Echinacea Herb Profile:
Latin Name: Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, E. pallida
Other Name: Purple Coneflower
Description: Echinacea is a well-known healing herb. This beautiful prairie plant can grow between 2-4 feet tall displaying pinkish-purple, daisy-like flowers. There are several species of Echinacea that can be used medicinally: E. angustifolia, E. purpurea, and E. pallida. Herbalists argue over which species is the best, although E. angustifolia is said to retain its healing properties longer after it’s been dried.
Parts used: Whole plant. Aerial parts (leaves, stems, flowers) can be harvested at any time during the growing season, use fresh or dry. Roots can be harvested after they have matured (2-3 years), use dry.
Medicinal Properties: Dozens upon dozens of studies have established that Echinacea is a powerful immune system stimulant and a decent anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. One of the many properties of this herb (inulin) helps to improve the body’s white blood cell’s ability to hurry to and take care of infections throughout the body. It has been specifically shown to activate an important class of white blood cell known as natural killer (NK).
While Echinacea is generally pushed as a cold and flu herb, its properties are best utilized as an immune system booster, rather than a cold symptom reliever. Taking a tincture or drinking an infusion/decoction daily during the cold and flu season may help avoid getting sick.
Some herbalist caution not to take this herb longer than 2-8 weeks, saying our body may get used to it, causing its effect on the immune system to diminish. This idea is still a debate. If you are concerned, follow a pattern of a week or two on, several days off and repeat.
Common (therapeutic) uses: Bronchitis, Burns, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Cold Symptoms, Coughing, Fevers, Flu, Gum Disease, Immune System Depression, Infections (including: listeria, Lyme disease, and typhus), Insomnia, Indigestion, Meningitis, Mouth Inflammation, Mumps, Respiratory Problems, Stress, UTI, White Blood Cell Insufficiency, Wounds, Yeast Infections and more
Medicinal Forms: Here are a few ways to use/apply Echinacea:
- Infused Oil
- Salve, Balm, or Ointment
- Herbal Bath or Soak
- Tincture (traditional or cider vinegar)
- Infusion (herbal “tea”)
- Herbal Honey
- Syrup or Elixir (great for children)
Precautions: Do not use this herb if you have autoimmune diseases such as MS, tuberculosis, lupus or HIV/AIDS. Also, those that are allergic to ragweed should use this herb with caution.
Where to find: Echinacea grows wild in sunny, prairie like areas, but it has been over-harvested making it at risk for endangerment. The great thing is, it can be grown from seed or full plants can be found at the local nursery. Growing your own ensures the freshest herb for your home remedies. You can also purchase bulk, dried Echinacea at Bulk Herb Store or Glenbrook Farms. Be sure to keep your dried herb in a cool, dry place to preserve freshness.
- The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook by James A Duke, Ph.D.
- Homegrown Herbs by Tammi Hartung
- Prescription for Herbal Healing by Phyllis A Balch, CNC
- Healing Herbs by Rosalee de la Foret (get this book for free)
- Bulk Herb Store (note: this is my affiliate link)
I’ve got some Echinacea (angustifolia) growing in my “medicinal” flower garden.
What is your favorite way to use this fantastic herb?