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Echinacea angustifolium as an Adaptogen


Echinacea is one of the plants I have studied inside and out. I wrote a book about it, I wrote about it in my PhD thesis, I have written about and written about. What you will find below is the chapter from my Phd regarding Echinacea. Pretty dry stuff, but, if you are interested, there is much to learn.

Most of the world sees Echinacea simply as an immune stimulant, and that would be true, it is an immune stimulant. But, it is much more than that. My research revealed that it stimulated all the body systems, not just the immune system. Not surprisingly, when you stimulate all the body systems, you are looking at improved health.

So, for wellness seekers, this is a plant one needs to know about.

Chapter from My PhD Thesis: Echinacea angustifolia (DC.)

Plant family: Compositae

Common name: Echinacea

Part used: Root

Chemical constituents

Significant phytochemicals include echinacin, echinacoside, essential oils, inulin, polyacetylenes, and polysacharides (10)

480 grains to the fluid ounce alcohol 65%. dose: gtt 5 to one dram in water every 4 hours. (11)

The western tribes used Echinacea angustifolia to treat venomous bites (insect and snake) and a collection of infections. As colonial expansion spread westward, the settlers encountered the drug as a cure for rattlesnake bite. They found it effective at treating potentially lethal rattlesnake bites and as a result, it became a popular domestic remedy. At the same time, medicine show healers and snake oil salesmen used it as a miracle cure for a wide variety of complaints. The association with these charlatans hindered the drug passing into serious medical circles.

In time, it came to the attention of the Eclectic practitioners. Though at first they
were wary of the drug, they did give it a trial to see if there was anything to it. Initially, they used it in simple infections. As Eclectic confidence in the drug grew, it became the standard treatment for the prevention, cure, and control of infection. The Eclectics, who were reported to have an above average record of treating infectious disease, achieved this using Echinacea. The Eclectics greatly increased the understanding of the drug and in time, introduced it to the greater medical community.
Eclectic uses (1–9)

Alterative, tonic, anti-zymotic, antiseptic, anti-fermentative, corrector of depraved states of the blood, corrects downward action of fluid, restores proper blood making, secretion, excretion, and innervation, acts as an antiferment, corrects physiological abnormalities associated with chronic disease, corrects abnormalities of body temperature, counteracts the depressing effects of sedatives, averts pulmonary and other forms of gangrene.

“To correct fluid depravation, ‘bad blood,’ tendency to sepsis and malignancy, as in gangrene, sloughing and phagedenic ulceration’s, carbuncles, boils, and various forms of septicaemia; foul discharges, with weakness and emaciation; deepened, bluish or purplish coloration of skin or mucous membranes, with a low form of inflammation; dirty-brownish tongue; jet-black tongue; tendency to the formation of multiple cellular abscesses of semi-active character, with marked asthenia. Of especial importance in typhoid, septicaemic and other adynamic fevers, and in malignant carbuncle, pulmonary gangrene, cerebra-spinal meningitis and pyosalpinx. Echafolta is advised as a cleansing wash in surgical operations, and to annul the pain of and to deodorize carcinomata.” (8)

General debilitated habit, tendency to infection, blood depravity (internal infection) or external noxious agent (snake, spider bite.), strumous diathesis, syphilis, primary and secondary, diphtheria, typhoid conditions, septic phase of typhoid, blood poisoning, syphilitic diathesis, ulceration with profuse secretion, tendency to systemic poisoning, breath offensive, dusky coloured mucous membranes, profuse acid saliva, tendency to gangrene and sloughing, weakness and emaciation, disorders of the blood (syphilis, scrofula, chronic ulceration), spinal meningitis, puerperal fever, adynamic fevers, fevers of septic infection and rheumatic attacks, intermittent, remittent, congestive, continued, and typhoid fevers, ague, malaria, chronic malaria, typho-malarial fevers, rabid dog bites, malignant diphtheria, malignant blood poisoning with marked exhaustion, extensive exudation and sloughing of the fauces, blood depravation manifesting as sloughing of tissues, mountain fever, infections following exposure to sewer gas, dynamic fevers, perityphilitis, follicular tonsillitis, Tonsilitis, sthenic and asthenic conditions, epidemic influenza, debility associated with influenza, eruptive fevers (chicken pox, small pox, measles, scarlet fever), scarlatinal angina, tetanus, anthrax, infections introduced by vaccination, debility caused by vaccination, stings of wasps and bees, bites of snakes, in particular rattle snake, poison ivy, noxious plants, cancer, mucous membrane cancer, breast cancer, testicular cancer, cancerous cachexia.

