HERBAL INFORMATION – Echinacea
Latin names: Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida
Common names: Common purple coneflower, Black Sampson
Parts Used: Root
Constituents: Caffeic acid esters including echinacoside and cichoric acid; alkylamides, mostly unsaturated isobutyl amides (including dodeca-2,4,8,10-tetraenoic acid); polysaccharides (including echinacin B); polyacetylenes; essential oil 1
Echinacea is one of the few medicinal plants that is commonly known by its Latin name. The name Echinacea comes from the Greek word echinos, which means “hedgehog”, referring to the prickly scales of the flowers’ centre cone. Thanks to archaeological evidence, we know that Native Americans may have been using purple coneflower for more than 400 years thinking of it as a “cure-all” herb.
While popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, Echinacea’s use declined in North America after the introduction of antibiotics. Its current availability as a herbal medicine can be attributed is a German herbal company called Madaus which began importing the seeds for cultivation in 1939. Madaus was also one of the first companies to fund research into the species purpurea.
A perennial flowering plant, Purple coneflower can grow up to 1.2 metres tall at maturity. It’s flowering period is largely determined by the climate the plant is found in, ranging from late May to early July. Echinacea is hermaphroditic, meaning it has both male and female organs on each flower. As shown in many photos of this herb, it is pollinated by butterflies and bees.
Although Echinacea does not grow in the wild in Ontario, it can be grown in this climate and is often found as a showy flower in gardens. It’s native habitats consist of dry open woods, prairies and barren areas, making it common to the temperate regions of the eastern United States.
Anesthetic (local), antiallergenic, anticatarrhal, anti-inflammatory (local, systemic), antimicrobial (bacterial, viral), antineoplastic, antioxidant, antirheumatic, antitoxic, antiulcerogenic, appetite stimulant, depurative, diaphoretic, febrifuge, immune stimulant, lymphatic, sialagogue, PVD (peripheral vasodilator), vulnerary
- Strong focus on the lymphatic system
- Effects will be felt in the skin, muscles and joints
- Helpful in cleansing the upper respiratory tract
- Poor drainage, swollen lymph nodes, edema
- Inflammatory conditions of the lymphatic system (incl. chronic conditions)
- Congestion in the lymphatic system (incl. lymph nodes)
- Effective against both bacterial and viral infections
- Will help shorten the duration of a cold/flu
- Can be used for topical infections (ie. boils, cuts, bites, scrapes, wounds)
- Use as a mouthwash/gargle to treat gingivitis and sore throats
- Apply direct to tooth/gum area for toothaches
- Traditionally used to treat poisonings
- Snake bites, septicaemia, insect bites and other types of poisonings
Upper Respiratory Tract
- Especially useful for infections of the upper respiratory tract
- Laryngitis, tonsillitis, the common cold and nasal/sinus conditions
Blood and Circulation
- Improves circulation to peripheral areas of the body (hands, feet, etc.)
- Use in treating impurities of the blood
- Boils, carbuncles, gangrene, septicaemia
- Supportive antineoplastic
- There is no known toxicity associated with this plant
- It should not be used during pregnancy and lactation due to it depurative properties.
- Due to its immune stimulating properties, it should not be used in combination with immunosuppressant medications.
- There are no dosage restrictions with Echinacea.