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The Health Benefits of Echinacea

The Health Benefits of Echinacea
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From Joseph Mercola, DO

Echinacea is also known as purple coneflower. It is one of the hardiest perennial plants indigenous to America. Much of the knowledge that we have about the medicinal use of echinacea is derived from Native American use. Samples of the plant have been found in Lakota Sioux village sites dating from the early 1600s.

The herb was most popular with Native Americans of the Great Plains, who used the herb to treat snake and poisonous insect bites. Archaeologists have found evidence that echinacea was used to treat infections and wounds for more than 400 years. There is evidence that it also has been used to treat blood poisoning, diphtheria, syphilis and malaria.

The plant was first identified during the Lewis and Clark expedition that ended in 1806. In 1885, Dr. H.C.F. Meyer learned of the plant’s qualities and contacted a prominent eclectic physician in Cincinnati, Dr. John King, and pharmacist John Uri Lloyd.

The two first thought Meyer’s claims were exaggerated but they eventually tried it and echinacea became one of the most popular herbs used during the eclectic era that lasted until the 1930s. “Regular” Western medical establishment criticized the use of echinacea even though reports in the medical literature showed successes with teeth and gum disease, typhoid, puerperal fever and in veterinary medicine.

The popularity of echinacea began declining after the 1930s when antibiotics were introduced. However, throughout the 20th century, it became increasingly popular in Germany where much of the scientific research has been conducted. Thus far there have been over 1,000 papers published.

As interest in the immune system rose in the scientific community, so has the popularity of echinacea developed in the consumer industry. Echinacea is a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae), which includes over 20,000 species of flowers, shrubs and trees.

Plants in this category include sunflowers, dandelions, artichokes, ragweed and sage. Three main types of echinacea are used for medicinal purposes. These include Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida.

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