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Echinacea is an herb that grows naturally in the form of a flowering plant. The plant has several names but many know it as the cone flower, which is part of the daisy family. It grows in North America, usually on prairies or in open areas of forests. It blooms in the summer season.
Various forms of the plant, which include the flowers, roots, leaves and stems are used to make Echinacea available in medicinal forms. These plant parts are ground up and made into pills, both tablet and chewable forms, tea, and liquids that can be added to beverages.
Echinacea is most often used to treat the common cold and flu. The herb is taken at the first signs of these illnesses to fight the onset, or once one has come down with the illness, to lessen the severity and duration of the illness. In studies, Echinacea has been shown to boost the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells in the body. These white blood cells help reduce inflammation which makes the symptoms of the illness feel less severe. When taken after the illness has already struck, many people feel that it reduces the amount of time they suffer with symptoms.
Some evidence has shown that when used with a specific medicinal cream called Econazole, Echinacea can be used to treat vaginal yeast infections. And Echinacea has had success when used topically to help heal skin wounds more quickly.
Because Echinacea does increase the number of white blood cells in the body, it's not recommended that it be taken on a daily basis but only for a period of no longer than seven to ten days to help treat a specific condition.