Herbal medicine has a long tradition of use in the treatment and prevention of immune-related disorders. And Echinacea is one of the most commonly prescribed botanicals for the immune system. Echinacea (E. angustifolia and purpurea) is considered a "blood purifier," primarily due to its anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating properties. German researchers have found the extract of Echinacea to have anti-viral activity against the influenza pathogen. It increases the number of phagocytes, which are the type of white blood cells that "engulf" microbial invaders such as the flu virus.
Echinacea may be taken for acute colds, flus, fevers, and infections. Of most importance is the dosage and frequency. It is most effective when taken every two hours until some symptoms are relieved. The dose is then reduced to three times daily for a week to ensure complete recovery and optimal immune function. A dose is two tablets or capsules (usually around 500-1000 mg of the ground herb), 40 drops of the extract, or 4 to 8 ounces of a strong tea made from the ground root. Often you will feel relief within hours.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is also effective for infections. It soothes the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract during the congestion and inflammation of colds and flus. Its active component, berberine, has a broad spectrum of antibiotic and immune stimulating activity. Combined with Echinacea, it has a potent immune enhancing and congestion reducing action.
Goldenseal may also be taken every two hours for acute cold symptoms. If taken with Echinacea, use two parts Echinacea to one part Goldenseal in tablet, capsule, extract, or tea form. After 72 hours, three times daily for two weeks will often clear up the case.
For prevention and to maintain optimal health, a combination of Echinacea and Goldenseal may be taken two to three times daily for one to two weeks per month. I find this lower dosage benefits and support good health during the cold, hayfever and allergy seasons when the body is often under stress. In addition, after you have been sick I recommend an "adaptogenic" herb for at least two weeks to assist in full recovery. Adaptogenic herbs have strong "tonic" properties, and they include American Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, and Chinese Astragalus. These herbs are best taken as a liquid extract, 40 drops two to three times daily. This may help reduce the occurrence of future colds and flus as well as to enhance energy and resistance.
Janet Zand, OMD, L.Ac., is a respected practitioner who lives and practices in the Los Angeles area. She has developed a unique and effective method of combining herbal medicine with nutrition, homeopathy and acupuncture. Her credentials include a Doctor of Naturopathy, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and Certified Acupuncturist. Dr. Zand has over fifteen years of clinical experience treating with natural medicine, as well as formulating her own line of herbal products.