There are three major types of Echinacea used in supplement preparations today. They are Echinacea purpurea (Purple coneflower), Echinacea angustifolia (Narrow-leafed coneflower) and Echinacea pallida (Pale coneflower). While they all have slightly different constituents, they are similar enough to discuss together. There are many references that compare and contrast the different species.
Echinacea is best known for a general ability to enhance the overall function of the immune system.
Echinacea is found in tinctures, fluid extracts, powdered extracts, and standardized extracts. Both roots and whole plants have been used. A reliable source of Echinacea is suggested, as it has been known to be substituted with various "Snakeroots" by some suppliers.
The active components of Echinacea have not been positively identified although large polysaccharides, as well as isobutylamides and cichoric acid have been implicated. Essentially, Echinacea has been shown to stimulate phagocytosis (engulfing of bacteria/viruses by certain white-blood cells), increase respiratory activity, and increase the motility of the white-blood cells.
Human clinical trials have been somewhat contradictory over the past several years; showing both positive and negative results for colds and flus. Both E. pallida root and E. purpurea whole plant preparations are "Approved" by the German Commission E for support during colds and influenza-like infections. E. angustifolia and E. pallida whole herb preparations still remain "Unapproved" by the Commission E, although there is some disagreement of this status.
A review article concluded that there is inadequate evidence to support claims that echinacea decreases the severity or shortens the duration of upper respiratory infections and that allergic reactions have been reported [Med Lett Drugs Ther 2002;44(1127): pp.29-30].
A tincture of equal parts of coneflower (Echinacea), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), cleavers (Gallium asparine), eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis), ginger root (Zingiber officinalis), and elderberry (Sambucus nigra) will strengthen your immune system, increase circulation, and help your respiratory system work better. Take 30 drops two or three times per day.
To promote the spread of colonies, streptococci secrete large amounts of hyaluronidase. This enzyme is inhibited by echinacea and prevents tissue invasion by the bacteria. Echinacea also promotes increased phagocytosis and natural killer cell activity. Physical contact is required, so gargling or topical application is best.
Echinacea and golden seal stimulate the immune system and are important for helping to clear any kind of infection. Take one dose of an echinacea and goldenseal combination formula supplying 250-500mg of echinacea and 250-500mg of goldenseal every two hours during the acute phase. Then cut back to one dose three times a day for up to one week.