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What is Echinacea?

Echinacea is one of several varieties of plants that grow naturally in Eastern and Central North America. These flowers are also sometimes referred to as "purple cornflowers" and have a colorful appearance. The echinacea plant gets its name from the small spines in the center of the flower. A close look at the center of the flower reveals a good number of brightly colored little spears that grow in a thick cluster.

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Echinacea Blooming

Echinacea commonly blooms from early to late summer. Horticultural experts call these plants drought-tolerant perennials. These perennials are common additions to small home gardens. The plant is also sometimes used to create "restoration" installations for natural lands, since it is a common native plant for the regions mentioned above.

Echinacea and Medicine

It's often been claimed that echinacea has medicinal properties. The basic medicinal use of echinacea is in fighting off influenza and similar conditions. Some claim that echinacea has a natural immune-boosting quality. Others refer to a potential "anti-tumor" quality or other similar health benefit.

As a general immune booster, many who practice traditional herbal medicine recommend the root of the echinacea plant for treating the common cold and various other similar conditions like the flu. There is some debate as to whether the echinacea plant actually helps the immune system fight off these kinds of viruses. Some believe that any benefits that a person who is taking the herbal remedy may see are largely just a placebo effect. However, many individuals have used echinacea supplements or tablets to help deal with seasonal cold viruses and other ailments.

Research Behind Echinacea for Colds

According to industry reports, European scientists have found that echinacea helps the body to produce phagocytes, which contain virus microbes that help fight off the flu. This kind of research helps to support the idea that echinacea can be effective for cold sufferers and others who want to try an herbal remedy approach to a common winter ailment.

Possible Side Effects

Those who have studied echinacea's potential medicinal properties have identified a range of side negative effects, such as dizziness. Other side effects are more likely to occur in individuals who have specific respiratory conditions. Echinacea has also been known to cause asthma attacks in some individuals. Some medical experts say it can also interact badly with some types of anesthesia. Interactions with chemicals, such as immunosuppressants or hepatotoxic drugs, are also possible.

If you are considering taking echinacea as an herbal remedy, you might want to consult with a family doctor. He or she can provide a proper referral to see an applicable specialist who can determine whether you are a good candidate for this kind of treatment. Your doctor can also tell you how echinacea may affect any existing conditions you may have. Taking all proper precautions when using echinacea or any other herbal remedy can cut down on the potential side effects that may occur.

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