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02 February 2012

Echinacea and Winter: Perfect Together!

Echinacea Angustifolia (I'm using an alcohol-based tincture made from the dried root, never capsules) is a great friend to have in winter time. During this season of colds and flu, and so many other unspecified winter ailments that grip hold of our bodies and captivate our immune systems, often shaking us to the core, perhaps even reminiscent of what dying might feel like, or perhaps not (maybe I'm being overly dramatic here), these winter maladies are in any event no fun, and sometimes even life-threatening.

Our breathing is often compromised as these invaders make their way into our bodies via our upper respiratory tract--touch a surface with the pathogen, touch your mouth or eyes, and there you have it--easy access! The bug settles into our upper or, heaven forbid, lower respiratory tract, and sets up camp for the winter. Our circulatory system is in turn greatly compromised as our bodies seek homeostasis and to hold down the virus or bacteria, and we suffer terribly just to get through simple daily activities as our bodies divert all our energy away from normal functions and needs to fight the invader. 

While I was always taught that Echinacea was never the first line of defense against a virus, to be used mostly to address secondary bacterial infections caused by viruses, I have nevertheless found it to be supremely effective no matter whether the culprit viral or bacterial and especially useful for respiratory pathogens.

I have a blog entry on how to make your own Echinacea tincture if you're a crafty sort, but you can buy this tincture just about anywhere. I'll list some trustworthy sites below.

The dosage formula I use (and I was taught this by Susun Weed) is 1 drop of tincture per 2 pounds of body weight. If you're using kilograms, let's just do the conversion by example: I weigh 200 pounds, and my dosage is 100 drops. Now 200 pounds is around 90 kilograms, so I'll be taking 100 drops per 90 kilograms--that's roughly 1 drop per kilogram of body weight plus about 10%. So If I weigh 90 kg, I'm taking 90 drops plus 10% which equals approximately 100 drops. That's pretty simple I think, but maybe you can come up with a better formula. If so, let me know! Send me an e-mail or post a comment.  I can be a bit mathematically challenged from time to time.

Anyway, remember, there are roughly 25 drops in a full dropper that comes in most if not all herbal tincture bottles (you can count them out if you wish, but trust me on this one), and if I'm taking 100 drops, I'm basically taking 4 droppers-full in a small glass of water as my dose. You want to take tinctures in water or juice, not directly squirted into your mouth or under your tongue, expect in rare, emergency cases and not with this herb.

Important to Note:  I will take the same dose every time. The only aspect of the treatment I will adjust is the frequency of the doses--that's how often I take them. 

So here's a likely scenario:
I'm notice I'm sick (I never take Echinacea as a preventative by the way), and I may try other things I usually try if I'm not quite right, maybe some extra garlic in my food or tea with honey, extra rest, or whatever else I like to do to feel better, and these little adjustments don't seem to be working. In fact I'm getting worse, so I decide I need to break out the Echinacea tincture (I'm using 1 drop per two pounds of body weight--100 drops for me.) I take this dosage very frequently at first, maybe every hour or two, all day long. As I start to feel more strength and a bit better, usually within a day or so, I taper off the frequency, maybe 5 times a day instead of 10; perhaps the next day or two I'm feeling even better, so I only take it 3 times that day, and maybe twice the next and once the next, and then not at all. The point here is I taper down based on how I feel and how my body responds.  But don't taper too fast. I think it better to err on the side of taking too many doses rather than not enough, but again, this treatment is only when I am ill, not to be used as a preventative. Many "vitamins" and other supplements have Echniacea in them, and people take these every day--this very bad idea! What would happen if you took antibiotics every day? Your immune system would eventually be so weakened that you'd be in real trouble when something big and scary came along.

Four main points to keep in mind: 
I never change the dosage, only the frequency.

I never stop all at once--I taper down gradually as I feel better and stronger. 

I never use Echinacea as a preventative; I use it only when I'm not sick.

I use tinctures NOT capsules.

So enjoy the winter with your new best friend--Echinacea Angustifolia! We've had an oddly mild winter (so far anyway) in the Northeastern United States, but there is still no lack of typical winter bugs! I know because one took up residence in my body last week and Echinacea came to the rescue. She'll help you out too in your time of need!

Some sites I trust to purchase herbs such as Echinacea: Red Moon Herbs, Blessed Herbs, Frontier Herbs.

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