Herbal Utility (Echinacea) (long description) 
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 Herbal Utility (Echinacea) (long description)

OK, I peeked in the book Energetics of Western Herbs, a two-volume series
attempting to explain western herbs in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine,
to facilitate their use in TCM-style formulations. Echinacea was listed
in this book, and this was what I could gather from the description.

First, the person who first brought up Echinacea and cast it as a "general
curative" is still, I think, being a little vague in the wording, but the
description does mention some immunity strengthening powers, of the type
that might be described in TCM as "Harmonizing the YingQi and WeiQi". The
YingQi, or "nutritive potential", is said to be a form of energy that is
in the {*filter*}stream and which transforms cooking.net">food essences, or Earth Qi, into
{*filter*}. One could say then that YingQi is a facilitator of the generation
of {*filter*} cells of all types. The WeiQi, or "shielding energy", is said to
spread out in a field just under the skin, and partly in the walls of the
lungs, windpipe, and digestive tract, as the first energetic line of defense
against outside attack. The pores and skin glands are said to be actuated
by the WeiQi - to create a small field of cooler air around the body in
hot weather, to throw off heat into the air around the body in cold weather,
to keep the skin moist in dry weather, and to close the pores and barricade
against excess moisture in humid weather. In terms of bacteria and virii,
the WeiQi would also be in charge of toughening the body's exposed surfaces
against infiltration by these agents.

This is all fine and dandy, but in the strictest terms this function is
defensive rather than curative of extant disease.

If I was to place this herb into one of the classical categories, I would
call it "Spicy Cool for Relieving the Surface". Spicy does not necessarily
mean hot, as most cooking types can well attest. It just means that the taste
has a strong front end, a fast attack, an initial shock, which is followed
by either warm or cool sensations. Therapeutically, this sharp attack makes
these herbs good at blasting away problems quickly. The tradeoff is that an
attack this sharp only works at a shallow level. However, for colds and flus,
where most of the symptoms are at the shallow levels (on the lung walls, the
nose walls, the stomach walls, or the skin) and are pretty acute, a quick
surface strike is just what you want to do. As a spicy and cool herb, it
is in the same category as such well-known herbs as peppermint, chrysanthemum,
and eucalyptus (which isn't in the classic Chinese rep, but which also fits).
Functionally, this group's primary use is against Hot Wind Attack on the Surface,
which makes the above-mentioned surfaces hot, inflamed, and vulnerable to
infection. Surface Hot Wind's symptoms are fully sore throat, sometimes
fever, red eyes, yellow thick fluids in the nose - the westerners would call
the influenza virii the main agents of Surface Wind Heat, and home remedies
for these kinds of symptoms are mainly based on menthol, camphor, chrysanthemin,
for which this group of herbs is the natural source. These herbs almost all
have diaphoretic qualities, and this encourages both perspiration and the
driving of subcutaneous toxins to the skin's surface. Rashes sometimes result
in someone who has these subcutaneous toxins (classically due to measles,
mumps, and other skin-ravaging diseases), but the rationale in this case is
that there will be a severe rash for a few days in which most of the pathogens
are blasted out of the body, rather than a somewhat less itchy, but deeper
seated and possibly more damaging rash beneath the eye's notice. (You all
remember the lectures in school on syphillis - just because the sores go
away doesn't mean the disease has left).

As a Spicy Cool herb which is described in Energetics as entering the Lung
and Large Instestine spheres of influence, this would be a good herb for
any kind of flu symptoms centered on the lungs and nose, and possibly for
concurrent hemorroids or constipation.

Like some other of the Spicy Cools, this one is said to have a secondary
effect of Clearing Heat Toxin. "Heat Toxin" or "Heat Poisoning" is the
Chinese description of "105 fever" types of conditions and of rampant
inflammations, rashes, and infections. What we know of as agents of infection
were known to the classical Chinese as Hot Toxic Pathogenic Influences.
Western chemistry has isolated the substances from these herbs which perform
the Heat Toxin Clearing function, and has called most of them anti-inflammatory
and antibiotic. In western form, concentrated forms of these substances are
better than herbal forms when such a disease pattern is so advanced that
the herbal forms would not work in time. For early stages, however, the herbal
forms are said to have a similar, though slower, function, without the side
effects which sometimes result from concentrated forms.

The other stated functions of Echinacea are to circulate Kidney Qi, which
I think would refer to helping either Yin or Yang deficiencies in that organ,
and to tonify Spleen and Stomach Qis, which would help to break up a pattern
of low appetite.

Basically this herb seems to be a "general curative" only as relates to
inflammatory and flu-like conditions. It is NOT something to give to a
person who is already sweating a lot, because it might make them sweat
so much as to dehydrate the inside of the body. And it's not the best
thing to give to someone who has a Surface Cold Wind type of pattern,
which is more the runny nose, sneezing and chilly type of thing, because
Spicy Warm herbs are the primary ones for these.

So the "tonic" nature of this herb is not really primary, and high doses
of tonic wouldn't be used for the kinds of things this herb seems to be
made for anyway. While strengthening Ying and Wei Qi is all well and good,
it is not something to do during an attack of disease, at least not to a large
degree; pathogenic influences are pirates by nature, and if you throw a lot
of Qi tonic into a body that is under attack, the marauding agents will also
be tonified. Qi tonics are also never cooling, they are either neutral or
warming. The more powerful ones are the warming ones, and to give a bunch
of warming herbs to someone suffering Hot Wind or Heat Toxin could make
someone's body into the equivalent of the Oakland Hills. Generally, neutral
tonics in very low doses might be put into formulas, in a position very much
subordinate to the clearing herbs, for a person suffering from conditions
like these. There's always time to strengthen a clean but weak environment,
but fighting off a successfully planted infection is a race against the clock.

  ^     ^       Avery Ray Colter    

(  o _ o  )     "Chbby Chsr" on America Online

    `-'         "See, I like, fall into a sinister trance
  ELFCAT!        When I hear the sound of the Underground!" - Money B

Wed, 08 Jun 1994 14:37:28 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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