Echinacea, otherwise known as the prairie coneflower, is a wildflower with purple blossoms native to the North American plains. Native Americans and pioneer settlers used it for everything from healing wounds to relieving toothaches and treating snakebites. Perhaps no herb has crossed the line from the realm of herbal folklore to mainstream medical acceptance as much as echinacea has. Its natural antibiotic and immune-system strengthening properties have crowned this herb as the cold, flu and infection fighter.
Echinacea contains antibacterial agents plus increases the body's production of interferon to help combat bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes. It is effective at preventing or alleviating cold and flu symptoms, especially if taken early, frequently and in relatively high doses. If taken at the first sign of infection, echinacea can decrease the severity and duration of the illness, relieving symptoms such as aches, pains, fever and congestion.
Echinacea may also help prevent recurring conditions like ear, yeast and urinary tract infections. There is some indication that it may be an effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome and it may increase immune function in those who have undergone cancer treatment. As a topical remedy, echinacea can help heal wounds, burns, eczema, cold sores and other skin ailments.
Echinacea is available in many forms including capsules, lozenges, tinctures and teas.