Echinacea is a genus of perennial plants containing nine different species. They grow in prairies and open wooded areas. Because of their distinctive appearance they are often called coneflowers, but other genera of plants are called this too. So while all echinacea are coneflowers, not all coneflowers are echinacea.
Of the nine species in the genus, the two that have medicinal value are E.purpurea and E.angustifolia. Herbalists who use this plant prescribe it as a preventive treatment for colds – something you take while in an environment surrounded by ill people, to avoid getting sick yourself. It is also taken right at the onset of sickness (the prodromal phase), when you first feel fatigued or achy but have no other symptoms. East Asian Medicine uses the herb to treat colds when there is swelling in the skin, difficult urination, or nausea, because the herb also treats these conditions.
Problems with Echinacea
One of the common complaints with herbal medicine is that an herb’s effects don’t seem very obvious, or that its effects are not repeatable. This accusation is applied to echinacea perhaps more than any other herb. Research on echinacea also suffers from this accusation – studies show that the herb has benefit but is not reliable.
In order for herbs to work you have to take the correct species of plant, prepared in the proper manner. Both the species & preparation are important if you want to make sure that what you’re taking has the correct ingredients for the problem you’re trying to solve. A lot of research and preparations of echinacea, though, don’t use the correct species, or a preparation method that is shown to work. So it’s no wonder that mixed results are seen in studies.
Good Quality Echinacea for Colds
If you want to get good quality echinacea for your colds, you need to get a tincture of the freshly dried roots of the two species given above. A tincture of these species of the appropriate strength should tingle on the tongue when it is taken. This tingling is due to the alkyl amides in the extract, and is part of the herb’s active ingredients.
The dosage of the tincture you should take is also greater than you expect. Herbalists who use this plant typically take, at minimum, 1 teaspoon of tincture every 30-60 minutes during the acute onset of a cold. This is much more than what is written on a typical bottle at a store, and is certainly much more herb than you will take in capsule form.
It is likely that to get a correct dosage for you, and to get a good quality extract in the first place, you will need to see an herbalist. This way you can be certain that what you are getting is backed by someone who knows how to treat what you have, and can put this plant to work in an effective way.