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Supporting Your Immune System with Echinacea

As he traveled across Sioux country in the mid-nineteenth century, a German doctor noticed that tribe members chewed on the root of a small prairie plant (the purple coneflower) when they had a cough or cold. As time went by, he discovered that the plant seemed to have almost miraculous healing powers — it caused respiratory and other infections to disappear quickly and never return. He began making his own proprietary medicine and was so excited about it he sent some off to prominent medical doctors in Cincinnati. At first they weren't impressed, yet 20 years later, echinacea became the top-selling medicine in the United States.

Today, echinacea has returned to favor — and for good reason. Echinacea can stimulate the immune system, helping to quickly eliminate infections of all kinds. Scientific studies show that volunteers using echinacea overcome the unpleasant symptoms of colds and flu faster than people in a placebo group. Echinacea is a top-selling herb in the United States and Europe and has been featured on the evening news of major networks and in many other mainstream news stories. The taste is tingly and exotic; the benefits are hard to beat — you may find that echinacea becomes your constant winter companion. Echinacea liquid products also come in flavors and some are sweetened.

The liquid extract, also called a tincture, is often recommended by herbalists. Take one-half to one-fourth of a teaspoon (3 to 4 droppersful) of the liquid in a little water, 3 to 4 times daily, away from meals. It is best to take it at the first signs of a cold or flu, and not stop taking it for five to ten days to avoid getting sick entirely. Echinacea also speeds up elimination of wastes, so it doesn't suppress symptoms the way over-the-counter aspirin and decongestants can.

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