When I first started working in alternative medicine nearly 20 years ago, one of the first remedies I heard about was Echinacea. Back then, the news hyped how great Echinacea was for the common cold. I tried it and it didn’t help much. I wasn’t impressed.
Of course, back then I had no idea how Echinacea works or how much to take. The hype made it sound like Echinacea was a magic pill that would kill the cold virus. It’s true that some studies indicate Echinacea is a “natural antibiotic.” However, most studies say Echinacea works primarily as an immune stimulant.
Echinacea activates the alternate complement pathway. This is part of your immune system. When it activates this pathway, it causes an influx of white blood cells into areas of infections. And your white blood cells — not the Echinacea directly — destroy bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms.
When you take Echinacea, its polysaccharides bind to receptors on the surface of the cells. This helps T-cells (a specific type of white blood cell) replicate faster. This boosts your immunity. What’s amazing about these cells is that they don’t require antibodies to protect you against infection. The cells themselves fight many different types of infection, including bacteria, parasites, viruses, cancer, and many other illnesses.
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Amazingly enough, Echinacea’s ability to stimulate white blood cells makes it one of the best healers for 21st century illnesses. It seems that no matter what the illness is in today’s medical world, the tests doctors use to diagnose these illnesses almost always use radiation. And when it comes to cancer, radiation is one of the top treatments. Add in the threat from nuclear fallout, such as we’ve seen in Japan, and radiation is everywhere.
As you may know, radiation is a major health hazard, largely because it causes significant damage to your immune system. In other words, radiation kills white blood cells.
By now, you probably see the connection with Echinacea. The white blood cells Echinacea produces can prevent radiation from destroying your immune system. A clinical study performed on mice at the Nagaragawa Research Center in Japan showed that Echinacea suppresses the reduction of white blood cells caused by radiation. The researchers found that the mice taking Echinacea had higher white blood cell counts after whole-body irradiation. But that’s not all they found. The mice taking Echinacea also had a faster blood cell count recovery time.
Another study on gamma-irradiated mice in Egypt also showed that Echinacea protected the mice against the radiation.
So what does all of this tell us? It says that anyone subjected to radiation should take Echinacea in large doses prior to and immediately after the exposure. I recommend the liquid extract of Echinacea root or E. purpurea. Take four droppersful (slightly over 1/4 teaspoon each) about four hours before your treatment. Then, an hour later, take one or two droppersful. Do that each hour until your exposure to the radiation. Then, after the treatment, take one dropperful every hour for four hours. And then back off to one droppersful every four hours. Take this dose for as long as necessary — but only up to two weeks. Lighter exposure may not require this much.
Oh, and what about my skepticism toward Echinacea and the common cold? Well, I’ve learned that I wasn’t taking nearly enough. Following the same schedule as above often knocks out a cold in just a couple days.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.
Pub Med.gov, "Phytotherapeutic Effects of Echinacea Purpurea In Gamma-Irradiated Mice." Abouelelia, A.M.. et al. Journal of Veterinary Science. 2007 Dec; 8(4): 341-51.
Pub Med.gov, "Biological Effects of Echinacea Purpurea On Human Blood Cells." Joksic. G., et al. Arhiv Za Higijenu Rada I Toksicologiju. 2009 Jun; 60(2): 165-72.