| ||Herbal Medicine: The Dynamic Duo Echinacea and Golden Seal||
Synthetic cold remedies from the druggest shelf don't look quite as
good as they did a few years ago. The warning labels barely fit into the
space available on the product box and it is well-known to medical researchers
that some ingredients in these products, such aas aspirin, can cause stomach
irritation--even bleeding. Further, research reports show that ingredients
like aspirin and acetominophen have caused lliver damage at therapeutic
What about antibiotics? Antibiotics don''t really touch viral infections,
but are often prescribed to prevent complications like secondary bacterial
infections. But what about the side-effects of antibiotics? Immune suppression,
allergic reactions and mild liver damage? And doesn''t manufacturing synthetic
drugs add to environmental pollution?
Echinacea is the purple Kansas cone-flower. It is a native American herb,
from the plains states and grows to a lesser extent out to the east coast.
The plant group Echinacea is made up of several different kinds or
species, all occuring east of the Rocky mountains, though they are increasingly
cultivated in Oregon and California. Two types of echinacea, Echinacea
purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia, have been popular in American
and European medicine for over 100 years. For centuries, they were considered
the best remedies available, for rattlesnake bites, infections and colds
and flu, by the native American Indians. Pieces of echinacea root have been
found in archeological digs from villages that were over 200 years old.
Before synthetic medicine replaced most of the medicinal herbs prescribed
by practitioners of ""officicial"" medicine, echinacea
was included in one of America''s two official drug books--the National
Formulary. It dropped out of sight for about 30 years (but not in Europe),
and is now making a strong comeback.
Herbalists usually recommend the tea, powder, liquid extract or powdered
extract for any kind of infection that is not deeply seated, or a result
of a more serious weakness or deficiency. The extracts are preferred because
they are more concentrated. concentrate the active ingredients, which include
important fat-soluble compounds such as polybutylamides and polyacetylenes
and the water-soluble constituents cichoric acid and polysaccharides, which
are giant sugar molecules. These well-researched active constituents have
been shown to strongly stimulate various activities of immune function such
as increased interferon activity, which protect our cells against viral
attack, and increased killer t-cell function, which can remove invading
organisms. Echinacea can also stimulate the properdin/complement system,
and the production of alpha-1 and alpha-2 gamma globulins, also helping
to control and prevent infections.
In the old days, echinacea used to be called a ""blood purifier.""
Now we know that the immune constituents of echinacea stimulate our body''s
phagocytes (cell-eaters) to engulf bacteria, virus-infected cells and wastes,
recycling them and clearing them from the blood. This blood-purifying activity
is important, because it can help prevent infections of bacterial, viral
and fungal origin. This part of the immune system is the main focus area
for echinacea , and I call it the ""surface immune system"",
or ""protective shield,"" because it affects the immune
fighters in the mucous membranes throughout the body, especially in the
upper respiratory tract, digestive tract and the urinary tract, where we
are mainly exposed to outside organisms that may start an infection. This
well-documented protective ability of echinacea, affecting several different
mechanisms of our immune function, is a good reason why echinacea has become
the herb of choice for such ailments as candida infections, Echinacea is
also considered one of the most effective for Infections such as strep throat,
infected wounds, urinary tract infections, bronchitis, and of course, it
is often the herb of choice for colds and flu. Modern science has shown
it to have strong ""surface immune"" activating properties.
In other words, it is very good at stimulating the ""phagocytes"",
or immune cells that protect us from virus and bacteria infections, by engulfing
and recycling them. This part of our immune system I have called the ""surface
immune system,"" or ""protective shield.""
When we feel the first symptoms of a cold or flu, it is best to take a fairly
strong dose, about 3 or 4 capsules of the powder, one dropperful of the
liquid or one powdered extract capsule or tablet every 3 hours. In many
cases, this ""protective"" measure may just forestall
the impending cold or flu completely. I have seen it happen many times.
Golden seal is an eastern woodlands plant that likes to grown in rich soil.
At one time it was abundant in Ohio, Missouri and Iowa to the Eastern seaboard,
and all the way up into Canada. Today, because of its immense popularity,
the wild resources are rapidly dwindling. This is true of echinacea as well.
For this reason, I strongly recommend choosing commercial products of echinacea
from ""organically grown"" sources. Look for organically-grown
golden seal products soon.
Golden seal is a member of the buttercup family and has a bright yellow
horizontal root or ""rhizome"" which is the part used
in medicine. The plant was another favorite herb with the native people
of America. According to early accounts from the diary of Lewis and Clark
made on their trip to Oregon, Indian doctors used the root for infections
and as a wash for any kind of eye irritation or infection. This use is still
common today, and the root powder simmered in water and carefully filtered
is still one of the best treatments for pink-eye and other similar ailments.
Use golden seal powder from one ""00"" capsule in about
3 ounces of purified or distilled water.
Today, herbalists still widely recommend golden seal for many kinds of infections,
inflammations and irritations of the mucous membranes. The mucous membranes
are the ""slime-producing"" coating of our entire digestive
tract, upper respiratory tract and urinary tract. They act as a protective
barrier against bacteria, viruses and other kinds of mechanical irritation.
When we have a urinary tract, upper respiratory tract or bowel inflammation
or infection, it is mainly the mucous membranes which are first affected.
Golden seal works well with these infections, bringing in more immune energy
and increasing the micro circulation to the ""surface""
(right beneath the membranes), which can help eliminate wastes and speed
up the healing process. In Chinese medicine, golden seal is considered ""cooling""
because it lowers inflammation and removes heat.
Golden seal is also a good bitter tonic, and can help promote strong digestion
and increase the production of enzymes and hydrochloric acid. However, it
is important to note that some people can actually be harmed by golden seal,
if they take it for too long a time or in too great a quantity--especially
if they have weak digestion. I recommend two ""00""
capsules morning and evening around mealtimes for up to 10 days as a moderate
So to summarise, golden seal is recommended for the following:
Sinus infections (sinusitis)
Mild bowel irritations and inflammations
Upper respiratory tract infections
Colds and flu
Urinary tract infections
Eye infections or irritations
It is best to take golden seal for limited periods (not more than 2 or 3
ten-day cycles every few months), and to add herbs such as cayenne or ginger
if one''s digestion is weak or cold.
How do echincea and golden seal work together as the dynamic duo? During
a cold, flu or infection, especially of the mucous membranes, echinacea
can go to work to activate immune fighters, such as macrophages. These important
defenders work to engulf and rid the body of virus-infected cells, bacteria,
toxic wastes--helping to clear the debris of an ""immune battle""
from the site. The purple cone-flower can also help strengthen a protective
gel that surrounds many of the body''s cells, thus keeping invading organisms
from gaining a foothold. Golden seal, meanwhile, can help control the inflammatory
process if it gets too carried away--if there is too much heat, redness,
or swelling. The immune system can actually be inhibited in its protective
job when this happens. It can also help bring more blood into the micro-circulation
in the area that is infected; areas such as the sinus cavities or urinary
tract. It can help the body go through the infection much faster by bringing
in more of the macrophages (that echinacea is activating) and helping to
remove debris from the site.
|Christopher Hobbs is a fourth generation herbalist and botanist with over 30 years experience with herbs. Founder of Native Herb Custom Extracts (now Rainbow Light Custom Extracts) and the Institute for Natural Products......more