Common Names: Snakeroot, Coneflower, Prairie Flower
Botanical Name: Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea, E. pallid)
Plant Family: Asteraceae, Compostie Family
Parts Used: Roots, Leaves, Flowers
Actions: Immunostimulator, sialagogue, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, vulnery, lymphagogue, alterative, anti-pyretic, circulatory stimulant (Systems affected: Lungs, Stomach, Liver)
Habitat: Echinacea is endemic to North America. It grows in full to partial sun on the edges of fields and disturbed areas. Echinacea was found throughout the East coast inward to the middle continent of North America. That was before this beautiful plant was over-harvested. Echinacea was used by many native tribes and by the 1880’s it was recognized in Western culture as a botanical medicine. You’ll now see Echinacea growing in people’s garden (especially those English Cottage Gardens) and restoration sites are trying to increase the wild population.
Collection: As stated above this herb was overharvested. I recommend growing your own Echinacea and harvesting the cultivated herb. What I love about harvesting Echinacea is that you can harvest the different parts throughout the seasons. In summer, I harvest the flowers and leaves (aerial parts). Then I wait until late Fall to harvest the roots. I make sure my patch is large enough before taking any roots. And I also harvest the roots every other year. That makes me value this plants medicine all the more.
Echinacea has a long history of uses. It became popularized first for its use with rattlesnake bites. When it was learned by a Native American woman that the herb could be ingested to help heal rattlesnake bites, Echinacea was tested for curing bites and stings of venomous creatures such as snakes, scorpions, spiders, wasps, etc. This knowledge led to trials where Echinacea was used for serious infections. And when it proved to be beneficial curing infections such as malaria, cholera, strep and typhoid, Echinacea was used to help with other ailments. It was used for blood poisoning, boils, hemorrhoids, abscesses, cold & flu, nasal infections and more…
Clinical studies have proven the immune-stimulating properties of this herb. Modern science has found that Echinacea increase “phagocytosis.” Phagocytosis is a process that “devours” or eliminates pathogens and cellular debris, which is a major mechanism in our immune system (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phagocytosis). Echinacea is considered a lymphagogue which also helps clean the blood and lymphatic systems for pathogens, toxins and unwanted foreign material.
For Echinacea to work best, take it at the onset of a cold or flu and also, take ½ teaspoon of Echinacea tincture every hour or so until the symptoms lessen. Then take the same amount every two hours or so until the symptoms dissipate. For those with chronic weakness, take a more “aggressive” treatment with Echinacea. Perhaps a higher dosage (1 tsp.) every hour for two days and then taper off from there. Some studies show that Echinacea is more stimulating to immunity when taken on and off over a period of time (e.g. 2 weeks on, 1 week off).
Echinacea’s ability to stop germs and help the immune system, also helps protect tissues and lubricates the joints. The ability to protect the joints has helped reduce arthritic effects. German researchers have found anti-inflammatory properties as well as joint protecting properties that have successfully treated rheumatoid arthritis with Echinacea.
“Nature’s Infection Fighter” is the name Lesley Tierra gives Echinacea. Echinacea helps with internal and external infections. It is a mild antibiotic. It is useful for strep and staph infections. Boils, skin infection, poison oak and ivy, wounds, mouth and gums, sinus infections, etc. By stopping the spread of infection, Echinacea can also reduce a fever.
Teeth, Gums, Throat
The anti-inflammatory qualities of Echinacea can help reduce swelling and pain from new teeth coming in, a tooth or gum infection and swelling from a sore, dry throat. Take a dropperful to ease the pain and inflammation. Native Americans would chew the root of Echinacea to heal their toothaches. We still use Echinacea for toothaches and mouth infections, yet it is more common to take a dropperful of tincture than to chew on the root. Either way, be aware of the strong tingly sensation that Echinacea gives off. In fact, the tingly sensation activates the salivary glands and in return promotes the flow of saliva to cleanse the mouth of infections while also stimulating digestion. Here’s what Lesley Tierra has to say about a mouthwash and gargle…
“A mouthwash cleanses the mouth, heals infections and strengthens the gums. It is swished around in the mouth and then spat out. A gargle heals sore and inflamed throats.
· Simmer 1 ounce herbs to 2 cups water for 20-30 minutes, until 1 cup of tea remains.
· Cool. Rinse your mouth or gargle with the tea as needed.
Mouthwash- Herbs to use: Echinacea, yarrow, parsley, ginger, chamomile. (The herb myrrh is good, too)
Gargle- Herbs to use: Echinacea, ginger, licorice, calendula, elder.”
(A Kid’s Herb Book; for children of all ages)
Common Plant Preparations:
Tincture, tea, powder, decoction, mouth wash, poultice, salve
· Chop fresh flower, leaves, root (depending on time of harvest) into fine pieces or use dried herbs
· Fill jar completely with herbs **it is important to have enough herbs to fit a jar or to find a jar size that fits the amount of herb
· Fill jar (with cut herbs in it) ½ way with spring water or pure water
· Fill the remaining ½ of the jar with 100 proof alcohol until all of the herb is completely submerged and liquid mixture reaches top of jar
· Carefully stir with sanitized chop stick or utensil to get all of the air bubbles out
· When jar is full, air bubbles released and herb completely submerged, cover with lid
· Shake daily (or as often as you can), keep the jar out of the sun, yet in a warm place to infuse
· Decant (strain herbs out) tincture after 4-6 weeks. Pour the infused liquid into a clean glass jar (amber colored preferred) with a tight fitting lid.
- Store in a dark, cool place.
The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia by Kathi Keville
Medicinal Herbs; A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman
A Kid’s Herb Book for Children of All Ages by Lesley Tierra
The Healing Power of Echinacea & Goldenseal by Paul Bergner