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Echinacea - Essay Example

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Echinacea commonly called the Purple coneflowers is a genus of nine species of herbaceous plants in the Family Asteraceae. All are strictly native to eastern and central North America. The plants have large showy heads of composite flowers, blooming from early to late summer…
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Download file to see previous pages In comparison with other medicinal plants, the history of use of Echinacea is relatively short. The plant originates from North America and was employed by the indigenous Indians. The first archaeological evidence dates from the 18th century. Included in the name Echinacea or purple coneflower are several species of the Asteraceae family: Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench, Echinacea angustifolia DC. and Echinacea pallida Nutt. Information about the use of the plant from traditional healers ranges from external application for wounds, burns and insect bites to the chewing of roots for toothache and throat infections, and internal application for pain, coughs, stomach cramps and snake bites. The interest of white settlers was also drawn to this medicinal plant. The first Echinacea preparation, known as Meyers Blood Purifier, arrived on the market around 1880, with rheumatism, neuralgia and rattlesnake bites as indications. At the beginning of the 20th century, Echinacea was the most frequently used plant preparation in the USA. Commercial cultivation was started in Germany around 1939. The introduction and cultivation of Echinacea in Switzerland by A. Vogel was around 1950. Chemists and pharmacologists became interested in Echinacea and many constituents are now known, such as polysaccharides, echinacoside, cichoric acid, ketoalkenes and alkylamides. The extracts exhibit immunostimulant properties and are mainly used in the prophylaxis and therapy of colds, flu and septic complaints. Although there are over 400 publications concerning the plant and dozens of preparations of Echinacea n the market, the true identity of the active principles still remains open. (1)
The genus Echinacea includes about nine species amongst them three species of echinacea has been used medicinally: E.Angustifolia, E.Pallida, and E. Purpure. A medical study found that when echinacea products made from the entire plant (not just the root) were taken after the second cold symptom appeared they provided no measurable beneficial effect for children in treating the severity or duration of symptoms caused by the common cold virus. Dosage however was about a third of what clinical herbalists routinely use, and the leaves and stems are not known to be clinically effective (2). Studies by the University of Virginia School of Medicine confirmed these results, and added that Echinacea had no clinically significant effects on the common cold even if taken immediately upon infection, or as a prophylaxis starting a week prior to symptoms of infection (3). However, a University of Maryland review of available studies concluded that Echinacea, when taken at first sign of a cold, reduced cold symptoms or shortened their duration. This conclusion was based on 13 European studies (4). The University of Maryland study also found that three of four studies concluded that taking Echinacea to prevent a cold was ineffective, although including studies that use subclinical doses, the wrong part or unassayed material will bias such conclusions. Another scientific review, however, of 14 published studies found that the incidence of colds was reduced by 58% and the duration by a day and half. (5).
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