Part of the daisy family, echinacea is a flowering plant that grows wildly across the eastern and central United States. Its name comes from the Greek word for hedgehog, echinus, on account of the flower’s spiky cone. It has been used by Native Americans for hundreds of years to treat wounds and infections. In fact, it was used for problems like malaria, syphilis, scarlet fever and blood poisoning before the advent of antibiotics.
While its medical use seems to be pushed aside in favor of more profitable pharmaceuticals in the U.S. in recent years, it remains popular in Europe and among natural health practitioners.
It can prevent and treat the common cold: We’ll start with the first benefit as it’s the most popular one. Getting a cold is never fun, but echinacea has been shown in studies to shorten a cold’s duration by an average of 1.4 days. Every hour counts when you’re suffering from a cold! In addition, drinking a tea of echinacea upon the first signs of a cold or flu can cut it short; studies have also shown that it reduce your odds of developing the common cold by an impressive 58 percent.
It can enhance your immunity: Research has shown that taking echinacea daily for just two weeks is enough to bring about noticeable increases in immune activity, such as greater white blood cell counts. It also has an antioxidant effect. Other studies have shown that its extract can stimulate immune function in healthy cells as well as those taken from people with AIDS and chronic fatigue syndrome.
It can help treat the flu: In a double-blind, randomized study, 473 people with early influenza symptoms were given either a hot echinacea drink or the popular flu medication Tamiflu. Not only was echinacea just as effective as Tamiflu, but it also had far fewer side effects.
It reduces the side effects of chemo: In a notable study, an echinacea compound demonstrated the ability to reduce chemotherapy-induced leucopenia, or low white blood cell count, with those who took the compound noting white blood cell counts that were 50 percent higher than those in the control group.
It can support your red blood cells: Studies have shown that this herb can help to support the health of red blood cells. In a 28-day trial, for example, a group of healthy young men who took 8,000 milligrams of echinacea a day had a 63 percent greater amount of EPO, a hormone that promotes red blood cell formation by bone marrow.
It can protect you from radiation: Researchers believe that echinacea can prevent negative health effects in people who have been exposed to radiation. A study in Serbia found that taking echinacea led to an increase in the number of defective cells that self-destructed among Serbian workers who had been exposed to radiation.
It can reduce wrinkles: Echinacea can also be used topically in cream or gel format, and studies have shown that it can improve skin hydration significantly and reduce wrinkles by as much as 14.92 percent.
As you can see, keeping echinacea on hand is a great idea as it can combat a host of health concerns naturally. Whether you get the herb itself or an extract, tablets, or tincture, it’s really handy to pull it out and start taking it any time you feel a cold or the flu coming on.
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