We grow echinacea in our gardens amongst the lavender. Not only is it beautiful and irresistible to bees, but it is very medicinal.
Echinacea stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infections. Research has shown that echinacea makes our own immune cells more efficient at attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells, including cancer cells. It increases the number and activity of immune system cells including anti-tumor cells, promotes T-cell activation, stimulates new tissue growth for wound healing and can reduces inflammation in arthritis and inflammatory skin conditions.
Echinacea also inhibits an enzyme (hyaluronidase) secreted by bacteria to help them gain access to healthy cells. Research in the early 1950's showed that echinacea could completely counteract the effect of this enzyme, helping to prevent infection when used to treat wounds.
Echinacea is most effective when used before you are ill - start drinking echinacea tea at the first sign of feeling run down or coming into contact with an infection. Start using the salve or balm as soon as your skin seems irritated. The sooner echinacea goes in or on, the sooner it will start aiding the immune system!