Echinacea / purple cone flower

Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea

Description

Echinacea’s popularity has risen and fallen throughout the ages. Long before colonists arrived in America, the indigenous people used it as a healing herb to fight viral and other infections, to heal wounds and to treat snakebite. The colonists adopted it too, with one doctor describing it as a ‘blood purifier’. The advent of antibiotics pushed the herb into the background, but it has once again gained favour as an immune system booster to fight colds, flu and other infections.

Parts used

Of the nine species of echinacea, also called purple coneflower and rudbeckia, three are used in herbal preparations: Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea and E. pallida. Preparations are made from all parts of the plant.

Constituents

The main active ingredients in echinacea are alkylamides, which occur in the roots of Echinacea angustifolia and to a lesser extent in the shoots and leaves of E. purpurea. Other active constituents are polysaccharides, flavonoids and caffeic acid derivatives.

Medicinal uses

Echinacea stimulates various immune system cells that fight infection. It also contains antifungal and anti-inflammatory effects. It is prescribed to:

  • Strengthen the immune system throughout the year.
  • Fight infections such as colds and flu.
  • Promote quicker recovery after infections.
  • Help treat upper respiratory tract infections.
  • Protect the heart during viral infections.
  • Promote recovery from urinary tract and fungal infections.
  • Improve white blood cell count after radiation treatment.
  • Help heal minor wounds.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Although side effects are rare, echinacea may cause stomach discomfort and headache, and affect taste. As the herb stimulates the immune system, caution should be used in combining it with certain immuno-suppressive drugs. Breastfeeding mothers, along with people taking medications that affect the liver, contraceptives, certain cancer drugs and some medications for high cholesterol, should consult their medical practitioner before taking this and other natural remedies. Remember that echinacea contains a substance that makes the lips and tongue tingle – this often indicates that you have purchased a good quality product.

Flora Force Products containing Echinacea

Domestic & culinary uses

Echinacea’s used in the kitchen has not been reported.

Cultivation

Echinacea is indigenous to North America, although in South Africa Echinacea purpurea can be grown as a perennial in frost-free areas. Plant in rich, well-drained soil in full sun. Water regularly.

Photo credits

  1. By Jacob Rus (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.