Echinacea: Whole Plant for Whole Health
As one of the most popular herbs on the U.S. market today, echinacea is recognized to many as a common over-the-counter supplement often used for the cold and flu. Echinacea is a purple coneflower that is found in India and known as “Kalmegh”. It was traditionally used as a means to boost immunity and treat various inflammatory conditions. Also native to North America, echinacea has been used in natural medicine for over 400 years. Native Americans originally used the whole plant to treat infections, wounds, and general ailments.
Prior to antibiotics coming on the scene during WWII, echinacea was widely used for several diseases in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as scarlet fever, syphilis, malaria, blood poisoning, etc.  With the rise of antibiotics, echinacea lost its previous popularity. However, practitioners and consumers still regularly use echinacea and find it to be an excellent immune supplement.
Echinacea as a Whole Plant
What many fail to realize is that products labeled as echinacea often vary in their composition based on the part of the plant used, herb quality, and means of extraction. As is the case with most plants, echinacea’s chemical make up is different depending on which part is used. For instance, echinacea’s root versus the aerial, leafy portion contain important differences that impact how the herb should be used. The chemicals found in the root contain heavier concentrations of essential oils compared to the aerial portion, which contains a high level of polysaccharides. Both are beneficial, but many commercial products focus on just one part versus approaching echinacea as a whole plant.
Some studies in the early 2000s implied echinacea holds no real health benefits, yet only used individual parts of the plant (such as the aerial portion) instead of using the whole plant, root and all. Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine seemed to use the correct part of the plant for the symptoms being treated, but didn't find that the herb had any significant effect . Many researchers are hesitant to accept this study as valid since it appears that the dosage was likely too low to yield accurate results, even though the correct part of the plant was used. Unfortunately, the media took studies like these and shared them without a broader context to discourage echinacea usage.
So what part of echinacea should you use? All of it! Potion uses the whole plant from root to flower when incorporating echinacea into Immunity Potion. The harvest and preparation of echinacea has a major impact on its effectiveness, so we do not cut back in this area.
Echinacea Whole Plant Benefits
1. Boosts Immunity for Cold and Flu - One of the main uses of echinacea is to prevent and alleviate the common cold and flu. Studies show echinacea to be beneficial in preventing these viral infections without causing any apparent health risks . When looking at echinacea as a whole plant, it’s clear that different parts hold different functions for boosting immunity. The root, rich in alkylamides, holds anti-inflammatory properties and helps cold and flu symptoms once they appear, while the aerial portion of echinacea helps strengthen the immune system during cold and flu season.
2. Upper Respiratory Support - Echinacea has been found to help prevent and reduce upper respiratory infections such as the common cold, whooping cough, croup, and more .
3. Natural Painkiller - Native Americans used echinacea as a natural painkiller for anything from headaches to snake bites, and it is still used in that capacity today . Many people drink echinacea in the form of herbal tea to help soothe pain, but you can also grind it down into a paste to apply to an affected area.
4. Aids in Reducing Inflammation - Inflammation leads to all kinds of disease and is detrimental to overall health. Echinacea has been shown to slow and even stop many forms of inflammation, including some chronic types .
5. Supports Healthy Skin - Echinacea holds several properties that lead to healthy, glowing skin. It can diminish rashes, eczema, and other skin irritations, as well as hydrate the skin and reduce wrinkles .
6. Anti-Cancer Properties - There have been studies on the effectiveness of echinacea in aiding against cancer, many of which appear promising in reducing tumors with phytochemicals that are found in the plant .