Echinacea, the cold fighter, smart food and fitnessAs mentioned recently, the cold season has obviously started and numerous people get ill these days. But I am sure that we can overcome the common cold and even the flu if we boost our immune system and prepare our body for the antibacterial and antiviral fight during the short and dark days of winter.

One extraordinary plant can help us with this: Echinacea. Echinacea has been used for eras in treating and preventing inflammatory conditions by Native Americans. But how does it really work?

Once the Europeans settled in America they soon realized the immune system boosting features of Echinacea. They used it regularly to treat cold and flu symptoms as well as different inflammatory conditions, particularly in the respiratory tract. When pharmaceutical research developed, Echinacea as well as different natural remedies lost recognition in the population.

However, during the last decades it has been regaining more and more popularity.


Echinacea reduces cold symptoms

Several studies claimed that Echinacea was capable to reduce cold symptoms significantly. These studies were conducted on different patient groups with early, medium and late stage cold symptoms. Researchers concluded that this plant had the potential to prevent catching a cold by up to 58% while reducing significantly the severity of a catched cold. The recovery time of a catched cold decreased by one to four days under Echinacea administration compared to placebo.

Another interesting result of a German study is that Echinacea was capable to effectively treat herpetic infections.


Mechanism of action

Echinacea ssp. contain a variety of bioactive ingredients, e.g. alkylamides, polysaccharides, caffeic acids and echinacosides. In vitro studies showed that Echinacea caused macrophage activation. Macrophages are parts of the immune cells which destroy incoming pathogens. Additionally, Echinacea seems to activate the release of different inflammatory transmitters which assist in fighting incoming pathogens.

Furthermore, it has been reported that Echinacea had effective antiviral properties against influenza, herpes and even the poliovirus. Additional antioxidative activities may result from different phenolic compounds. It is also thought to inhibit different enzymes, e.g. lipoxygenases and cyclopxygenases, which is associated with anti-inflammatory activity.

As we can see here, Echinacea is a capable natural remedy to boost our immune system, to potentially prevent respiratory infections and to recover faster from catched colds.

Take care :-)