Purple coneflower

Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea

The herb can grow up to 3ft (1m) in height. The stout stem is covered in bristly hairs, accompanied by thick, hairy leaves 3-8inches long. Once the flower head dries the pales remain; achenes are four-sided and have small teeth at each corner of the crown.

Family: Asteraceae

Which probiotic is it in?: Purple coneflower is a key herb in Immunity and Kids

Habit and cultivation: Native to North America and southern states of Canada, growing in open woods, thickets and prairies. Grows by root division or from seed. Often doesn’t flower until second or third year but then blooms from July, the flowers vary in colour from off-white to pale purple. Likes a sunny open spot and is drought tolerant.

Actions (known for): Immune enhancing, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, laxative, stimulate bile secretion, wound healing and lymphatic. Topically: antiseptic

History

Named after echinos, Greek for sea urchin or hedgehog. Revered by the Native American medicine men as more than a medicine and honoured as Spirit. The most studied herb amongst medicinal plants. John Lloyd studied this plant for 13 years beginning in 1885. It continues to be the top selling medicinal herb in the US. There is a tremendous amount of both chemical and pharmacological research published on echinacea showing its immunostimulant properties. Native Americans say that humans learnt how to use echinacea by watching the elk search for the herb whenever they were sick or wounded and referred to it as ‘elk root’.

Parts used:

The fresh or dried root harvested after flowering is over.

Constituents (bio available chemicals):

Alkylamides: mainly isobutylamides (which cause characteristic tingling in the mouth). Caffeic acid esters; including echinacoside. Cynarin. Essential oil: polyacetylenes, polysaccarides and non-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Nutritional constituents:

Vitamins: A, C and E. Minerals: iron, iodine, copper, potassium and sulphur.

Indications:

Allergies/sensitivities, autoimmune disease, boils, sinusitis, chemotherapy (to minimise the side-effects of), common cold, herpes simplex, immune deficiency, viral and bacterial infections, inflammation in connective tissue, influenza, post-viral syndromes, septicemia (mild), skin disorders, tonsillitis, wounds internally and topically.

Dosage:

Liquid extract (1:2): 20 – 40ml per week. Decoction/infusion of dried herb: 0.5 – 1g 3 x daily.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia

Boils, carbuncles and abscesses.

Cautions for therapeutic doses

In fluid extract, good quality can cause excessive salivation. Caution for those with a tendency to allergic reactions, especially to Asteraceae. Minimal risk with root preparations.

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