Monday, June 30, 2008

Prairie Cone Flower

We're off on our Wagon Train adventure in North Dakota. It is my hope we get to see a field of this glorious native American herb! It is also my hope we don't have to use it during our trek -- especially the way the Native Americans used it --- for snake bites!

ECHINACEA: medicinal uses
A guest post article written by David Brill, Clinical Herbalist, The Rosemary House
The 3 commonly used Latin Named Species: Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea, E. pallida

This beautiful purple flowering plant has many common names including Echinacea, Snakeroot, Snakebite Plant, Cone Flower, Toothache Plant and others. As these common names imply this herb has many medicinal uses.

Echinacea received its name from botanists after the Latin Echinus for the hedgehog to describe its prickly-cone shaped flower’s center. By the late nineteenth century Echinacea, pronounced /ek-ah-nay-shuh/, had become the most widely prescribed drug in the United States, it has been used for cancer pain, poisoning, spider and snake bites and many infectious diseases. Over 300 articles have been written in scientific and technical journals verifying the effectiveness of Echinacea to treat diseases of the immune system. The most widespread use today is for prevention and reduction of symptoms of the common cold.

Recent scientific investigation has established 7 distinguished actions of this plant: 1.) Stimulation of White Blood Cell (WBC) production when counts are low in the body, 2.) Increased maturation of WBC, developing immature cells quicker and continuously toward differentiation within the body aiding the lymph, spleen and thymus organs of the immune system, 3.) Amplifies chemical messengers released when the body is attacked speeding the migration of WBC to the site of damage, 4.) Increases the aggressiveness of WBC to invaders of the body, 5.) Increases marking of invaders to the body so WBC can identify and attack them quicker, 6.) Increases cell wall permeability of invaders so that WBC can identify and attack them easier, 7.) Helps to maintain the inter-cell integrity decreasing the ability of invaders to attack our human body’s cell walls and decreasing infection by the inhibition of hyalurenidase used by the attacking invaders to breakdown our cells walls thus reducing the spread of infection and stopping the spread of infection through the body.

Testimonials from our clients and customers suggest they find the Echinacea they use very effective or not effective at all. The reason for this disparate result can be explained as either form used, amount and frequency or timing of dosage. Fresh Echinacea should tingle the tongue this is your take home test. If taking capsules filled with ground plant material break them open and chew keeping it on the tip
tongue within a short time your tongue should tingle. If it does not this is probably inert Echinacea and medicinally valueless. This same test can be applied to tinctures or dry plant material found in retails herb stores. This verifies form, this tingling ensures freshness of the material.

Timing: Use Echinacea when you feel you are getting sick. Everyone knows the feeling: scratchy throat, slight body or head ache, pain in back or kidney area, tiredness and it is also appropriate to take Echinacea as a prophylactic (preventive). This would be when you have met a sick person or on the road in an airplane and/or stayed at a smoke filled party or bar. This is also the time to dose yourself with Echinacea.
Dosage: I suggest a teaspoon of extract every 2 hours for the first couple of days as soon as you get the feeling you maybe getting sick. This requires having a 4 to 8-ounce bottle of Echinacea extract in your medicine cabinet or carrying a small bottle with you while traveling.
(These recommendations are not intended to replace the advice of your personal physician.)
For those that cannot take alcohol, glycerin extracts can be used, most Echinacea glycerites are less powerful then their sister alcohol extracts and require higher dosing, follow manufacturer’s suggestions provided with their product.

David Brill is a clinical herbalist at The Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg, PA. He lives with his wife and business partner Susanna Reppert-Brill and their three little herbs Zachery, Angelica and Cedar.

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