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Echinacea

Health Benefits of Echinacea

There are three varieties of echinacea: echinacea purpurea, echinacea pallida, and echinacea angustifolia. All three varieties are used to boost the immune system and to fight infections, but only the purpurea and pallida varieties have been shown to be effective.

Echinacea is thought to serve as a stimulant to the body's immune system by activating white blood cells, making it more difficult for foreign bodies to infect cells. Echinacea is one of the most popular herbal remedies for respiratory infections. Echinacea's positive effects on the immune system have been studied extensively for cancer and AIDS patients. Some researchers believe that stimulating immune function may cause cancers and AIDS to progress faster, while others find a disease-relieving effect from using echinacea. Some evidence from other clinical studies appears to indicate that echinacea may have antiviral and antifungal effects, possibly adding to its infection-fighting ability. Echinacea's use in all of these conditions needs further study before it can be recommended.

In some European countries, Echinacea is available intravenously for add-on therapy in connection with of some types of cancer. European doctors also use an injected form to help relieve urinary tract infections. Echinacea injections are not available in the United States.

Topically, Echinacea has been used in connection with eczema and psoriasis. It has been added to topical preparations for haemorrhoids and it is included in other topical products used on insect bites. It may also protect skin from damage due to sunlight.

Dosage and Administration

Echinacea pallida is most often taken orally. A common daily dosage is 900 milligrams taken as a tincture in a 50% alcohol solution. A recommended daily dosage of echinacea purpurea leaf is 6 to 9 millilitres (approximately 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 teaspoonfuls) of expressed juice. When using a commercially-prepared echinacea product, users should follow the manufacturer's instructions, as strengths may vary.

Precautions

Because of echinacea's effects on the immune system, you should not take this drug if you have multiple sclerosis, AIDS, tuberculosis, leukaemia, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

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