Herbal medicines have been researched for decades, and new evidence continues to be unveiled. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) provides one example of the importance of research in increasing our understanding of how herbal compounds work.
Echinacea has been used for year-round immune support; it’s known for fighting colds and reducing their impact and duration. Canadian researchers have uncovered important information about this immune-boosting herb that can help you stay cold-free this winter.
A Discovery About Phytochemicals
Grinding up dried herbs maybe alright for culinary purposes, but it is not the most effective way to ensure the potency, purity, or efficacy of any herb, including echinacea. Most medicinal herbs lose a large percentage of their active phytochemical ingredients when dried. A fresh herbal extract, from the whole herb, created with double extraction (both water and alcohol) forms the basis for a better source of the potent phytochemicals echinacea has to offer.
Echinacea contains several healing phytochemical compounds, including polysaccharides, cichoric acid, and alkylamides. Levels of each of these can vary from plant to plant and can be affected by length of growing season, amount of sunlight, rainfall, and other factors. A fully tested echinacea product is standardized for all three of the key constituents.
The Evidence is Strong
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trial examined the three key phytochemical compounds, and their synergy, in E. purpurea. The research showed that an echinacea extract with standardized levels of all three compounds (polysaccharides, cichoric acid, and alkylamides) reduced the severity and duration of cold symptoms and increased recovery rates. While one or another of the active constituents could be responsible for stimulating immunity–the researchers also concluded that further studies are warranted–a combination of all three was more effective.
The savvy herbal shopper will want to choose a standardized, fresh herbal extract from organic echinacea, proven in clinical trials and produced according to Good Manufacturing Practices (guidelines set out by Health Canada).
While you may expect to pay more for such a cold fighter, a highly effective and more potent product may allow you to use less. The best defence is to have a strong immune system, but if a bad bug starts to get the best of you, be prepared to stop it with a quality