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Echinacea is one of the most popular herbs in America today. This Native American medicinal plant called echinacea is named for the prickly scales in its large conical seed head, which resembles the spines of an angry hedgehog (echinos is Greek for hedgehog).

Archaeologists have found evidence that Native Americans may have used echinacea for more than 400 years to treat Infections and Wounds and as a general 'cure-all.' Throughout history people have used echinacea to treat scarlet Fever, Syphilis, Malaria, Blood Poisoning, and Diphtheria. Although this herb was popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, its use began to decline in the United States after the introduction of Antibiotics. Echinacea preparations became ncreasingly popular in Germany throughout the 20th century. In fact, most of the scientific research on echinacea has been conducted in Germany.

The most popular modern day use of this herb is for Respiratory ailments, such as Colds, but it is also used to cure Urinary tract Infections and as a treatment for Acne. Echinacea is available in a number of forms that utilized key components of the plant to brew tea or create a balm. Acne results when Skin pores become blocked and eventually infected. While there is no scientific evidence that echinacea will improve Acne, it may help reduce Swelling and eliminate Infection.

Today, people use echinacea to shorten the duration of common Colds and flu and reduce symptoms, such as Sore throat (pharyngitis), Cough, and Fever. Many herbalists also recommend echinacea to help boost the Immune system and help the body fight Infections.

Several laboratory and animal studies suggest that echinacea contains active substances that enhance the activity of the Immune system, relieve Pain, reduce Inflammation, and have Hormonal, Antiviral, and Antioxidant effects. For this reason, professional herbalists may recommend echinacea to treat Urinary tract Infections, Vaginal yeast (Candida) Infections, ear Infections (also known as otitis media), Athlete's foot, Sinusitis, hay Fever (also called allergic rhinitis), as well as slow-healing Wounds. One study even suggests that echinacea extract exerted an Antiviral action on the development of recurrent Cold Sores triggered by the Herpes simplex Virus (HSVI) when supplied prior to Infection.

Whether or not echinacea helps prevent or treat common Colds remains under debate. Some studies have shown that the herb can make you feel better faster. Others suggest that echinacea has no impact on a cold at all. Several clinical trials have shown that people who take echinacea as soon as they feel sick reduce the severity of their cold and have fewer symptoms than those who do not take the herb.One study of 95 people with early symptoms of cold and flu (such as runny Nose, scratchy throat, and Fever)found that those who drank several cups of echinacea tea every day for 5 days felt better sooner than those who drank tea without echinacea.

Precautions: The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs contain active substances that may trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, people should take herbs only under the supervision of a health care provider knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

People with Tuberculosis, leukemia, Diabetes, connective tissue disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, any AutoImmune diseases, or, possibly, Liver disorders should not take echinacea. There is some concern that echinacea may reduce the effectiveness of medications that suppress the Immune system. For this reason, people receiving organ transplants who must take immunosuppressant medications should avoid this herb. (See 'Possible Interactions.')

In rare cases, echinacea may cause allergic reactions, ranging from a mild Rash to anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction accompanied by Throat tightening, shortness of breath, and, possibly, Fainting). People with Asthma and Allergies may be at an increased risk for developing these adverse reactions. People with Allergies to plants in the daisy family (compositae) should not take echinacea unless they do so under the supervision of a health care provider.

There has been one report of an individual developing erythema nodosum (a Painful Skin condition) after taking echinacea to treat the flu.

When taken by mouth, echinacea may cause temporary numbing and tingling on the tongue.

Despite concerns that echinacea may be unsafe for Pregnant or breastfeeding women,evidence suggests that the use of echinacea during Pregnancy does not increase the risk of birth defects or other Pregnancy related health problems. Although not enough research has been done to determine echinacea's safety for Pregnancy or breastfeeding, it's advisable to avoid use during Pregnancy or breastfeeding until more conclusive studies are conducted.

Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor if you have questions.

Possible Interactions: If you are taking any of the following medications, you should not use echinacea without first talking to your health care provider:Econazole -- Echinacea may be useful in combination with econazole, an Antifungal
agent used to treat yeast Infections (such as Athlete's foot). When echinacea is used together with econazole, recurrence rates of these Infections may be reduced. Immunosuppressants -- Immunosuppressants refers to a group of medications that are used for two main purposes -- treating Cancer and suppressing the Immune system following organ transplant so that the new organ is not rejected. Because echinacea can enhance Immune function, people should not use the herb with immunosuppressive medications, especially when taken for organ transplant.

The medicinal uses of Echinacea are well known and far reaching. This plant can do a little bit of everything - from fighting the common cold to relieving symptoms of Anxiety, fatigue, Arthritis, Migraines, and other ailments. Funny thing, these are many of the same conditions that are eased with marijuana.
Turns out, some species of echinacea contain compounds that engage the ECS sort of like cannabinoids. More specifically, they contain cannabimimetics. These herbal cannabimimetics are a bit different from those found in the marijuana plant, but they engage the endocannabinoid system nonetheless. These compounds are known as N-alkyl amides (NAAs).

The cannabimimetics in Echinacea interact with the CB2 receptor. This receptor is largely responsible for regulating the Immune system and inflammatory response. In cannabis, psychoactive THC is the primary stimulator of the CB2 receptor. THC's affinity with this particular receptor is partly why it is expected to be so effective in treating Inflammation-related disorders.