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Echinacea: Winter’s Health Ally

By Andrea Candee

Don’t leave home without it: no, not your credit card -- your echinacea, of course!

One of the finest stimulators of the immune system, echinacea (ehk-ih-NAY-shah) is a valued herbal medicinal for colds and flu and their prevention. Its chemical constituents --polysaccharides, fatty acids and glycosides -- stimulate the functions of helper T-cells, which are important in the production of antibodies, and killer T-cells, which are responsible for anti-viral activity.

A familiar sight in many gardens, echinacea (also known as purple coneflower) is a hardy, daisy-like perennial. At the first sign of cold or flu, give a half a teaspoon of echinacea liquid extract every two hours. If caught early, symptoms usually disappear by the third dose. If the symptoms have progressed, echinacea will surely lessen their severity as well as duration. As you improve, reduce the frequency to 1 teaspoon three times a day for several days to further bolster the immune system. (Note: These are adult doses. Please see How to Dose for information on children's dosing.)

Head stress off at the pass
Stress (emotional, mental, physical and environmental) is a known immuno-depressant. Taken three times a day for up to two weeks out of every month, echinacea provides valuable protection. If taken every day without a rest, its efficacy seems to wane.

You can adjust dosing to best suit your life situations. If school or daycare is the stressful environment, give echinacea given during the week, skipping weekends. If family life on the weekends is stressful, give echinacea Friday through Sunday.

When someone in my home is ill, I give them echinacea every two hours and take a dose of it myself three times a day as protection. If your child has just returned from a play date with a sick child, give your child a few doses of echinacea to keep her immune system stimulated.

Although echinacea is available in capsules, teas and tablets, I use the alcohol extract, which is absorbed more quickly and more effectively. In an acute situation in which the digestive process may be compromised and fast results are needed, the alcohol extract is preferred even for children. For sore throats, a diluted solution of the liquid extract can be gargled.

A small, one-ounce dropper bottle of echinacea fits nicely in the purse or pocket and is a potent ally for getting through the winter healthfully.

© Andrea Candee

Andrea Candee is a master herbalist, media expert, nationally known lecturer and author of the award-winning Gentle Healing for Baby and Child (Simon & Schuster), which received The National parenting Center's Seal of Approval. Andrea is noted nationally for her unique and successful approach to Lyme Disease. She lives and maintains a consultation health practice in New York and shares much of her knowledge at


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