This Echinacea purpurea plant, or purple flower, has been one of the most popular herbal medications all over the world for over a century.
Echinacea was the number one cold and flu remedy in the United States until it was displaced by sulfa antibiotics. Ironically, antibiotics are not effective for colds, while echinacea appears to offer some real help. Echinacea remains the primary remedy for minor respiratory infections in Germany, where over 1.3 million prescriptions are issued each year.
In Europe, and increasingly in the US as well, echinacea products are widely used to treat colds and flus.
The best scientific evidence about echinacea concerns its ability to help you recover from colds and minor flus more quickly. Evidence tells us that echinacea can actually help you get over colds much faster. It also appears to significantly reduce symptoms while you are sick. Echinacea may also be able to “abort” a cold, if taken at the first sign of symptoms.
Echinacea is usually taken at the first sign of a cold and continued for 7 to 14 days. Longer-term use of echinacea is not recommended. The best (though not entirely consistent) evidence supports the use of products made from the above-ground portions of E. purpurea (specifically, flowers, leaves and stems); E. pallida root has also shown promise, but E. purpurea root appears to be ineffective.
Many herbalists feel that liquid forms of echinacea are more effective than tablets or capsules, because they feel that part of echinacea’s benefit is due to activation of the tonsils through direct contact.26 However, there is no real evidence to support this contention.
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