Echinacea: facts & folklore

  • Echinacea attracts butterflies, moths, bees, and other insects into the garden with its captivating blooms.
  • The roots, leaves, seeds, and flowers are all medicinal; and can be made into a immune-stimulating tea or tincture.
  • Echinacea is known by several common and folk names: Purple Coneflower, Red Sunflower, Black Sampson, Rudbeckia, Kansas Snakeroot, and Sampson Root.
  • It is a medicinal plant of the west belonging to the sunflower (aster) family.
  • Echinacea is regarded as the champion of immunostimulant herbs.
  • It is a perfect companion plant for bee balm (Monarda fistulosa)—the the pair can mesmerize all types of pollinators.
  • In color floral magic, the bewitching purple blooms represent sovereignty, power, pride, and ambition. Purple has been claimed to boost magical powers.
  • Purple also enacts power, exorcism, and healing in the world of magic.
  • According to literature, adding Echinacea can strengthen any “spell and it has been used to “boost” aphrodisiac teas and potions.
  • In the language of flowers, the purple coneflower denotes skill and resilience.
  • Echinacea tincture is a must have in natural first aid kits. It is used to treat colds, flu, infections, and a weakened immune system.
  • Combined with elderberry and propolis resin extract, Echinacea makes a powerful herbal remedy that is safe for all ages to fight upper respiratory infections.
  • For a glandular imbalance and health tonic, pair it with Goldenseal (another natural antibiotic), mullein leaf, and cleavers.
  • The North American Plains natives used Echinacea root to treat rattlesnake bites, bee stings, headaches, toothaches, sore throats, and distemper in horses.
  • Many herbalists prefer the fresh tincture of Echinacea to the dried. The fresh preparations appear to produce more potent medicine.
  • An impressive herbal combination is Echinacea with Spilanthes (Acmella oleracea), for a strong immune boosting herbal blend.
  • Echinacea can also be helpful after injury or surgery to stimulate macrophages; which are specialized white blood cells that “eat” pathogens and dead or damaged tissue.
  • It is an easy to grow plant that can withstand drought, disease, and insect infestations.
  • Plant Echinacea to attract flower faeries.
  • Carrying Echinacea on one’s person is said to provide inner strength.
  • It can be grown around the home to summon prosperity and protect the family from poverty.
  • Echinacea comes from the Greek echinos, meaning “hedgehog” (describing the prickly cone centers).
  • Use Echinacea as a short-term remedy for averting colds and the flu. If you’ve been exposed to an infection or feel the initial stages of sickness, start taking Echinacea to shorten the duration of the illness.
  • Echinacea only occurs naturally in North America.
  • If using the root for medicine, tincture only the freshly dried root (as components in the roots tend to oxidize and degrade quickly –in as little as forty-eight hours).
  • Native Americans historically used Echinacea as an offering to spirits and to ensure and strengthen rituals.
Honey Bee on Echinacea
Honey Bee on Echinacea
  • In his 1919 classic on the ethnobotany of native plants used by North American Plains Indians, Melvin R. Gilmore wrote, “Echinacea seems to have been used as a remedy for more ailments than any other plant.” He records that the plant was used as a universal antidote for all types of stings, venomous bites, and poisons.
  • Given the numbing sensation produced by components known as alkylamides, a piece of the root of Echinacea can be chewed or held in the mouth to treat toothaches or enlarged glands (such as mumps).
  • The Dakota Sioux used the fresh root to treat snakebites, infected wounds, and as a cooling agent on inflammation.
  • Lakota (Sioux) used Echinacea root, as well as the seed heads, to treat toothaches, tonsillitis, and excessive perspiration.
  • The Kiowa and Cheyenne both treated colds and sore throats by chewing on a piece of Echinacea root. The Cheyenne also used it for sore mouth and gums. The tea of the root was used for arthritis, rheumatism, mumps, and measles.
  • The Ute tribe associated Echinacea with elk, and called it by the name “elk root” (due to the belief that wounded elk seek the plant out as medicine).
  • Echinacea roots were used as traditional healing herbs by many Great Plains and Midwest tribes to treat many types of swelling, burns, pain, colds, coughs, colic, snakebites, insect bites, fevers, and blood poisoning (from internal infections and snake/spider bites).
  • Echinacea has also been chewed ritually during sweat-lodge ceremonies. Bathing the skin with the juice of Echinacea helped heal burns and wounds, making the fiery heat of a sweat-lodge more tolerable. It is considered one of the sacred Life Medicines of the Navajo tribe.
  • The Omaha-Ponca chewed fresh Echinacea root to dull toothache pain.
  • Echinacea works well in a permaculture fruit tree guild.
  • Echinacea is alcohol soluble, so it is more potent as a tincture instead of a tea.
  • When European settlers discovered the plant, word about its effectiveness quickly spread. By the nineteenth century, Echinacea had become the most popular medicine derived from a North American native plant.
  • During the Civil War, “snakeroot” (Echinacea) was used for treating infections, chronic inflammations, wounds, canker sores, and spider bites.
  • It was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia until 1950. Today, Echinacea remains popular in Europe and has made a dramatic comeback in American herbal medicine.
  • The first Echinacea preparation, known as Meyers Blood Purifier, arrived on the market around 1880.
  • Echinacea is still widely used today in pharmaceutical preparations.
  • It is a drought-tolerant perennial that is also deer resistant.
  • Echinacea flowers are a golden red to purple and release a slight fragrance in strong sunlight.
  • The whole flowering plant is harvested just above the ground, or the root is harvested in the autumn of the second or third year.
  • Goldfinches plunder cone-flowers in the fall for the thistle (when the blooms have all faded and the thistles have dried).
  • Echinacea is very easy to grow. and works well in container gardens.
  • Commercialism and continuing loss of habitat have eliminated most wild stands of Echinacea. It is now an endangered species. Conservationists advise cultivating (growing) the plant in your garden instead of foraging for it in the wild, to protect natural plants and habitats.
  • Echinacea is partial to naturally grow in open plains and at the edge of woodlands. It is one of the most well-studied herbs in herbal medicine today.
  • Echinacea is edible. The colorful petals can be used to decorate salads, but otherwise, it is not considered a “food plant”.
  • It activates natural chemicals in the body that decrease inflammation.
  • Echinacea also contains chemicals that can attack yeast and other kinds of fungi directly.
  • Echinacea has also been recommended for those who suffer from ADHD to relieve anxiety, depression and social phobias.
  • It is a main ingredient in many longevity tonics.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
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