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Echinacea

  • Echinacea Angustifolia L.
  • Echinacea Purpurea L.
  • Echinacea Pallida L.



Common Names

herbsSacred Plant (by Native Americans)
herbsBlack sampson
herbsNarrow-leaved purple coneflower
herbsPurple coneflower
herbsRed sunflower
herbsSampson root


Parts Usually Used

Roots and leaves


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

A perennial, native to North America, Coneflower gets its common name from the arrangement of the florets of its showy, daisy-like flowers around a prominent center or "cone." Sturdy branching stems 2-5 ft tall with long, dark green leaves and showy daisy-like flowers up to 6-inches across, with drooping rays ranging from white to purplish pink. Flowers in summer. Full sun in zones 3-10. Heat tolerant. It flowers almost all summer and tolerates drought and poor soil. The coneflower is among the most beautiful of native North American plants. Plants from seed will take 2-3 years to flower. Set out in the spring, spaced 1-1/2 ft apart. Coneflower needs full sun and deep, light loamy soil. It can stand dry conditions and does best with 2 or 3 applications of balanced fertilizer during the growing season. It's a good idea to mark the location of seedlings the first few years, since the plant dies back to the ground in the winter.

Both Angustifolia and Purpurea are equal in their effects, but the Angustifolia has long tap root, 6-20 in., leaves are lance-shaped, stiff-hairy flowers with prominent cone-shaped disk surrounded by pale to deep purple spreading rays, June-September rays are about as long as the width of disk (to 1 1/4 in.).

The Purpurea has a rootstock and does not penetrate quite so deeply into the earth. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea) is distinguished from other purple coneflowers by its oval coarsely toothed leaves, flatter (less cone-shaped) disk, and the orange-tipped bristles on the flowerheads. Flowers June-Sept. The leaves and root are used, especially in West German products, as stimulants to the immune system, for the treatment of colds, flu, and other common ailments.

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Pallida) grows from 2-4 ft tall. The showy purple ray flowers may be 4 in. long. Flowers May-Aug. The range of this purple coneflower is more eastern than that of its close relative (Angustifolia). Narrow-leafed Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Angustifloria), long considered the most important medicinal species of the purple coneflower, E. angustifolia is smaller than E. pallida; it grows to 20 in. tall. The ray petals are shorter, usually no longer than the width of the cone disk. This species occurs in the western prairies. Hybrids occur where the ranges of E. angustifolia and E. pallida meet.


Where Found

E. angustifolia is found in prairies. Texas, western Oklahoma, western Kansas, Nebraska, west to east Colorado, eastern Montans, North Dakota, Man. and Sask. Canada.

E. Pallida is found in the prairies and glades of Arkansas to Wisconsin, Minnesota, eastern Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska.

E. Purpurea is found in open woods, thickets; cultivated in gardens. Michigan, Ohio to Louisiana, eastern Texas, Oklahoma.


Medicinal Properties

Alterative, antibacterial, antiviral, analgesic, digestive, tonic, antiseptic, depurative, febrifuge, sialagogue, diaphoretic


Biochemical Information

An essential oil containing the oncolytic hydrocarbon (z) -1, 8-Pentadecadiene; polysaccharide

  1. (a heteroxylan) containing arabinose, xylose, glucose and 4-0-methylgluronic acid; polysaccharide,
  2. (an arabinorhamnogalactic) containing rhamnose, arabinose, galactose and glucutonic acid; echinacen (an isoabutylkylamide comprising 0.01% of the dried root of E. angustifolia and 0.001% of the dried root of E. pallida; ecinolone (appolyacetylene compound from E. angustifolia); echinacoside (a glycoside found in E. angustifolia, at concentrations of 1% of root preparations; echinacin B; an unsaturated aliphatic sesquiterpene, betain; inulin; inuloid; fructose, sucrose; higher fatty acids; 6.9% protein in air dried roots of E. angustifolia, 5.3% in E. purpurea; tannin; vitamin C; enzymes; an unidentified glycoside; resin; acids and thirteen polyacetylene compounds. May also be used as carminitive, stimulant, vulnerary.


Legends, Myths and Stories

Echinacea has been long used by Native Americans for Medicinal purposes and is now regaining its importance because extracts from its roots, etc., have been found to be effective in strengthening the immune system. It shows promise as a source of potent drugs for use with AIDS and other afflictions. Almost 25% of the drugs we use are based on plants. All three varieties are used in a like manner, however, some consider the E. pallida less active. Plains Indians are said to have used Echinacea for more medicinal purposes than any other plant group (member of the sunflower family). Science confirms many traditional uses, plus cortisone-like activity; also insecticidal, bactericidal, and immuno-stimulant activities. More than 200 pharmaceutical preparations are made from Echinacea plants in W. Germany, including extracts, salves, and tinctures, used for wounds, herpes sores, canker sores, throat infections (including Strep), preventative for influenza, colds.

A folk remedy for brown recluse spider bites. E. angustifolia is widely used in Europe, although it is not native there. Most commercial W. German preparations utilize extracts of above-ground parts and roots of E. purpurea. Extracts are used to stimulate nonspecific defense mechanisms at infections and chronic inflammations. It has been asserted that the components thought responsible for immune-system stimulating activity were not absorbed by oral ingestion, and could be effective only in an injectable form. A recent German study, however, showed significant immune-system stimulating activity with orally administered extracts of all three varieties of Echinacea, both in mice and laboratory experiments. Perhaps additional components are involved in immuno-stimulating activity than those previously known.

