This section is from the book "Botanic Drugs Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics", by Thomas S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: Botanic Drugs, Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
This may not all be true. I am not prepared to say it is all true; but, simply because a host of physicians are employing the drug empirically and, many of them, making impossible claims for it, does not prejudice me against the drug itself. So I have used gallons of its fluid preparations in an effort to draw some personal conclusions. Considerable space is given to it here because it is a much-debated drug. And these are my conclusions:
Externally (2 fluidounces fl. to 1 pint water) it is a good wet dressing, severe cases requiring greater concentration. It stops the formation of pus in many cases; but it does not, of itself, sufficiently promote healing. The drug is of use externally in cases where sound surgical practice indicates a wet dressing, and it is not useful otherwise. As a zymo-cide echinacea is inferior to the commonly used antiseptics and germicides, but it often serves well to follow them, being itself followed, later, by agents more promotive of healing. It has some effect, locally, in relieving pain.
The bites of insects are much relieved by it, locally applied. It has no destructive effect upon the venom of reptiles, not being an oxidizing agent; but it is a good dressing in these cases to prevent the common septic infection developing in the bite. Apply in a concentrated state or inject into the wound one of the echinacea preparations devised for hypodermic use. It is unwise to depend upon echinacea alone in the treatment of bites from a rabid dog or a reptile, or to treat with it a penetrating wound likely to be infected with tetanus organisms. In all of the above, echinacea is a minor remedy for minor cases, or it is auxiliary to other treatment.
Septic laryngeal and pharyngeal affections may often be treated successfully with it because it has mild local anesthetic properties, and hence the drug may be used in fair concentration.
I do not believe echinacea possesses any specific or definite influence upon the infectious diseases, such as diphtheria, typhoid fever, or malaria; but it may be a valuable agent to antagonize secondary septic infection therein in some cases.
I have thought it exerted such an influence in numerous cases in which I have used it; but have no definite proof that it did, for I place little reliance in apparent good results in ordinary clinical usage - my own or others - hout definite control and most discriminating observation under hospital conditions.
Symptomatically, in numerous cases of glandular troubles and other difficulties usually favorably influenced by a vegetable "alterative," I have noted subsidence of symptoms under treatment by echinacea. I do not believe it has any more influence upon syphilis than do the other vegetable alteratives.
I believe echinacea does promote the elimination of toxins, but is, in no sense of the word, an antitoxin.
Echinacea never renders unnecessary proper surgical exploration or drainage, as in puerperal sepsis, boils, carbuncles, abscesses, tetanus, etc.
I have seen no marked effect from it in any malignant disease, per se, but employ it with some satisfaction in the secondary infections, often a great factor in these cases.
It appears to be of some value as an intestinal antiseptic - good as the others - used with the limitations of intestinal antiseptics ever in view.
I believe that the aromatic bodies - Aroptenes, Pinenes, etc. I develop a scientific place in therapy, probably used mostly subdermally. In this event echinacea may attain to recognition as one member of a very useful group of drugs; but I do not believe the wonderful and impossible claims made for it by enthusiasts.
Externally I employ it from 10 per cent to full strength of the fl. The preparations for hypodermic use are, usually, in 15-minim ampules. Inject a whole ampule. Internally, my experience is that 30 minims fl. should be considered an average dose.
I trust discriminating clinicians will test out echinacea, and report. Such reports are needed finally to determine if echinacea is truly a modern addition to therapeutics. I believe it has a place, the limitations of which are yet to be determined.