ECHINACEA is not just something you reach for when your dog is feeling off. People have been using Echinacea like a pick me up or a quick fix for many years but the truth is Echinacea is something we should be using regularly as a means to build immunity.
Echinacea was first discovered in the 1800s by a travelling salesman, Joseph Meyer, Something he picked up from the American Indians while travelling. Meyer brewed an alcohol-based tincture using this amazing herb and called it his "cure-all for everything".
Interestingly, he went to great lengths to prove its effectiveness by drinking the tonic and letting rattlesnakes bite him! Surprisingly he never got sick and this was how the phrase “snake oil salesman” became known.
Most people know echinacea is a great immune booster …but what they don't realise is that although there are a lot of immune-boosting herbs around, they all work in different ways.
Echinacea works differently because it contains echinacoside, a natural antibiotic that works the same as penicillin; so it can kill a broad range of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.
This makes it a really valuable herb to have in your first aid kit for wound healing and treating your sick dog.
Echinacea is a versatile plant that also contains echinacein, which protects your dog by neutralising the tissue-dissolving enzyme hyaluronidase, produced by germs. It can increase macrophage activation by increasing the production of interferon-gamma. One study showed that Echinacea extracts can boost T-cell production by up to 30 per cent more than immune-boosting drugs and is said to increase the production of the chemokines interleukin-8 and MCP-1, which enhance the migration of immune cells to the site of infection.
So What Does All That Mean?
When your dog is exposed to things like kennel cough or bacteria, his immune system fires up its defences to fight those bugs. Echinacea works the same way … but it actually offers no threat to the body at all.
So when you give your dog echinacea his immune system perceives it as a threat and powers up. But because echinacea isn’t harmful to the body at all, the immune system has nothing to attack and it stays charged up on standby, waiting for a threat to arrive so it can pounce on it.
There is a downside to this type of immune booster though because sooner or later your dog’s immune system will work out that you’ve been playing games and will stop responding to the echinacea.
So when you’re using immune boosters like Echinacea, it’s a good idea to use them intermittently so your dog’s immune system won't catch on to your trickery. Herbalists recommend using on a "5 days on and 3 days off" basis. When you take this time off, your dog’s immune system will forget all about the false threat and you can continue this pattern over and over again just to keep it on high alert.
Timing is everything with Echinacea, it is critical to use it when your dog is incubating disease not during a severe attack.
Observe your dog daily and check for early signs of illness, that way you can get the full benefit of Echinacea and know it is really helping them. Once the dog is nearing full recovery there is no further need to continue dosing.
It is beneficial for building the immune system by feeding daily. Research has shown this can slow the growth of cancer cells.
Echinacea is handy when travelling or in times of potential stress so that your dog has a boosted immunity and can better deal with stressful things.
Is Echinacea Safe?
Some dogs can be sensitive to the antigens in echinacea and you may notice allergic symptoms. These dogs shouldn’t take echinacea, in fact, many dogs suffer from immune-mediated diseases and echinacea can aggravate these diseases. So if you notice any of these signs or symptoms do not continue with it.
It is important to understand the power of echinacea as it relies on a healthy immune system. If your dog is healthy then Echinacea will really boost his ability to fight disease before it happens.
How Much Should I Give?
There are two main varieties of echinacea: purpurea and Angustifolia. They’re similar but also have complementary properties. Formulas that use both are more likely to be effective.
Most of Echinacea’s immune-boosting power is in the seeds and the root.
The recommended dose for dogs:
give 12 to 25 drops of echinacea tincture, three times daily
* See your Holistic Vet for Advice