By in Health & Fitness

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.

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Image credit: Echinacea flowers by Forest Wander/Wikipedia ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )


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

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JeanC wrote on June 17, 2015, 3:17 PM

I had to stop taking echinacea when I developed Graves' Disease (hyperthyroid), taking it was contraindicated since it is an immune stimulant. Which was a bummer as I did rely on it when needing to stay healthy when various outbreaks of sickness hit town. I usually had it as tea or just in capsule form.

MegL wrote on June 17, 2015, 4:46 PM

I had always thought that taking echinacea was just one of those placebo thingies until I tried it myself. It's excellent for warding off colds etc, especially if you take it at the first sign. Very often the cold does not develop at all, just goes away. emoticon :grin:

BarbRad wrote on June 18, 2015, 5:06 AM

I've read conflicting reports about the effectiveness of echinacea in preventing and treating colds.

seren3 wrote on June 18, 2015, 4:21 PM

Ruby3881 I have found this remedy to be very helpful. It has never aggravated my asthma and I didn't realize it might. I've probably only ever used it a few days at a time.

LadyDuck wrote on June 20, 2015, 2:37 AM

I have read that echinacea is not recommended for people with multiple sclerosis, white blood cell disorders, autoimmune disorders, or tuberculosis. I think that it is always better to consult the doctor, especially if people are already taking other medications.

PeterChase wrote on June 20, 2015, 1:03 PM

I had tried echinacia when I felt a cold coming on and it didn't help much. The reason is that it helps to strengthen the immune system over time and since I was already infected it was too late. I also read that it was more effective in combination with other immune supportive supplements. I tried different combinations and found that echinacia taken along with resveratrol and keeping my vitamin D levels up works the best. I have not had a cold or flue since starting this regime in 2013. I do have a little hay fever in the spring and fall but that is minimal and just a bit of a runny nose. I have been doing some research on this and the immune system since many of my relatives and friends have lost their battles with cancer. There is not just one immune system responsible for everything. The immune system has many functions like destroying cells that have mutated or malfunctioning, and attacking bacterial an viral infections. When the body ages and when it is not in balance the immune can start to malfunction. It can attack the wrong tissues, as in arthritis, or not destroy mutating cells effectively as in cancer. Supplements can strengthen each type of immune response and vitamin D deficiency can cause many problems with the immune system and many health problems. Resveratrol is good for anti-inflammatory

CoralLevang wrote on June 20, 2015, 2:12 PM

Even if it does not prove to be efficacious or safe, it is a lovely flower. :)
Loved reading this post. Great information!

KatyJon wrote on June 21, 2015, 1:24 PM

My dilemma is that these and similar plants attract the slugs who much them to death which is a shame. I've yet to find an organic solution to slug control.