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Echinacea The Cold Killer

By Christina Waters

ONE OF THE PRIMARY medicines among native peoples of North America, Echinacea angustifolia--purple coneflower-- was used in a favorite poultice against snakebites, as a cold treatment, and to ease the aches of arthritis. European settlers in the Midwest quickly adopted echinacea as a remedy, attracting the attention of the East Coast medical community, which soon sent samples of the flower and roots to colleagues across the Atlantic.

By the turn of the century, echinacea was a fixture in every medicine cabinet and enjoyed favor as a cold remedy until the raging debate between alternative healers and the AMA practitioners sent its use into a steep decline. Once patent medicines and antibiotics came on the scene after World War I, echinacea almost disappeared from use in the United States.

Today echinacea enjoys huge sales, largely owing to its widely reported effectiveness against that most stubborn of maladies--the common cold. Echinacea seems to be most potent as an extract. Confirmed users report that if taken at the first sign of a scratchy throat or plugged-up nose, echinacea can actually prevent a cold from developing.

How it does this occurs in several ways, according to a body of German studies done over the past several decades. Echinacea not only acts to prevent infection from invading tissue, but is believed to strengthen the immune system. Echinacea appears to boost the white blood cells' ability to kill germs.

Studies also indicate that it can increase levels of infection-fighting T-cells, and even more important--in terms of possible cancer-fighting implications--echinacea simulates the infection-fighting abilities of a hormone called interferon, which is produced by the body. Purists can try growing their own echinacea, using organically grown seeds packaged by Seeds of Change.

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From the January 16-22, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent

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