Herb Basics: Echinacea Guidelines for Most Effective Use

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Illustration by Susan Strawn

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Echinacea topped the list of consumers’ favorite herbs in 1997, according to a survey by Whole Foods Magazine. But how do you use this immune-boosting herb to its best advantage? We asked the advice of Christopher Hobbs, an herbalist, acu­puncturist, and editorial advisory board member of Herbs for Health.

After many years of experience, Hobbs says, he is certain that echinacea is effective for preventing colds and reducing symptoms. Here are his guidelines for its effective use.

• It is most effective when started at the very first sign of symptoms.

• Take enough to do the job. Studies show that it will not work unless a threshold is reached—approximately sixteen droppersful of a liquid tincture split into at least four doses throughout the day.

• Echinacea can be used for ten days to two weeks, but, Hobbs says, it is best not to stimulate the immune system on an ongoing basis. Save the herb for times when you really need it.

Echinacea’s name is derived from the Greek word for hedgehog because of the appearance of the flower’s central cone.