The Native Americans, for instance, had the victim of a snake-bite chew the leaves and roots of the plant. Swallowing the juice when chewed, the pulp was made into a poultice for the wound area after the cite was lanced with a knife and venom sucked out until blood was flowing. It was thought that so doing the patient would be free of snake-bite symptoms in just 2-3 days.

Many studies show that echinacea prevents the formation of an enzyme called hyaluronidase, which destroys a natural barrier between healthy tissue and unwanted pathogenic organisms. Therefore, echinacea helps the body maintain its line of defense against unwanted invaders, especially viruses. Echinacea is less depleting on the body than golden seal, and so is preferable for more long term usage.


Uses

Echinacea stimulates the body's immune system against all infectious and inflammatory conditions, counteracts pus, and stimulates digestion. It specifically strengthens the immune system against pathogenic infection by stimulating phagocytosis, T-cell formation, and by inhibiting the hyalurinadase enzyme secreted by bacteria to effect the breakdown of cell walls and the formation of pus. It is one of the most powerful and effective remedies against all kinds of bacterial and viral infections. It should be taken frequently, every hour or two during acute stages of inflammation, tapering off as symptoms improve. There are no generally recognized side effects of Echinacea overdose, but some have noted a peculiar scratchy, tickling sensation in the throat from excessive use.

Root (chewed, or in tea) used for snakebites, spider bites, cancers, toothaches, wounds, external ulcers, bed sores, burns, boils, acne, eczema, hard-to-heal sores and wounds, flu, fever, and colds.

Blood poisoning, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), lowers blood pressure, fevers, carbuncles (boils), acne, eczema, bee stings and poisonous insects and snakes, erysipelas, AIDS, restore normal immune function in patients receiving chemotherapy, gangrene, diphtheria, tonsillitis, sores and infections, wounds (especially hard-to-heal), pustules, abscesses, lymph glands, strep throat, excellent blood cleanser, flatulence, syphilitic conditions, gonorrhea, prostatitis, vaginal yeast infection, candida, peritonitis, prevention of growth and development of pathogenic organisms, stimulation of the immune system, typhoid fever and indigestion.

The Sioux Indians used fresh scraped root for rabies (hydrophobia), snakebites, and septicemia.


Formulas or Dosages

Do not use the root once it has lost its odor.

Decoction: use 1 tsp. root with 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 1/2 hour. Take 1 tbsp. 3 to 6 times a day.

Tincture: take 15 to 30 drops in water every 1 to 3 hours, as needed.

These vary with the condition under treatment. For instance, strep throat needs to be treated with a gargle, snakebite is treated by chewing the leaves and roots by the patient and applying to pulp to the snakebite area after the venom is sucked out and it is bleeding freely. Preparations vary, dosages vary. Commercial compounds vary. The most common compound seems to be a combination with Myrrh to make a tincture. Also capsules are available. In severe cases, two capsules four times a day or 10 to 25 drops (gtts) of the tincture every 2 hours in water. Although, this can vary from 10-25 to 10-30 drops.

Unable to find dosage or concentrate for teas.

There are several formulae for using Echinacea. Blood purification, skin and inflammatory conditions call for Echinacea root, golden seal, chaparral, honeysuckle flowers, forsythia blossoms, sarsaparilla root, yellow dock root, American ginseng, ginger root, cinnamon twigs. This formula should be taken 2 to 4 tablets, three times daily with warm water.

For treatment of flu, take four tablets with warm water two or three times a day. Follow a simple diet, avoiding heating, dispersing and denatured foods, drugs, stimulants, peppers, sugar (including fruit juices and fruits), alcohol and excess meat. Each formula has its own instructions and dosage.

For instance, the formula for skin and genital herpes include: Echinacea, yellow dock, gentian root, golden seal, bupleurum, poria, wild yam root, marshmallow root and myrrh gum. As the formula varies, so does the dosage.

Consult the manufacturer if commercially offered. Since no overdose or side effects have ever been noted, if the plant is used alone, dosage of tea or tisanes would not be too critical except with acute cases, after which taper off as symptoms disappear.


Nutrient Content

Fructose, vitamins A, C, and E.


How Sold

Can be sold as fresh, freeze-dried, or an alcohol extract, liquid, tea, capsule or salve.

Capsules: take 1 capsule for up to 3 times daily.

Extract: mix 15 to 30 drops in liquid every 3 hours.


Warning

Alcohol tincture may destroy polysaccharides in Echinacea that stimulate the immune system, although other active ingredients remain intact and active. Most tinctures are 20% alcohol in order to preserve the herb, but even 10% ruins the Echinacea. The freeze-dried form is much preferred.

Some active ingredients in this herb can be destroyed during processing; freeze drying is the most effective way to preserve the herb's healing properties. A fully potent product will create a tingling sensation on the tongue. Important compounds are missed if this sensation is not present.

No known side effects have been reported other than with high doses nausea and dizziness may occasionally occur.

Persons with anemia or vertigo should avoid using echinacea.

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