Belonging to the Asteraceae family, echinacea is a green plant native to North America. Its flowering occurs in the central months of the summer season. The stem, rather rigid and erect, reaches a height of one and a half meters while the minimum of its size is fifty centimeters; along its length there are hairs and leaves, the amount of which varies according to the species. Its flowers can have a color ranging from white to pink-purple while pollen can take on different colors. The plant has a fruit that is the achene, ending in a pappus, feathery end. Given the large number of plant species belonging to the Echinacea family, in the past there has been much confusion because the specific characteristics of each species were not yet recognized. More recently, however, thanks to in-depth biochemical studies, this problem has been solved. Numerous properties have been attributed to the plant by researchers who have scientifically demonstrated the great beneficial value it has for the organism. This natural value falls on an economic value: the echinacea plant, in fact, is extremely sought after by pharmaceutical companies and this causes its price to rise dramatically. Alongside the scientifically recognized properties, there are popular beliefs that attribute to the plant aphrodisiac properties which, however, no researcher has undertaken to demonstrate.
Beneficial properties of echinacea
As often happens, even in the case of echinacea, the value of the plant in therapeutic terms goes back to ancient popular traditions. Specifically, echinacea was used by the indigenous peoples of North America to treat a series of pathological conditions including sores, smallpox, measles, wounds caused by snake bites, arthritis; moreover, it was also widely used to prepare ointments for the treatment of scars. Starting from the popular knowledge of the past, we have come to the current scientific knowledge that makes echinacea a plant that is especially valuable for the immune system, as it is able to defend the body against bacteria, viruses and infections of different kinds. In fact, taking homeopathic products based on echinacea helps to prevent the flu by reducing the probability of getting sick by 50% and also reduces the extent of symptoms during the course of the flu and cooling illness. Its effects on colds and flu are so established that the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) has recognized the use of echinacea extract pills in the prevention and treatment of symptoms. Beyond the cases of flu, the plant can be useful for those who have constant problems due to low immune defenses. Its beneficial effects, however, do not stop there. The use of echinacea is useful for the treatment of inflammation of the respiratory tract, therefore also in the case of cough. The urinary tract returns to the areas of the body that can benefit from its benefits, especially for the treatment of urethritis and prostatitis in men; women, in the same way, can benefit from the healing effects of echinacea in the gynecological field for the treatment of appendages and metrites. Arthritis, ulcer and dermatitis are other diseases in the treatment of which the echinacea can play a beneficial role. Also demonstrated is its positive effect on scars, speeding up the healing process, and burns, reducing the pain they cause.
Echinacea for beauty
The therapeutic field is not the only one in which echinacea expresses its beneficial effects; the field of cosmetics, in fact, recognizes its benefits for beauty. First of all, the plant is an effective purifying for the skin: it helps to eliminate impurities leaving the skin hydrated. Secondly, an echinacea cream can have a decongestant function and help reduce the unsightly redness of the face. Dry and cracked skin can be treated with echinacea ointments, just as acne can be contrasted with lotions based on dry plant extracts. Having a positive action on scars, reducing them, an echinacea cream can help in case of obvious stretch marks. Not less is the benefit offered to the more mature skins: many are, in fact, the anti-wrinkle creams on the market that exploit the active principles of echinacea.
Echinacea: Use echinacea
On the market there are several products based on the plant in question. Very common are the capsules, normally prepared using the dry echinacea extract mixed with vegetable cellulose and magnesium; also sold are echinacea juice, which can be used to prepare homemade lotions, and mother tincture. Those who decide to take products based on echinacea, both for therapeutic and cosmetic purposes, must be familiar with the indications and contraindications associated with their use. First, their use is indicated for a maximum period of ten days. To avoid, it is the consumption of pills during pregnancy and lactation as it is not recommended to take them to children not only because they could have undesirable effects but also because they have not been shown benefits of the plant on young organisms. The use of juice and tincture follows different rules: it is preferable to take a teaspoon, better if it is dissolved in a sugar cube or in a spoon of honey. Compared to the times, juice and tincture can be taken twice a day for two weeks.