Cholera infantum, diarrhoea with nausea and vomiting, profuse and bad smelling discharge, diseases of the stomach, cholera morbus, ulcers of the throat, haemorrhoids, dysentery, unhealthy conditions of the mouth and throat, appendicitis, ulcerated sore throat, dyspepsia with pain and great distress upon eating, dyspepsia of long standing, indigestion, lack of appetite, fermantative dyspepsia with offensive breath and gastric pain, duodenal catarrh, intestinal indigestion with pain and debility, ulcerative stomatitis, nursing sore mouth, diarrhoea, dysentery, semi-inflammatory type of dysentery with a tendency to malignancy, typhilitis, perityphilitis, abdominal and pelvic operations into which an organ has discharged septic material, incurable ulcerative colitis, digestive tract mucous membrane abnormalities.

Diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus.

Inflammation of the male and female urethra, erythematous vulvitis, erysipelas vulvitis, erysipelas vulvitis of strumous children, inflammation of the vagina, gonorrhoea, leucorrhea, ulceration of the os uteri, purulent salpingitis, dropsy following scarlatina, uraemic poisonings.

Rheumatism, articular rheumatism, rheumatic attacks, phlebitis, infections of the muscles threatening or causing gangrene, phlegmansia alba dolens.

Nervous headache, pain associated with skin conditions (rhus poisoning erysipelas, etc.), pain of cancerous growths on mucous membranes (cancer of the throat).

Pneumonia, catarrh, nasal catarrh, pharyngeal catarrh, chronic catarrh, affections of the nose, naso-pharynx, other portions of the respiratory tract, black tongue, ulcerated, fetid mucous surfaces, with dusky or dark coloration with chronic debilitated habit, chronic catarrhal bronchitis, fetid bronchitis, pulmonary gangrene, typhoid pneumonia, tubercular phthisis, stone cutters or grinders consumption, tubercular diathesis.

Old sores and wounds, foul phagedenic ulcers, ulcers, purplish skin with bluish shining appearance, vesicular eruptions, viscid exudations, painful superficial irritations, burning of surface, erysipelas, boils, carbuncles, ulcers of the lower extremities, pus filled cavities, conditions with superficial irritation of acute and painful nature, chaffing, erythema, predisposition to irritable states resulting in skin irritations, formation of multiple cellular abscesses, eczema, skin diseases of systemic origin, milk crust, acne, scald head, chronic ulceration’s of the leg, tubercular abscesses, gangrene, empyema, phlegmonous swellings, old sores, erysipelas with sloughing phagedena, dissecting surgical wounds, phlegmasia dolens, dermatitis venenata, cellular abscesses with haemorrhage diarrhoea, malignant carbuncle, painful mammitis, chronic inflammation of the mammary gland, syphilitic ulcers of the mouth, throat, and tongue, chronic eczema with glutinous exudations associated with asthenia and general depravity, psoriasis, psoriasis following vaccination, bed sores, fever sores, old tibial ulcers, chronic glandular indurations, scrofulous and syphilitic nodules, alopecia.
The drug from Selye’s perspective
State of Resistance

The drug was used to raise resistance to primary syphilis, diphtheria, typhoid conditions, spinal meningitis, puerperal fever, septic fevers, small pox, measles, rabies, mountain fever, sewer gas fever, tonsillitis, influenza, chicken pox, scarlet fever, tetanus, anthrax, gonorrhoea, blood depravity (bacteria or bile), general debilitated habit, tendency to systemic poisoning, tendency to infection, tuberculosis, adynamic fevers, rheumatic fever, intermittent, remittent, congestive, continued or typhoid fevers, septic phase of typhoid fever, malaria, malignant diphtheria, influenza, vaccination, rheumatism, diabetes, dropsy following scarlet fever, stone grinders consumption, pneumonia, snake and insect bites.
State of Exhaustion

The drug was used when resistance could no longer be maintained and State of Exhaustion set in. Diseases causing the State of Exhaustion treated with this drug including syphilis, malaria, tuberculosis, and cancer. Signs of State of Exhaustion, remedied with the drug included debility, strumous diathesis, tendency to infections, mucous membrane ulceration with profuse excretion, tendency to gangrene, sloughing away, and emaciation, ague, ulcerative colitis, respiratory ulceration, phthisis, consumption, old sores and wounds, erysipelas, old tibial ulcers, bed sores, chronic glandular indurations, cachexia, and temperature abnormalities.
Adaptation Energy

From Selye’s perspective, the drug was used to augment the GAS, which suggests it increases adaptation energy. Evidence to this effect includes the following. The Eclectics saw Echinacea as the ultimate stimulant to the preservative capacity. When the body needed to mount resistance to an infection, the drug was employed. If a person had a wound from a dissection, had been exposed to sewer gas, or had been bitten by a mad dog, the drug was used. The drug was used to increase resistance to almost all known bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. The drug was also used when the body was no longer able to resist a chronic infection and State of Exhaustion commenced. Lastly, the drug was used to stimulate healing in fresh wounds and non-healing ulcers and sores.
Brekhman’s adaptogen criterion

An adaptogen should be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism.

The drug is considered innocuous both in Eclectic and contemporary literature. (1–10)

The action of an adaptogen should be non-specific i.e. it should increase resistance to adverse influences of a wide range of factors of physical, chemical, and biological nature.

Clinically the drug was used to raise resistance to acute and chronic infections, autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis), and cancer. (1–9)

Experimentally, compounds found in the drug have been shown to directly increase resistance to bacterial (Staph, Strep), viral (influenza, HIV), fungal (Candida), and protozoan infection. They have been shown to indirectly increase resistance to the same via immune stimulation They have been shown to increase resistance to cancer, Carcinogenesis, liver and free radical damage. (10)

An adaptogen may possess normalising action irrespective of the direction of the foregoing pathological changes.

Clinically the drug was used to normalise abnormal function associated with State of Exhaustion . It was also used to normalise immune function (hyper, auto, or hypo) and to normalise healing capacity when the ability had been lost. (1–9)

Experimentally, the drug contains constituents that have been shown to normalise a host of physiological functions including excessive gastric acidity, membrane permeability abnormalities, abnormal inflammation, abnormal immune function, hyperlipidemia, hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycaemia, and hypertension. (10)

The drug exhibits properties consistent with Brekhman’s definition of an adaptogen. It is innocuous, it raises resistance to a broad spectrum of biological threats to well being, and it normalises function.

Beyond this, Echinacea angustifolia, one of the most popular herbal medicines, offers the medical thinker a different perspective on infectious disease prevention.

At the moment, the medical community relies on vaccination to protect people from infections. This is problematic, in part because vaccinations have risks, and in part, because a vaccination only protects a person against one infection. There are so many potential infections, vaccinating people against the infectious threat of the day is a time consuming, cumbersome and expensive endeavour.

Echinacea angustifolia, on the other hand, offers increased resistance to any and all microbes the body encounters. By increasing immune function, the body has an increased ability to resist any microbe that requires neutralisation. It is the non-specificity of Echinacea, and drugs like it that makes these drugs so interesting. In addition, Echinacea angustifolium represents another divergence from standard infection prevention practices. This drug garners the bodies own defence mechanisms to neutralise a threat to well being. It encourages the body to do what it was meant to do. It works with the body to encourage enhanced self-protection.
Potential clinical applications

There is evidence suggesting Echinacea angustifolium may have a role in preventing epidemic infectious disease. There is also evidence the drug may have a role in preventing infection—induced State of Exhaustion .
Future research

• The effect of Echinacea angustifolia on the GAS. The drug should be tested out in the animal model to determine its specific effect on the GAS.

• Echinacea angustifolia and biological warfare. The drug was universally used to increase resistance to any and all infections (viral, bacterial, and protozoan). Contemporary research indicates that the drug is an immune stimulant, increasing both immune cell counts and immune cell activity. The drug offers increased non-specific resistance to microbial infection. The drugs’ role in increasing resistance to biological warfare should be examined.

• Echinacea angustifolia and infection induced State of Exhaustion . The drug was used when State of Exhaustion set in. Indeed, its clinical indications perfectly match the profile of an organism in State of Exhaustion . Its role in State of Exhaustion in diseases like HIV and hepatitis C should be examined.

The drug is readily raised.

References for Echinacea angustifolia

• Neiderkorn, JS. The Physicians and Students Ready Guide to Specific Medication. The Little Printing Company. Bradford , Ohio . 1892. P. 8.

• Watkins, Lyman. An Eclectic Compendium of the Practice of Medicine. John M.Scudder’s Sons. Cincinnati . 1895. P. 43.

• Webster, HT. Dynamical Therapeutics—A work devoted to the Theory and Practice of Specific Medication with special references to the newer remedies. Webster Medical Publishing Company. Oakland . Second Edition. 1898. P. 69, 146, 255, 399, 479, 545.

• Felter, Harvey Wickes and Lloyd, John Uri. Kings’ American Dispensatory. Volume one and Volume two. Ohio Valley Company. Cincinnati . 1898. P. 671.

• Felter, Harvey. Syllabus of Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Compiled from notes taken from the lectures of F.J.Locke. Edited with pharmacological additions by H.W.Felter. Second edition, with appendix. Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati.1901. P. 418.

• Neiderkorn, JS. A Handy Reference Book. Published for the Author. Cincinnati . 1905. P. 22.

• Peterson, F.J. Materia Medica and Clinical Therapeutics. Published by the Author. Los Olivos , California . 1905. P. 83.

• Fyfe, John William. Pocket Essentials of Modern Materia Medica and Therapeutics. The Scudder Brothers Company. 1903. P. 108.

• Ellingwood, Finley. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics, and Pharmacognosy. Ellingwood’s Therapeutist. Chicago . 1919. P. 358.

• Dr. DukesPhytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Agricultural Research Service. USDA.

• Lloyd Brothers. Dosebook of Specific Medicines. Lloyd Brothers. Cincinatti. 1930.

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.