We don't need to seek out the next great cure from the jungles in some distant local when we have local plants with abundant healing properties. Echinacea is one such plant. It is, in fact, the most researched plant in the world, and everyone has heard of its usage in some capacity or another. Still, it is surprising to learn just how many ailments this wonder plant can actually treat. Read on.
Echinacea was first discovered in the United States, and up until the transport of plants from the New World to Europe, it only grew in the United States and a small part of Southern Canada. The Native Americans had long been using Echinacea, specifically the plains-growing variety, angustifolia, to treat such concerns as toothaches, sore throats, coughs, infections, , and snake and insect bites. Later, colonists and settlers learned of its use from the natives and used it, as J.S. Niderkorn, a 19th-century physician noted, to correct "the deparvations of body fluids."
Today one of the most commonly referred to aspects of Echinacea is its ability to stimulate the production of leucocytes, and assist with phagocytosis. Put more simply, this means that the herb helps to create more pac-men to send out and dispose of the garbage that is in our bodies. Echinacea has a mild antibiotic effect, and is used in a wide array of bacterial infections, internally and externally. It has been used in the treatment of tonsillitis, bronchitis, sinusitis, hay fever, UTIs, yeast infections, athlete's foot, ear infections, in venomous situations such as a snake bite, and is also known to have pain-reliever and anti-inflammatory properties. As a North American herb that is known and used throughout the world, this herb continues to bear out what the Native Americans already knew, namely, that it is "powerful medicine."
As September is upon us, the fall change of season just ahead of us, and kids are back to school (well, some of them), this time of change bring us greater challenges to our immune systems. For our herb of the month, we've chosen echinacea, also known as coneflower, to share with our readers and customers.
Echinacea is a member of the Asteraceae or Daisy family of plants and is native to central and eastern North America. The word echinacea comes from the Greek word ekhinos, which means hedgehog or sea-urchin. The three most commonly used species are Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea pallida.
History of Plant Use
The plant was used widely by the varying Native American tribes of North America. Doctors of the frontier learned of its uses from the tribes and began incorporating it as a medicine thereafter. In the nineteenth century it was used extensively by John King and the other Eclectic physicians in their medical practices. It began to fall out of use in the 1930s in the United States; however, its use in Europe and Germany increased, and German researchers have studied the plant and its constituents extensively.
Growth, Habitat and Harvesting
Echinacea grows 2-4 feet in height and has a spiky, bulbous, domed center surrounded by a single layer of pink-purple hued petals. It is found growing in open fields, prairies and roadsides, as well as open forests, from Georgia to as far west as Colorado, up north into Montana and Michigan, south into Arkansas and east to Ohio.
However, it is also grown as a perennial ornamental and can be found in gardens throughout North America. It prefers full sun and well-draining soil. The most commonly and easily grown variety is E. purpurea and is commercially cultivated, predominantly throughout Europe and North America.
The roots and aerial parts are used in herbal medicine, typically harvested in the flowering stage. Varying constituents are found in the differing species, parts of the plant used, at different stages of the growing season and in different extraction methods. Most commonly discussed are caffeic acid esters, polysaccharides, alkylamides and glycoproteins.
Modern and Historical Plant Uses
Today the herb is most often utilized for its immune system function support. This supportive role seems to support the body's healthy response to external environmental challenges. In doing so, the body is more equipped to deal with common seasonal discomforts and optimize recovery to a state of balance.
It is also supportive to the healthy function of the respiratory tract. It can soothe irritation and help tone the tissue so there is less fluid loss. It supports the body's ability to break up stagnant mucus in the respiratory tract allowing for better expectoration.
The effective qualities of the herb are pungent, salty, cool, dry and calming. In the Traditional Chinese Medical system the herb is said to enter the Lung, Large Intestine and Stomach meridians of energy.
Some Native American tribes would chew the root to soothe irritated gums and teeth. Additionally, they would bathe the skin with the juice of Echinacea to soothe a wound, burn or irritated skin.
Finally, historically it was also used for snakebites due to its ability to tone and support the integrity of the tissues and healthy fluid balance.
The plant is often used in the form of tincture, extract or capsule and additionally as a tea. While it can be and is used as a single, you'll often find this herb in an immune supportive formula or a blended tea.
WishGarden's Use Of Echinacea
Here at WishGarden, we use both the E. aungustifolia and E. purpurea species, and these can be found in our Kick-Ass Immune, Kick-Ass Biotic, Kick-Ass Daily Immune, Kick-Ass Allergy, Tree Country Allergy & Sinus, as well as, our Daily Immune for Kids, Kick-It Allergy for Kids, Kick-It Immune for Kids, Kick-It Biotic for Kids and our Ear-Be-Well combo.