Echinacea root has such an interesting and varied use as an immune tonic. Native Americans valued the remedy for wound healing, when there was no antibiotics, herbs were used to support the body’s immune response. Echinacea was highly valued for this and for this reason alone it was considered a key herb in traditional shaman and healers tents.

What we know from clinical practice is that Echinacea is a great herb for the prevention of colds and winter viral illness. Taken daily as a tonic it will give you a much higher chance of warding off a virus before it starts. This is because it supports the natural killer cells – the first line of defense in your immune army. These fighting little cells are the first to destroy any invaders – even before we figure out what it is and make antibodies – these cells get to work. This is why Echinacea is supreme at prevention. As well as this it also stimulates a T-cell response which helps increase the antibody production as well. Phagocytes (cell killers) and leukocytes (while blood cells) also move faster when stimulated by Echinacea constituents.

Echinacea contains several groups of compounds – alkamides being the main active constituents. Polysaccharides also form part of the immune enhancing action supporting the immunity from the gut associated lymphoid tissue.

A good quality Echinacea should be made from the root which contains the most alkamides – these tingle the tongue and create a strange sensation when taking a quality Echinacea tincture – we always suggest watering it down to reduce the sensation, although some people like it! We recommend people take Echinacea either as a single herb as a daily tonic and to increase the dose if you feel something coming on. Echinacea does work best in higher doses when you are faced with an immune challenge, doubling or even tripling the dose makes it highly effective and speeds the healing process.

We also recommend Echinacea for other more complex immune problems as part of your Immune Clinic consultation. So if you have allergies or an autoimmune flare up – don’t try Echinacea over the counter, we first need to determine whether it is appropriate for your use. Often Echinacea is used as part of a protocol to get your immune system functioning better. So if you have a complex immune issue or a lowered immunity come and talk to us. As Medical Herbalist we are here to help.

See The Apothecary’s Immune Clinic details here.

It also looks pretty in your garden and attracts bees, plus grows well in the South Island – New Zealand. Enjoy!

Simone Reddington is the founder of the Apothecary, a Medical Herbalist and thinker. She holds a degree in Psychology and is a professional member of the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists.