With virus prevention at the top of all Canadians’ minds, it’s imperative to remember that the best form of prevention is a strong immune system, particularly for those in higher risk categories such as the elderly, children, smokers, and people suffering from chronic stress or fatigue.
With so many herbal remedies and claims on the market, especially now, it’s important to ensure that whichever herbal product you choose to maximize your family’s immune health is backed by research.
Echinacea—defence against cold and flu
In 2012, a large-scale, double-blind, placebo-controlled study using a standardized preparation of fresh echinacea (comprising ethanol extracts of fresh <Echinacea purpurea>, 95 percent aerial parts plus 5 percent roots) reduced the number of cold episodes and their duration over the four-month trial period. Based on the study parameters, the product’s safety, taken three times daily over four months, was also evaluated and confirmed.
Additional preliminary in vitro research suggests that <Echinacea purpurea>’s potent antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties may help to prevent and treat a wide range of respiratory viruses, including rhinoviruses and influenza viruses.
Not all echinacea is the same
Just as using fresh versus dried herbs in your dinner recipe can elevate a meal from good to great, the same holds true of using fresh plants in herbal preparations. Look for a remedy made with fresh <Echinacea purpurea>, which has been shown in studies to be 10 times more effective than one made using the dried herb.
The part of the plant used also plays a key role in its effectiveness. In the case of <Echinacea purpurea>, the most potent antiviral activity comes from the fresh flowers, leaves, and stems, while the alkylamide-rich root extract demonstrates anti-inflammatory action. Choosing a preparation that uses both aerial and root components provides the best opportunity for prevention and treatment results.
All-natural treatment—no prescription needed
If a virus <does> hit your household, echinacea can be used to lessen the effect and shorten the duration of symptoms resulting from respiratory tract infections as well as decrease the risk of secondary infections (bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia).
A 2015 study compared oseltamivir (Tamiflu), an antiviral prescription medication, to a product containing a fresh herbal preparation of <Echinacea purpurea> for complication risk, safety, and side effects.
The echinacea product was as effective as Tamiflu in every category and offered the additional benefit of a reduced risk of complications and adverse events. Plus, its availability as an over-the-counter medicine makes it an optimal treatment for influenza at the earliest onset of symptoms—a key factor when treating viral infections.