Echinacea

Echinacea angustifolia, Compositae. Other names include purple coneflower, coneflower, black samson and rudbeckia.

The part used is the root and rhizome as these are considered the most potent part of the plant. Its flowers and seeds can also be collected and used as an immune boosting tea. Duke 2003, says that he sometimes nibbles on the petals as he wonders through his garden.

Research has shown that echinacea can boost immunity, prevent infection, and help to reduce the duration of an illness. It also helps to promote healing, has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities and stimulates the nervous system. It is a very versatile herb.

Functions of echinacea?

Echinacea:

  • has an antiseptic action,
  • activates white blood cells,
  • has antiviral properties,
  • enhances resistance to infection, and
  • boosts immunity.

Therapeutic uses

It is a herb that can be taken internally and applied externally to fight bacterial infections. It can also be used internally to lower a fever and reduce an allergic reaction. It is effective in fighting infectious conditions such as, the flu, common colds, candidiasis, herpes and respiratory infections. In combination with other herbs it may be used for infections in any area of the body. For example in combination with yarrow or bearberry it will effectively stop cystitis (a bladder infection).

Notes on echinacea

  • Large doses may cause nausea and dizziness.
  • Do not take continuously for more than three months.
  • Do not take if you have an auto-immune disorder such as lupus or multiple sclerosis as echinacea stimulates the immune system.
  • Do not take if you have tuberculosis.
  • Echinacea can cause an allergic reaction in a small percentage of people.

Dosages

Echinacea can be taken freeze-dried, as a tincture, or as an extract. Take 25 drops of the tincture, three times a day or 75 mg of the dried root, or 300 mg of the dry extract.

Echinacea is best taken in small frequent doses. If used in the long term only take for six days out of the seven, or three weeks out of the month, to obtain the best effect.

For the gardener

Sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep on a seed raising tray. This can be placed on a warm windowsill in late winter to early spring.

Once the seedlings are established plant them out so they are 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) apart. They prefer full sun though they will tolerate partial shade. Plant them in humus rich well drained soil. This will encourage good root production. The roots are harvested at the second year of growth. Wait until the plants have gone dormant (the leaves will have shrivelled and gone brown) before digging them up.

References

Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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