Echinacea is one of the most distinctive plants in the herbal industry – recognisable by its purple cone shape. Its name is derived from the Greek for hedgehog (echinos), as its seed head was thought to resemble this spiky creature. It also happens to be one of the most popular herbs used today and has a long history of use stretching back several hundred years. The species that was originally most commonly used for its medicinal properties was Echinacea Angustifolia and today it remains the rarer form of medicinal echinacea.
This plant grows freely in America and for hundreds of years Native Americans are thought to have used it as a general cure-all herb. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was very popular to treat a variety of conditions including malaria, scarlet fever, diphtheria and blood poisoning. However, as the use of antibiotics became more widespread use of this herb declined. But a decade ago it once again bounced back into the spotlight as a herb that could fight the common cold. Today, its most common use is to reduce the symptoms of colds and flu and to minimise their severity, while herbalists will often recommend the use of echinacea as an immune booster.
Although there are many different species of echinacea their medicinal use is usually limited to just three – echinacea angustifolia being one. Many herbalists will tell you that this species of the healing plant is the superior one with a stronger medicinal benefit, though this has not yet been supported by scientific experts. However, many herbalists tend to use echinacea angustifolia in smaller doses because of this. Often echinacea extracts will have a combination of the three different species, which is why not all echinacea supplements are created equal.
Each of different parts of the echinacea angustifolia plant contain a different chemical makeup, so different parts of the plant are used for different purposes. For the strongest immune boosting effect, the parts of the plant that grow above the ground are recommended. These contain higher levels of the polysaccharides that trigger the immune system response. It is also the part of the plant that has been traditionally used for supporting the immune system.
Today, the most effective echinacea tinctures are created using all parts of the plant: leaf, flower and root, as experts now know that the whole of the plant has a powerful immune boosting function.
Echinacea has been linked to so many health benefits thanks to an impressive list of active ingredients. Active compounds found in the plant include phenolic acids, caffeic acid and polyacetylenes. It is also packed full of antioxidants such as flavonoids, rosmarinic acid and cichoric acid – these help to protect the body against certain diseases. The best source of these powerful antioxidants are from the fruit and flowers of the plant; the root and the leaves contain lower levels.
Some of these ingredients can also go beyond fighting seasonal illness. Echinacea Angustifolia in particular has been recognised by one study as helping to reduce anxiety quickly. It is thought this is down to the alkamides, rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid it contains.
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We supply Echinacea Angustifolia in the following forms:
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