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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Wednesday - November 08, 2006

From: Petaluma, CA
Region: California
Topic: Rare or Endangered Plants
Title: Non-endangered medicinal plants to Echinacea
Answered by: Wendy Redding and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

A recent issue of the Wildflower Center said that echinacea is endangered and it is best to use a substitute, but did not give a good substitute. (Only oregon grape was listed as a substitute for goldenseal.) Echinacea is great for curing colds, flu, etc. Is there a good nonendangered substitute for echinacea that really works the same as echinacea? I would appreciate your good help. Thank you.

ANSWER:

The article you refer to is "Gold Rush" by Katie Lewis in Wildflower, the magazine of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Fall 2006, Vol. 23, no. 1.

Below are a few herbs that have a similar action to Echinacea. They are only suggestions and are not meant to be a prescription for any illness or disease. As with any herb or supplement, one should seek advice from their doctor, read the labels and follow the instructions correctly. You can also visit your local health food store to get more information.

Olive leaf is useful where bacterial, viral and fungal infections have taken hold. It is best taken during the early stages of a cold, flu, sinusitis, upper respiratory or ear infections.

Elderberry also taken within the first few days of the flu has been proven in several studies to deactivate the virus. It also helps rid the body of excess mucous production.

Pleurisy root is specific to bronchitis and chest colds with dry respiratory membranes.

Astragalus is a deep immune system toner and an excellent preventative that can be taken throughout the cold and flu season to increase the body's resistance to viral infections. It is not to be taken once illness has set in.

The key is to use an herb for its appropriate action during the correct stage of an illness or as a preventative if applicable. Many people use Echinacea when it is not beneficial, thus overusing it and potentially stressing natural populations. It is still desirable to occasionally use Echinacea, especially during the beginning of a cold since it is a strong immune system activator which stimulates white blood cell count and some of the body's other natural defenses. It is highly important to buy your herbs from an environmentally conscious company. There are several companies that use only Echinacea that they have farmed as opposed to wild crafted and will indicate this on the label.

 

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