Echinacea is a truly beautiful flower and its name means hedgehog in ancient Greek which refers to the prickly cone shaped centre of the flower.
It is classically used in the treatment of colds and flu. It helps to modulate the immune system and acts as an antiviral internally.
Parts used medicinally: Root, whole plant.
Archaeologists have found evidence that Native Americans used echinacea more than 400 years ago as a general cure-all. It was originally used to treat everything from venomous snake and insect bites to scarlet fever, syphilis and blood poisoning. Today it has come under the scrutiny of over 350 scientific research studies which has helped to discover some of the phytochemicals in echinacea that are responsible for its medicinal benefits.
Echinacea requires full sun, growing to around 1m tall and has purple to pink daisy-like flowers with a prickly cone-shaped centre, hence its name which means hedgehog in Ancient Greek. Both the roots and aerial parts are used in herbal medicine.
- Echinacea was on the national list of official plant drugs in the US until the 1940s when the arrival of antibiotics saw the fall of echinacea in popularity. With an increase in concern over antibiotic resistance and focus on self-care, echinacea is now seeing an exciting resurgence.
- While antibiotics specifically kill bacteria, echinacea works by increasing the production of immune cells meaning it can be used for a variety of infections- bacteria, viral, fungal etc. It is used to treat bacterial and viral upper respiratory tract infections, viral herpes infections, acne bacterial infections, fungal candida as well as digestive, urinary and dental infections.
- Echinacea is not just an immune herb and this is illustrated by its popular use in treating inflammatory skin conditions such as boils, abscesses and eruptive skin conditions. Not only can echinacea help to fight the bacteria responsible for skin conditions like acne, it has other actions that enhance the activity of the lymphatic system, improving local elimination, helping to reduce inflammation and improving skin healing.
Did you know?
The quality of echinacea is all in the taste - the medicine should cause tingling on your tongue (almost like you are having an allergic reaction!). This sensation is a mild anaesthesia which shows there is a good amount of alkylamides which is one of the main medicinal phytochemicals in the echinacea plant.
Echinacea & me
- Gargle and swallow the tincture at the first feeling of a cold to help numb a sore throat and clear the infection
- Dilute the tincture or make a paste with echinacea powder and water to apply topically to skin wounds and infections such as ringworm
- Echinacea is widely available at health food shops and pharmacies in the form of tinctures, infusions/tea, tablets or powders
- Dry the cone part of the flower and use in floral arrangements
If you are pregnant/breastfeeding or on drug medication, be sure to consult with a professional before trying these remedies.