02 Aug Herb of the Month; Echinacea angustifolia
The August magickal moon herb goes to.. Echinacea angustifolia, better known as purple cone flower, or just echinacea.
Native to: North America
Echinacea, a pretty flower from the sunflower family, has been used for thousands of years throughout Northern America by First Nations people as an anaesthetic, useful for tooth pain, and for cold and flu support. Despite echinacea’s roots in America, most research has been conducted on the plant in Germany, where it became popular as a homeopathic medicine. Echinacea also was popular during the Eclectic medicine era in the late 19th century, but declined in use during the 20th century in line with antibiotic resistance. Whilst it may have lost popularity for its pain relieving properties, Echinacea today is studied and used popularly for its immune regulating properties. When it comes to fighting bacterial, viral, fungal and protozoal infections, Echinacea shines. Aqueous extracts of the roots, and ethanolic extracts of the leaf are primarily used in herbal medicine.
Echinacea in action:
Immunomodulator: There are so many studies to back this action up, suggesting that “innate immunity is enhanced by administration of the plant and that the immune system is strengthened against pathogenic infections through activation of the neutrophils, macrophages, polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN), and natural killer (NK) cells. For this reason, it can be suitable for prevention against and treatment of various infectious diseases such as infections of the upper and lower respiratory systems, wound infections, and chronic pelvic infections.” Echinacea may also be regulating immunity this through its alkamides which affect the cannabinoid type 2 receptors (CB2). These receptors are demonstrating to play a key role in maintaining homeostatic immunological regulation and balancing out hyperinflammation.
Anti-inflammatory: Echinacea reduces inflammation, which is a process apparent in most if not all dis-ease states. It does this through its ability to reduce cytokines. What on earth are they? Immunomodulating protein agents that act on receptors to signal to the body how to modulate the immune response. Very important little fellas in maintaining the balance of health & disease. Thanks purple cone flower!
Just to name a few…
Other Medicinal Actions: anaesthetic, antianxiety (helpful for ADHD), antidepression, cytotoxiity & anticancer (thanks to those polysaccharides!), antimutagenic, sialogogue, antitussive
Constituents: caffeic acid derivatives (primarily echinocoside), flavonoids, essential oils, polyacetylenes, alkylamides, and polysaccharides, glycoproteins
Echinacea angustifolia is one of 3 types of Echinacea. The others include E. purpurea and E. pallida, however angustifolia is thought to be the most therapeutic, studies and constituents vary species to species. Some blends contain a mixture of all three which can be a powerful synergy. A few myths that get around about the echinacea spp. are around its immunostimulating properties, and its safety over the long term. Is it appropriate for people with auto-immune conditions to use echinacea? Whilst one does hear claims being said that it will exasperate auto-immune conditions, some studies have show otherwise, and actually there is very little conclusive evidence to prove these claims. One double-blind placebo study showed that echinacea used daily for 4 months offered a positive impact on cold prevention. Another study on mice with auto-immune disease showed that by using echinacea it helped to boost NK cells, which modulate auto-immune type 1 diabetic disease state, thereby having a positive impact. Caution and care must always be taken, and for people with serious conditions, guidance offered by a health practitioner is a must.
1. Delorme, D., Miller, SC. (2005). Dietary consumption of Echinacea by mice afflicted with autoimmune (type I) diabetes: effect of consuming the herb on hemopoietic and immune cell dynamics. Autoimmunity. Sourced online from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16278152
2. Jawad, M., Shoop, R., Suter, A., Klein, P., Eccles, R. (2012). Safety and Efficacy Profile of Echinacea purpurea to Prevent Common Cold Episodes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Sourced online from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3457740/
3. Manayi, A., Vazirian, M., Saeidnia, S. (2015). Echinacea purpurea: Pharmacology, phytochemistry and analysis methods. Pharmacogn Rev. Sourced online from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4441164/