Spotlight on Echinacea: Beautiful Flower and Powerful Medicine
Echinacea is probably one of the best known herbal remedies in the Western world. The herb is actually a very pretty perennial flower native to much of Canada and the US. Purple coneflower is related to the Black-eyed Susan, and is commonly grown in gardens and used in flower arranging.
Medicinal Uses of Echinacea
It was known to various First Nations peoples, who used it for a variety of different conditions including toothache, snakebites, and poisoning. Today, it remains a popular treatment for cough, cold and sore throat. Echinacea is still actively promoted as an immune system stimulant, and in the treatment of infections.
Echinacea, otherwise known as purple coneflower or elk root, has the distinction of being a plant used both by the medical establishment of the time, and by practitioners of alternative healing. It was once in the official database of medicines in America, the United States Pharmacopeia (USP.)
The herb was notably prescribed by doctors used to treat infections, but it has been largely replaced by antibiotic drugs in North America. Its use remains popular even in the mainstream in Europe, where it was imported and studied in the 1800s and early 1900s. Echinacea is a widely purchased alternative and complementary medicine elsewhere in the West.
Products Containing Echinacea
There are three different species of echinacea, with Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea being the most commonly seen in remedies and scientific studies. The roots, leaves and flower petals can all be used in medicinal preparations. When purchasing live plants or seeds, dried herbs or commercially prepared remedy, be sure to read labels carefully. Any medicinal preparation, tea or packaged herb should specify which species of echinacea it contains, as well as which parts of the plant are used.
Precautions When Using Echinacea Medicinally
Care should be taken when using echinacea in children, people who have asthma, and anyone who is allergic to other plants in the aster family – particularly ragweed and chrysanthemums (or the drug permethrin, found in many preparations for treating lice.)
Echinacea should only be used for a relatively short time – not to exceed eight weeks – and should never be taken by anyone who also takes drugs to suppress the immune system. Anyone with a chronic health condition should consult their doctor, a pharmacist, or a competent herbalist before using echinacea.
Echinacea safety info (Mayo Clinic)
“ Purple Coneflower ( Echinacea angustifolia ) ” (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Disclaimer: The author is not a health care practitioner. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a licensed health practitioner.
Note: This content has been adapted from an original piece by the author, which has since been removed from Bubblews
Image Credit » http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AButterfly-Purple-Cone-Flowers_ForestWander.jpg