Echinacea: a plant that boosts immunity

What is Echinacea?

Echinacea (Echinacea) is a perennial plant of the family of Asteraceae. She looks like a daisy. Its heart, orange, is made up of prickles, its petals are long, and depending on the variety, the flowering is white, yellow, orange, pink or red. It takes place from June to September. Its thick stem is branched. Echinacea measures between 60 cm and 1.5 m.

To grow, it likes both wet and dry areas. We can therefore see it growing in the meadows, the brush, the forests, the edges of the rivers…

Native to North America, echinacea was discovered by Native Americans. The latter used it to treat wounds, wounds, snake bites, insect bites… It was not until the 19th century that they informed eclectic doctors of its virtues.

“Echinacea has 9 varieties or species but only three species of Echinacea have medicinal properties. These are the following species: purple coneflower (echinacea purpurea) with purple petals, coneflowere pale with pink petals (echinacea pallida) and echinacea angustifolia with narrow leaves”, specifies Christine Vallée, doctor of pharmacy, founder of Herbolistique laboratories.

After the United States, and especially North America, echinacea has developed in other countries: in Africa, in Europe.

Where to plant echinacea?

Want to plant echinacea in your garden to take advantage of its beauty and, why not, its virtues. For this, you have to wait until spring (March – April) and have rich, drained soil in your garden. Echinacea thrives in sunny locations. Be careful, she does not like cold winters, when the temperature drops below 10°C! It takes between 10 days and three weeks to see the seedlings emerge from the ground.

And it is only after about two years that its flowering becomes really generous.

What parts of the plant are used?

All echinacea can be used: aerial parts (flowers), roots and leaves. Nevertheless, “we use the aerial parts, that is to say the flowers”, says the pharmacist. The flowers are harvested in the spring and sometimes until September. The roots, only in late autumn and after 3 to 4 years of growth of the plant. The roots are used exclusively dry.

What are the active ingredients of echinacea?

Echinacea has many properties “because it contains a whole set of components that we call the totum of the plantexplains Christine Vallée. These are, in fact, the different active molecules. » Among the substances found in echinacea are alkaloids, phenolic compounds (chicoric acid, caftaric acid), flavonoids, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides, alkamides, with antifungal, anti-inflammatory and restorers of the lipid barrier of the epidermis.

Echinacea can take different forms. For each of them, the amount taken is different, but the effectiveness of echinacea remains the same.

“For prevention, we tend to use herbal tea and mother tincture, recommends Lucile Sabatier, naturopath. In treatment, we prefer capsules. »

In herbal tea

We can use either rechinacea acine be the flowers to make an infusion. Count 1 teaspoon of root or dried flowers for a cup of 250 ml. Boil for 5 to 10 mins. Filter. Drink a maximum of 3 cups a day.

In mother tincture

The entire flowering plant can be used. We recommend 3 to 4 ml 3 times a day.

In capsules

Echinacea capsules consist of roots and aerial parts of the plant. It is necessary to count between 500 mg and 1 g, 3 times a day. In this form, echinacea is used as a cure, especially at the start of autumn, to boost the body’s defences.

Cream

The echinacea-based cream is interesting for moisturizing the skin and protecting it from external aggressions. It can also be used to relieve eczema, psoriasis, hives.

What are the benefits of echinacea?

The benefits of echinacea are diverse. “Echinacea has immunostimulating properties, informs Christine Vallée. It strengthens the white blood cells to defend the body when it comes into contact with bacteriaof the virus. More generally, it boosts the body after illness, treatment of chemotherapy to reduce fatigue, in particular. She is also antibacterial, healing and anti-inflammatory. »

And to further enhance its immunity booster effect, “it can be associated with certain mushrooms such as shiitake, reishi, suggests the pharmacist, as well as zinc. »

Against colds and flu

A study, published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2012, shows that taking echinacea, in the event of a cold, reduces symptoms by 26% and its recurrence by 59%.

More generally, echinacea is interesting for treating pathologies of the respiratory tract such as the flu, sinusitis, laryngitis.

Against urinary tract infections

In addition to its immunostimulating properties, echinacea also has antibacterial properties. It promotes the elimination of bacteria located on the walls of the bladder. “It is therefore interesting for preventing urinary tract infections in people at risk of cystitis, warns the doctor of pharmacy. It can then be taken as an 8-week cure followed by a 4-week break. »

Against skin problems

Echinacea can also be used externally, in particular in the form of a cream. It then has healing and anti-inflammatory properties. “It helps heal badly healing skin wounds, says Christine Vallée. It also promotes tissue repair in case of eczema, psoriasis. It is then necessary to apply cream morning and evening for about 3 weeks, the time that the tissues are renewed. »

Are there any dangers in taking echinacea?

Since echinacea is recognized for its immunostimulant properties, there are contraindications to echinacea. “Echinacea should not be used by people with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, AIDS, in case of taking immunosuppressive drugs, in case of organ transplant, lists the doctor of pharmacy. It is also to be avoided in people allergic to daisies, daisies, echinacea being part of the same family, that of the asteraceae. »

And Lucile Sabatier, naturopath, to complete: “As a precautionary measure, it should also be avoided in children under the age of twelve, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. »

What are the side effects of echinacea?

Echinacea can have side effects. In people with an allergic background, the Vidal specifies that “Echinacea can cause more or less severe allergic reactions: urticaria, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma attack…”

Before any use of echinacea, it is therefore advisable to seek advice from a health professional.

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