Monday, November 5, 2012

Enhancing Your Immune System with Echinacea

As the cold and flu season approaches and media tries to find a new flu virus to promote drugs for, you may be wondering what you can do to improve your immune system naturally.  After all, no one wants to get sick.  The good news is that there are very simple and natural things you can do to start enhancing your immune system right now.

One of the best ways is to take Echinacea.  In fact, according to a study reported on, a 2006 study found that the likelihood of experiencing a clinical cold was 55% higher with placebo than with Echinacea.  Here are some tips on using one of nature’s finest additions to your medicine cabinet.

Echinacea purpurea 'Maxima'
Echinacea purpurea 'Maxima' (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#1.  Forms of Echinacea 

Echinacea is a relative of the common coneflower.  Echinacea purpurea herb is considered to be the most potent Echinacea species.  They’re actually quite pretty and can be grown in your home garden.  However, eating the flower isn’t going to give you the immune-boosting effects you need.  It is the root of this plant which is said to hold the powerful properties. 

You can take Echinacea in the form of:

* Tea
* Juice
* Extracts
* Capsule or powder, supplement form

You may also find Echinacea as part of an immune booster supplement

#2.  Be aware of its limitations and side effects

Not everyone can take Echinacea, however.  Some people can be allergic and suffer side effects.  This is particularly the case if you’re allergic to ragweed, marigolds and daisies, and chrysanthemums.  These side effects and complications can include:

* Rash
* Asthma
* Anaphylaxis
* Gastrointestinal side effects

Day 360 - Let's hope these really work...
(Photo credit: ktpupp)
#3.  Make it part of a routine - but not TOO routine

To take Echinacea, you might think you should include it in your daily vitamin routine. If you feel a cold coming on and rush to drink Echinacea tea, sometimes it may be too late.  However, it is not recommended to take Echinacea daily indefinitely. Instead, first make sure the supplement is safe for use for you - speak with your doctor if you’re unsure, and then find a form that appeals to you. It may be that you absolutely love the tea or perhaps a simple supplemental capsule better meets your needs.

Try taking it every month just for a few days in a row, during cold and flu season. And of course take it right away at the first sign of feeling something coming on. Sometimes you might not always recognize these signs, so pay attention for times when you feel tired or lethargic for no apparent reason, or notice mild symptoms like a dry throat or night-time congestion, and give your immune system an extra boost at these times with a few days of Echinacea.

Echinacea is an herb that is still being studied for its immune-boosting properties.  In the struggle to stay healthy and cold free this winter, it may be the best natural weapon you have.  Take precautions, plan ahead and stay healthy!
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