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Echinacea is
Echinacea Herb
a genus of nine species of flowering plants in the Family Asteraceae, all native to eastern North America. These are herbaceous, drought-tolerant perennial plants growing to 1 or 2 m in height. The leaves are lanceolate to elliptic, 10-20 cm long and 1.5-10 cm broad. Like all Asteraceae, the flowers are a composite inflorescence, with purple (rarely yellow or white) florets arranged in a prominent, somewhat cone-shaped head; "cone-shaped" because the petals of the outer ray floretsonce the flower head openstend to point downward (are decumbent), thus forming a cone. The species of Echinacea are:

Echinacea angustifolia - Narrow-leaf Coneflower
Echinacea atrorubens - Topeka Purple Coneflower
Echinacea laevigata - Smooth Coneflower, Smooth Purple Coneflower
Echinacea pallida - Pale Purple Coneflower
Echinacea paradoxa - Yellow Coneflower, Bush's Purple Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea - Purple Coneflower, Eastern Purple Coneflower
Echinacea sanguinea - Sanguin Purple Coneflower
Echinacea simulata - Wavyleaf Purple Coneflower
Echinacea tennesseensis - Tennessee Coneflower

Some species of Echinacea, notably E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida, are grown as ornamental plants in gardens. Appropriate species are used in prairie restorations. Some species are used by domestic stock for forage; an abundance of these plants on rangeland supposedly indicates "good health".

Echinacea rhizome was used by North American Plains Indians, perhaps more than most other plant for various herbal remedies. In the 1930's "Echinacea" became popular in both Europe and America as a folk medicine. Echinacea has been attributed with the ability to boost the body's immune system and ward off infections, particularily the common cold. Depending on which species is used, herbal medicinals can be prepared from the above-ground parts and/or the root. It is not known which of echinacea's many chemical components might be responsible for its touted health benefits, although all species possess compounds of a chemical class called phenols (as do most other plants). Cichoric and caftaric acids are phenols that are present in E. purpurea; echinacoside is a phenol found in higher levels within E. angustifolia and E. pallida roots. When making herbal remedies, these
Echinacea Herb
phenols can serve as markers to evaluate the quantity of echinacea in the product. Other constituents that may be important include alkamides and polysaccharides.

A medical study by Taylor et al. (2003) demonstrated that echinacea products made from the entire plant (not just the root), and taken after the second cold symptom appeared, provided no measurable beneficial effect for children in treating the severity or duration of symptoms caused by the common cold virus. Studies by the University of Virginia School of Medicine (Turner, 2005) confirmed these results, and added that Echinacea had no clinically significant effects on the common cold even if taken immediately upon infection, or as a prophylaxis starting a week prior to symptoms of infection.

Echinacea herbals should not be taken by persons with progressive systemic and auto-immune disorders such as tuberculosis, leicosis, connective tissue disorders, collagenosis, and related diseases such as lupus erythematosus, according to the German Kommission E. Its use in AIDS or against opportunistic infections in AIDS patients is controversial. If used for more than 8 weeks, Echinacea may cause liver damage (Miller, 1998). It should not be used with other known hepatotoxic drugs such as anabolic steroids, amiodarone (Pacerone or Cordarone), methotrexate, or ketoconazole (Nizoral).

Other useful herb information: Meadowsweet | Ginseng | Ma huang | Yellow Dock | Dhea | Chlorella | Turmeric

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