Echinacea angustifolia, E purpurea, E pallida, are plants native of North America, where they are known by names such as purple coneflower, rudbeckia and Missouri snakeroot, but they are now also grown in Europe. Echinacea possesses an assortment of chemical compounds of pharmacological importance. Immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory polysaccharides of which inulin in high concentration is the most important; numerous flavonoids, with rutoside the most abundant; caffeic acid and various derivatives, such as the unique echinacoside, but also cichoric acid, chlorogenic acid, cynarin and others; essential oils such as the sesquiterpene derivatives, borneol, alphapinine, humulene and caryophelene; numerous polyacetelenes; and alkylamides.Other compounds include the alkaloids tussilagine, isotussilagine, various resins, glycoproteins, sterols, minerals and fatty acids.
- Antibacterial. The herb has an effective but mild antibacterial effect. Echinacoside and caffeic acid can inhibit the growth of such pathogenic organisms as proteus vulgaris, staphylococcus aureus, and corynebacterium diphtheria.
- Antifungal. Echinacea specifically enhances the action of macrophages, or white blood cells than attack and destroy pathogens, against fungal organisms such as candida albicans and others.
- Antiviral. The antiviral action of echinacea is twofold. First, it appears to block viral receptor sides on cells. And second, to inhibit the production of the testes enzyme hyaluronidase, which depolymerizes hyaluronic acid, increasing the permeability of connective tissue and permitting the invasion of the body by pathogenic organisms.
- Anti-inflammatory. The polysaccharides of the herb appear to exert a cortisone-like anti-inflammatory effect on rheumatoid arthritis, notably without side effects.
- Anti-snake bite. Echinacea’s inhibition of hyaluronidase probably accounts for its well known properties against snake bites. The enzyme is a component of snake venom, breaking down the connective tissue and allowing the spread of toxins.
- Immune stimulant. The herb contains a large variety of compounds that affect the immune system in different ways. For example, inulin activates the part of the immune system known as the alternate complement pathway. This enhances the movement of white blood cells in infection areas, solubilizes immune complexes, and destroys bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. At the same time, echinacea raises the levels of properdin, a serum protein that stimulates the alternate complement pathway.
- Wound healing. Studies show that echinacea speeds up the healing of damaged tissue, an action linked to the regeneration of connective tissue, and so the healing of abscesses, burns, eczema, herpes and leg varicose veins.