Echinacea purpurea stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infection. Unlike antibiotics, which directly attack bacteria, Purple coneflower makes our own immune cells more efficient at attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells, including cancer cells. It increases the number and activity of immune system cells including anti-tumor cells, promotes T-cell activation, stimulates new tissue growth for wound healing and reduces inflammation in arthritis and inflammatory skin conditions.
The most consistently proven effect of Echinacea purpurea is in stimulating phagocytosis (the consumption of invading organisms by white blood cells and lymphocytes). Extracts of Echinacea purpurea can increase phagocytosis by 20-40%.
Echinacea purpurea also stimulates the production of interferon as well as other important products of the immune system, including "Tumor Necrosis Factor", which is important to the body's response against cancer.
Echinacea purpurea also inhibits an enzyme (hyaluronidase) secreted by bacteria to help them gain access to healthy cells. Research in the early 1950's showed that Purple coneflower could completely counteract the effect of this enzyme, helping to prevent infection when used to treat wounds.
Although Echinacea purpurea is usually used internally for the treatment of viruses and bacteria, it is now being used more and more for the treatment of external wounds. It also kills yeast and slows or stops the growth of bacteria and helps to stimulate the growth of new tissue. It combats inflammation too, further supporting its use in the treatment of wounds.