The term Echinacea derives from the Greek Echinos, which means “sea urchin”; this name is due to the shape of the thorny head of the flowering plant. It is a herbaceous plant about 8-10 cm high, belonging to the Composite family (which also includes the daisy, the sunflower, etc.) and known since ancient times to the Indians of North America for its numerous healing properties , especially regarding sores and wounds. It is currently widely used for its immunostimulating action. It is characterized by a perennial structure and produces large flowers ranging from white to purple, with long and ornamental petals.
Three species of Echinacea
The species of Echinacea present in nature are nine in all, but the best known and most used for phytotherapeutic purposes are three; each of these species blooms in the summer months and differs essentially in the color of the flower and the appearance of the leaves. The species most exploited for its therapeutic properties is Echinacea angustifolia , characterized by pink / purple flowers.
- Echinacea angustifolia
- Echinacea purpurea
- Echinacea pallida
A bit of history
Unlike many other plants for therapeutic use known since ancient times, the use of Echinacea was discovered by Europeans only in 1700, when it was discovered to be used by the Native American communities of North America for curative purposes.
It is believed that as many as 14 Native American tribes used Echinacea as a remedy against snake and poisonous insect bites; Indian shamans gave the leaves and roots of the plant to chew on those who had been bitten, while trying to eliminate the poison from the circulation by cutting the skin; a pulp obtained from the leaves and roots of the fresh plant was then applied to the wound; in 2-3 days the symptoms of poisoning disappeared.
To get the first news on the introduction of Echinacea in practical medicine, we must wait until the beginning of the twentieth century, years in which the tincture of Echinacea is counted among the best-selling medicines in America; it was in fact recommended as a therapy for localized and systemic infections, to treat colds and flu, but also against boils, canker sores and varicose ulcers. In the same period in Europe, especially in Germany, Echinacea began to be cultivated and used; the popularity of Echinacea extracts in these countries grew rapidly, and its fame is linked to its ability to "extinguish" the symptoms of flu and cold in the bud.
Active ingredients and properties
- Echinacin B
It is a polysaccharide complex with anti- inflammatory , immunostimulating , and healing properties; for this reason Echinacea is a valid component also used in cosmetic - dermatological preparations.
It is a polysaccharide molecule with an immunostimulating action, which has also been shown to have an activity similar to that of interferon, a substance produced by our body and able to fight viral infections. Echinacoside also has a modest antibiotic activity.
Polysaccharide also with immunostimulating action, which induces macrophages to phagocytize pathogenic microorganisms; it also increases the proliferation (and therefore the number) of immune system cells responsible for the production of antibodies, optimizing the body's defense .
It has a photo-toxic action against fungi and has a fair anti- inflammatory activity. It is in fact able to inhibit the enzyme responsible for the inflammatory state, called cyclooxygenase.
- Caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid
They are two polyphenolic derivatives capable of increasing the protection of collagen against free radicals. They inhibit a bacterial enzyme that degrades hyaluronic acid, an important constituent of the dermis essential for the tone and well-being of our skin. These two molecules work in synergy to allow for a natural increase in defense against bacterial infections through the skin.
Thanks to the virtues of its components, Echinacea therefore proves to be an effective phytotherapeutic product to enhance the immune defenses . Its immunostimulating action can therefore be exploited to fight colds, flu and inflammation of the upper respiratory tract . Unlike cortisone derivatives, which can decrease the efficiency of the immune system causing reduced functionality, the trump card of Echinacea is that of carrying out a moderate anti-inflammatory action but, unlike the latter, it has the ability to strengthen the immune system. .
As for its antiviral properties, they have been verified in vitro on cell cultures; these researches have shown that the antiviral effect of Echinacea does not occur through a virucidal action, but rather through the ability to hinder the penetration of viruses (especially Herpes simplex and influenza viruses) into the cells. These properties can be used to create remedies capable of increasing the natural ability of our body to oppose the development of acute viral infections of the respiratory tract (colds, flu, pharyngitis ).
Since Echinacea is able to enhance the Immune System, making it more prompt in countering the development of diseases typical of the cold season, the advice is to take it in order to prevent episodes of disease; in this way it will be possible to spend the autumn-winter with an adequate defense against the affections of the upper respiratory tract .
Many of the commonly used drugs have the effect of stimulating the immune system to react against the specific antigen causing a disease; Echinacea, strengthen the "non-specific fraction" of the immune system, ie making it able to react faster to external stimuli, strengthens the organism against all pathogens and not against just one.
You can find Echinacea in Echinostilla Propolis Maef spray