The Most Important and Misunderstood Herb for the Immune System
Echinacea is an oft-misunderstood Native American herb of immense benefit to a variety of patients in your practice with both chronic and acute conditions. Its lipophilic (fat-loving) extract is known as the traditional echinacea extract.
Echinacea is a traditional North American herb. Native Americans have highly valued and used it therapeutically for hundreds of years. I consider Echinacea root to be the single most important herb in the world for supporting your primary immune system. It is also one of the most misunderstood herbs in the world.
There are several myths about Echinacea, popular in today’s media, culture and even natural health field. The main one is that Echinacea is only a short-term herb, solely used for a few days at the first sign of sickness of infection. This, we now know, is incorrect. The idea is based, in part, on the traditional use of Echinacea root – as needed, for days, weeks or months, for any type if infection or inflammation.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, American physicians of the Eclectic school of medicine used Echinacea angustifolia root with consistent documented success using this herb, internally and topically, for helping patients with the following conditions, and more:
Boils Indigestion Mastitis Abscesses
Leucorrhea Septicemia Dysentery Vulvitis
Fevers Gonorrhea Insect bites Influenza
Tuberculosis Toothache Tonsillitis Pneumonia
Bronchitis Measles Impotence Gangrene
Even without our modern understanding of the immune system, it’s clear from the above mentioned list that Echinacea is most certainly an immune-supporting herb. We should keep in mind that the Native Americans and the Eclectic physicians only used Echinacea angustifolia root, extracted with a high alcohol-to-water ratio, to achieve these impressive results.
Modern research, especially from the last 25 years, has shown us a new use for Echinacea – that it is most certainly also a preventative herb, to be taken daily, long-term. Unlike some botanicals, Echinacea can be taken for long periods of time or for life, without any adverse effects. It seems that Echinacea works best when it is in your system already at the time you are exposed to a possible pathogen. This is an important new understanding, for an herb traditionally used only as needed for acute conditions.
Also, the quality of an Echinacea product is critical to how well it works. Modern research has confirmed what parts of Echinacea provide the remarkable immune-supporting effects. They are a group of phytochemicals called alkalamides, which also create the distinctive tongue tingling produced by a high-quality Echinacea extract. Interestingly, the Eclectic physicians back in the day distinguished a clinically-relevant product as “producing a persistent tingling sensation in the mouth.” The more alkalymides, the stronger the tingle, and the more potent the Echinacea formula is.
In my own experience in practice over the past 25 years, I have found very few Echinacea products that cause any significant tingle in the mouth, other than the Echinacea Premium from MediHerb. Echinacea Premium is an herbal extract which blends the roots of Echinacea Angustifolia and Echinacea Purpurea. This product is, in my experience and review of Echinacea over the years, the most powerful and effective Echinacea product in the world. I’ve had many patients who reported no benefit from years of taking other Echinacea products, who felt immediate benefit from Echinacea premium.
Another common myth is that Echinacea should not be taken by people with autoimmune conditions. This would be a serious concern, given that 1 in 6 Americans (over 50 million) have one or more of 155+ known autoimmune conditions. This concern is based on the incorrect idea that Echinacea stimulates the immune system. More accurately, Echinacea root improves your innate immune response, rather than being a stimulant.
Also, autoimmune disease is a condition of excessive natural tissue or auto antibodies, which is part of your acquired or humoral immune system. Echinacea has no effect on antibodies, but rather strongly supports the innate or cellular immunity, which is your primary immune system. (This is another reason why vaccines are completely ineffective at improving anyone’s health. Vaccines only produce an artificial and temporary antibody response to synthetic or man-made pathogens. They do not affect or improve your immune system, health or strength).
So, Echinacea is not only safe and appropriate for patients with an autoimmune condition, it is actually very useful for supporting these patients. Echinacea helps correct the immune imbalance found in autoimmune conditions, where the innate/primary immune system is weak, and the acquired/secondary immune system is overactive to body tissues. This is the same reason why Echinacea root is so helpful for people with allergies, by balancing the allergic or excessive immune response to normal things in the environment. It’s basically the same pattern: allergies are an inappropriate response to normal proteins from outside your body, and autoimmune disease is an inappropriate response to normal proteins inside your body. Echinacea helps both, as an immune modulator or balancer.
So, just to conclude, Echinacea:
Has also been used for hundreds of years topically for various types of skin conditions, such as boils, psoriasis, and insect and snake bites. Traditionally, Echinacea was used for days, weeks or months to help people recover more quickly from an infection, by improving immune response to colds, flu, respiratory infections, really any type of infection anywhere in the body. Modern research has now confirmed that it also has a powerful ability to help prevent infections from happening in the first place. Personally I’ve been taking Echinacea premium daily since 2002, and have found it incredibly helpful in my own health as well as for hundreds of patients who have benefitted greatly from this wonderful formula.
Just remember, Echinacea can be used for helping get through an infection more quickly (traditional use), as well as preventatively with daily long-term use to support your immune system and immune response (modern research). I always combine Echinacea Premium, with Standard Process Nutritional Support for the immune system. So ask your practitioner which nutritional formulas from Standard Process would be most appropriate for you in your case.