Echinacea takes the fight

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 7, 2001

against the common cold


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No matter how many liftoffs there are, most people don’t care much about them unless they "shuttle" back with a cure for the common cold.

About this time every year, colds and the flu are playing havoc all across the country and those hit by the "bugs" are asking, "If they can send a man to the moon, why can’t they find a cure for the common cold?"

A wise man once said, "If you take medication

for a cold, it will last two weeks. If

you don’t take anything, it will last two weeks."

Evidently, that wise man had not heard about the power of the purple cone flower.

The mauve-colored perennial, that grows naturally in the north central states, is a remedy for the common cold or at least a preventive for it.

Herbalist Nadine Johnson of Goshen said she is very familiar with the purple cone flower which is the common name for echinacea, the medicinal herb which works as an immune system enhancer as well as a natural antibiotic.

Johnson said the herb has been highly taunted in the Rocky Mountain states for many years as a preventive treatment for the common cold, flu and sinus.

"Echinacea has been around forever," she said. "In recent years, people began to accept this kind of thing, but we weren’t able to find medicinal herbs easily. Today, all of that has changed. You can find them almost anywhere."

Echinacea is rapidly becoming popular in the South and, this year, the extended period of cold weather has caused those who are prone to have winter ailments to seek alternative remedies. Chief among those has been echinacea.

Johnson said it’s a good choice.

"Because echinacea is an immune system enhancer, it can be very effective in preventing winter ailments," she said. "And, once you have flu or a sinus infection, it works as a natural antibiotic to help you overcome it. Echinacea works. I’ve seen proof of it."

Johnson said one man began taking echinacea to try to get relief from a chronic sinus condition.

"He had to take antibiotics to get any kind of relief," she said. "Since he started taking echinacea, he has not had to take any antibiotics. I’ve know of many others who benefit from echinacea. It’s good for a variety of ailments including mouth sores, tonsillitis, strep throat and flu symptoms."

Johnson said in the book, "The Healing Herbs," Michael Castleman

calls echinacea the best-kept secret among native American herbs.

According to Castleman, few other plants have the potential benefits as immune boasting infection fighters.

"And, I agree with him," she said. "Echinacea can be very effective as an immune system enhancer."

So, if you want to get the cold or flu before it gets to you, Johnson said echinacea might be just what you need to ward it off.

However, she does not recommend taking echinacea all of the time.

"During the time of year when you are more likely to have ailments, I recommend taking it one week and leaving it off the next,"  Johnson said. "You don’t want your body to build up an immunity to it."

Many people are swearing by echinacea and calling it the "cure for the common cold."

Others are trying it with the attitude that "if doesn’t help you, it certainly won’t hurt you." But it’s always a good idea for those who are taking prescription drugs to check with their physician before beginning self-treatment of any kind.