Echinacea angustfolia: immune booster Suffering from a running nose, chills and a cough? Colds and flus are the most common ailments during winter. So what does mother nature offer for these kind of conditions? Echinacea angustfolia tincture is probably the most well-known herbal medicine found in our medicine cabinets. It is not only effective for colds and flus, but also for all kind of other infections. How is this explained in the light of Ayurveda and modern science?
Kicks the immune system
The indigenous Peoples of North America were probably the first discoverers of Echinacea’s healing properties. They used the root for the treatment of rattle snake bites. Nowadays, its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and immune-modulating properties show up in many studies. Echinacea contains basically two miraculous compounds. The first is cytokines, which are our natural protectors. Echinacea increases our T-cells (immune cells) and this stimulates the production of cytokines. Whenever there is tissue damage, these cytokines show up. They repair tissue and possess anti-inflammatory properties. Then, the other microscopic doctor: alkamide. This compound acts as a defender to our bodily suicide mechanism that goes into effect when inflammations come into play.
The all-round protector
Echinacea purpurea, the variety that is more abundant in Europe, combats all sorts of intruders. It inhibits the growth of Candida albicans, Streptococcus pyogenes and Herpes Simplex Virus. Studies have shown that Echinacea not only protects the body from internal attacks, but also is an excellent regulator when the body is exposed to mutagens: substances like electromagnetic radiation, or chemicals that modify our DNA structure.
Atman: the soul of the plant
According to Ayurveda, all plants contain a higher intelligence, or soul: Atman. It is this specific part of the plant that recognizes and interacts with our higher intelligence. Nowadays I believe (trust me a few years ago I would have rolled my eyes if someone said this) that we optimize the effect of the medicine if we try to connect with it - through prayer, mantra, or simply by just asking for help.
Besides the consciousness of the plant, Ayurveda distinguishes different energetics of the plant: Rasa, Virya, Vipaka and Prabhava (CS.SU.1.49). The Rasa or taste is primary bitter and secondary pungent and its Virya is cooling. The herb works best to reduce Pitta and Kapha disorders, like infections and flus. Its Kapha pacifying effect is explained by the pungent taste and Vipaka. This balances out the cooling Virya.
Any side effects? It is not recommended for people with anemia and it can cause heart palpitations. This most likely is because of its effect on Vata. Biochemical studies say that it can cause a reduction in sperm motility and sperm penetration. Also it is contra-indicated for people with HIV conditions.
How to use it?
It is a strong medicine with anti-microbial and antiviral properties that treats all kinds of infections. An important note: you need to administer Echinacea frequently because of its rapid action. It leaves the body quickly. In cases of an acute infection, 30 drops of a tincture should be taken each hour. The healing properties of the plant oxidize quickly. In 3 days the root is worthless on a therapeutic level. Therefore, tinctures are most effective compared to capsules and churna’s.
Photo by woodlandessence
Book: Dravyaguna for Westerners, by Atreya Smith