Echinacea Purpurea does Wonders
against the Common Cold
Echinacea Purpurea also known as the purple cone flower is known to have a number of medicinal benefits. It has been used for centuries for its anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant ability and powerful immune boost. Anti-inflammatory properties include inhibiting the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes that are responsible for an inflammation response. This response is due to the Alkamides it contains. Its antioxidant properties come from caffeoyl derivatives that can be observed on a type of collagen with topical application of Echinacea. Polysaccharides such as arabinogalactan are responsible for activating macrophages to secrete a number of cytokines known as interleukines (IL) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). There are a number of Ils however they act as second messengers to communicate between different white blood cells so they know what to do. TNF-alpha is a molecule that can activate programed cell death in abnormal cells that the body needs to get rid of. It has been demonstrated that when Echinacea purpurea is administered with vitamin C, that the duration and severity of the common cold was reduced. This is primarily due to the antibacterial/antiviral properties of polysaccharides.
Echinacea makes a good anti-inflammatory because it contains echinacin. This component is a polysaccharide that inhibits an enzyme known as hyaluronidase. When active, hyaluronidase increases tissue permeability which in turn disrupts connective tissue components such as collagen causing swelling. Echinacin prevents this swelling and promotes new tissue growth.
Get ahead of the flu season
Another molecular component of Echinacea is inulin. Inulin is a polysaccharide that has the ability to activate part of the complement pathway that helps antibodies bind to antigens. It is also responsible for attracting granulucytes to infected areas. These cells include neutrophils, basophils, and eosinophils. This is part of a molecular and cellular cascade that comes in to clean up antigens such as bacteria and/or viruses in infected tissues.
Echinacea has been reported to be effective for a relatively short period of time. Meaning that the immune system only sees Echinacea somewhere between 5 and 10 days and then ignores it. It is believed that this is incorrect due to a misinterpretation of some German experiments. In fact, newer studies indicate that Echinacea is effective for long-term use. It has been demonstrated that the longer you use it the more effective it is. Nevertheless, Echinacea is thought to be in a immuno-modulatory class of herbs. Depending on the condition you are trying to treat and your particular genetics and medical history, it can have a wide range of effects.
Echinacea is also known to increase the protein properdin which is part of the alternate complement pathway. Properdin is actually a globulin that acts as proenzyme that can stabilize other proteins that have attached to an antigen for example a bacterium. Complements are proteins that bind to pathogens or abnormal cells making them visible to the immune system and hence the pathway's name. It complements an immune response. This triggers inflammation and an immune response to remove the antigen.
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Echinacea purpurea contains a number of components that make it a good immuno-modulator. It is an anti-inflammatory because of its ability to inhibit the actions of prostaglandins and leukotrienes due to its alkamides. It's antioxidant properties are due to caffeoyl componenets that protect collagen from oxidative damage thus promoting skin and joint health. Arabinogalactan, a polysaccharide, activates macrophages to produce and secrete chemical messengers known as interleukins. This polysaccharide also stimulates the production of TNF-alpha which targets abnormal cells for programmed cell death. This botanical also contains echinacin which is responsible for preventing hyalurondiase to cause tissue to swell and cause damage and at the same time promoting tissue growth. Inulin, a mucopolysaccharide, activates white blood cells known as granulocytes to clean up damaged tissue. And last but not least, it contains properdin which is a globulin that regulates the alternative complement pathway to mark an antigen for destruction. All in all, Echinacea works wonders for the common cold/flu due to its antibacterial components. Interesting, recent studies indicate that it may be used in certain cancers due to its antitumor properties and HIV patients for its antiviral components.