Echinacea: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on echinacea

Echinacea is a perennial of the Asteraceae family with smooth, 2-5 ft. stems and long-lasting, lavender flowers. Rough, scattered leaves that become small toward the top of the stem. Flowers occur singly atop the stems and have domed, purplish-brown, spiny centers and drooping, lavender rays. Flower has purple (rarely white), drooping rays surrounding a spiny, brownish central disk.

common names & nomenclature
The genus name for this flowering herb is taken from the Greek echinos, which means "hedgehog" in reference to the spiny cone at the center of the flower head. Similarly, angustifolia translates to narrow-leafed.

E. angustifolia also known as:
purple cornflower, sampson root, blacksamson echinacea, arrow-leaved purple coneflower

E. purpurea also known as:
purple coneflower, Eastern purple coneflower

Echinacea, the eye-catching flowering plant
Echinacea: Where in the World
habitat and range for Echinacea

Echinacea is native to eastern North America and present to some extent in the wild in much of the eastern, southeastern and Midwest United States.

Echinacea: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting echinacea

Most often grows in cultivated gardens, prairies, and meadows in full sun.

Grows in rocky to sandy-clay soils, either dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought once established.

The plant takes two years to flower when grown from seed, but can flower the first year if you have a particularly long growing season or plant early indoors. Sow seeds in March or April in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed with soil. The seed usually germinates in 10-21 days at 25°C. Transplant the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for the first summer. Plant them out in the late spring or early summer of the following year and give them some protection from slugs at least until they are established. Divisions can also be taken in the spring or autumn.

The top growth should be harvested just before the flower buds open by cutting the stems just above the first or second pair of full green leaves. Roots should be harvested in the fall when the top growth has been killed by hard frost. If there are seed heads on the plants, distribute them on the ground if you want additional plants the next year. Harvest roots from well-established plants. Removing root growth from plants younger than 3-4 years may result in killing the plant.

To harvest Echinacea roots, lift the plant and tip it back using a garden fork. Use a very sharp knife and clean-cut the portions of root that you want to harvest. Be sure to leave enough roots to sustain the plant. A good rule of thumb is to harvest about 20% of root if you intend to make annual harvests. Dry the roots (cut into small pieces) and leaves.

Store dried root pieces or dried leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Echinacea: The Rest of the Story
echinacea history, folklore, literature & more

echinacea to fight infection
When it comes to fighting infections of the body, you can’t get much better than echinacea. Echinacea is a plant that’s native to North America, specifically the central and eastern portions. Native Americans used it for many years to treat all kinds of problems from snakebites to sore throats.

Various tribes used echinacea for various problems. For example, the Sioux used it to cure rabies. But the Comanche used it to treat sore throats and toothaches. And as you look at all the ways that echinacea has been used over the years, it becomes clear that there’s something very special about it. There are many uses of this versatile herb.

Today, it’s used primarily to treat infections such as colds and flu of the respiratory system. It also helps to improve immunity and can be a treatment for abscesses and skin problems. It’s used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, urinary tract infections, and even helps to prevent aging.

What’s so special about this plant? Research shows that it is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and contains properties that actually help to build new white blood cells. In other words, it fights all kinds of germs and it improves your body’s natural immunity to foreign invaders. Modern medicine would have taken centuries to come up with something that nature has provided.

Echinacea is so effective, that it’s probably the most studied and researched herb you can find on the market today. Many people use echinacea when they feel any type of illness coming on in order to improve their ability to fight it.

Echinacea is available in many forms including capsules, tablets, ointments, tinctures, and teas. Most people take it in form of capsules or powders when they’re working to fight off an infection. While there’s no cure for the common cold, echinacea is one herb that helps to prevent it and reduce the amount of down time you’ll experience from the virus.

If you could choose only one herb to have in your medicine cabinet, echinacea would be the one. It works against virtually every kind of germ you can imagine and it helps to keep your body’s natural immunity working for you.

Keeping it in your medicine cabinet insures that you’ll have what you need when cold and flu season comes around. It also can be used to help you deal with problems such as sinus infections, sore throats, and urinary tract infections.