periods of time like Reishi mushroom or Astragalus. It is best used as early as possible BEFORE onset of colds or flus, during the illness and a few days after. If used for extended periods of time, always take a break. For instance, 4 weeks on, one week off, maximum duration 8 weeks.

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Harry – good question…and one I don’t have an answer for. I have only ever taken it in pill form. I’m sure the actual herb undried and fresh is best.

Gloria Jean Williamson

There are many ways to formulate and prepare herbs for delivery into the body, each of which has its own benefits and drawbacks. Choice of dosage form must be based on the needs of the individual. Herbs can be brought individually or in mixtures formulated for specific conditions. Herbs may be prepared as tinctures or extracts, capsules or tablets, lozenges, teas, juices, vapor treatments, or bath products. Visit a local herbalist to discern what meets an individual’s need.