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Echinacea - the immunity boosting super herb

Echinacea - the immunity boosting super herb

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About the Author

Asti Renaut

Asti Renaut (BHSc. Comp Med, BA, Adv Dip Nat, Adv Dip Herb Med, MNZAMH)

Asti Renaut is a degree-qualified medical herbalist and naturopath with over ten years clinical experience. Asti practices in Christchurch, New Zealand, treating a wide range of health issues. She especially enjoys working with infants and children, and finally has one of her own to practice on! One of the cornerstones of Asti's practice and philosophy is the importance of education and sharing information. She believes that empowering clients to understand their own bodies and health, and giving practical tips and tools to use from the garden and kitchen are just as important for wellness as qualified professional care. 

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If Echinacea was a hot new discovery with an epic marketing budget, it would be the biggest thing out. Everyone would be taking it, stars would praise its glory and world leaders would hail the miracle! Clips would go viral, it would have its own purple daisy emoji, and people would think you were just plain crazy to not have your Echinacea every day. Instead of this media supernova, however, Echinacea is a humble plant that has been looking after us quietly for many hundreds of years and will continue to do so, brilliantly, hype or no hype.

Echinacea is truly a herbal superhero, your secret weapon against all manner of illness and infection, just check out this list of credentials:

  • It used to be used to cure snake bites. Seriously. That’s pretty superhero.
  • Before antibiotics came along, first peoples and early settlers of North America used Echinacea more than any other plant. It was the gem of the medicine chest, used not only as a remedy for colds, sore throats, and coughs but for more serious conditions such as bites from rabid animals, venereal disease, smallpox, measles, and mumps. It was also used for healing wounds and ulcers.

Research and clinical trials now show us that the way Echinacea was traditionally used is of course bang on. Not only that, we now know a lot more about the specifics of HOW Echinacea boosts our immune function, by:

  • Increasing the production of immune chemicals that activate macrophages (a kind of white blood cell that munches up unwanted bugs and baddies)
  • Increased ability of macrophages to ‘eat up’ the invaders
  • Increased antibody activity
  • Increased Natural Killer Cell activity (another kind of white blood cell that is like a ninja warrior)
  • Increased levels of white blood cells on the job
  • Increased levels of white blood cells getting to the site of the battle when needed!

But wait there’s more- not only does Echinacea totally boost your overall immune function, but it is also directly anti-viral and reduces bacteria spreading. So it actually directly targets viral and bacterial pathogens too. It’s not just helping the soldiers it’s the weapon too.

But how do you know your Echinacea is legit? It will literally make you buzz! High potency, good quality Echinacea will make your tongue tingle. I’m not being metaphorical now, it’s true. We now know that the most active constituents in Echinacea are the alkylamides. When these are present they will make your tongue tingly and make you salivate a little. So the better the Echinacea, the more you tingle. It’s a really simple but effective test- if you get the buzz it means your immune system is getting that buzz too and ramping up its activity.

These buzzing alkylamides are concentrated most highly in the root, so always look for a root extract, preferably organic. It’s easy to check the quality when you have a liquid Echinacea product, but even a good quality capsule will tingle your tongue if you empty it out. Taking a little bit of Echinacea every day will keep you and your whanau in great shape to ward off infections, but remember to max out the dose if you are sick to help treat the infection and get it gone faster. Take Echinacea straight or pop it in your herbal cuppa or your children’s drink bottle (they’ll dig the tingle just like they love sour worms).

So sing it from the rooftops, tell your friends, blog about it and write it in the sky: Echinacea is a star, our immunity boosting super herb! Get on the buzz and pass it on.