Echinacea preparations have been used to help support gangrene, boils, carbuncles, abcesses, mucous membrane inflammations, typhoids, burns, wounds, diphtheria, blood poisoning, mouth ulcers, and other ailments related to blood complaints. Its effects are considered antithermic, depurative, alterative, and antiseptic.
Two polysaccharides which stimulate the immune system have been isolated from E. purpurea. One, echinacin B, has strong wound-mending and infection-fighting capacities because of the formation of a hyaluronic acid polysaccharide complex that helps neutralize inflammation and swelling enhanced by the enzyme hyaluronidase. Hyaluronic acid, found in the ground substance (the material which occupies spaces between cells) of connective tissue, acts as a binding and protective agent.
Echinacea extracts increase bacteria-destroying cells (phagocytes), inhibit inflammation and accelerate wound repairing. Experiments with Echinacea essential oil also suggest healthy immunity level support. Echinacea research shows that this herb might also be used to help support gastroenteritis, and allergies.
E. angustifolia contains an essential oil, a sesquiterpene, betaine, inulin, glucose, fructose, and other substances. E. purpurea contains an essential oil, tannin, inulin, vitamin C, and enzymes. Two glycozides possessing mild antibiotic activity have been isolated from echinacea species.
Preparations include a decoction of the root plus a liquid extract made by adding one part, by weight, of the root to two parts of a mixture of equal volumes of ethyl alcohol and distilled water. Doses of the liquid extract range from five to sixty drops in a little water taken four times a day.
In Europe numerous lotions and creams containing Echinacea are sold to help fight swelling and inflammation and promote the rejuvenating of sores. An extract, echinacin, can be used to help support chronic inflammations and avoid influenza.
General Herb Information
The genus Echinacea is represented by nine species and two varieties indigenous to North America, with distribution centered in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. These coarse perennial herbs occur in rocky prairies, barrens, glades, fields, along railroad tracks and roadsides, and, in the case of E. purpurea, in open woods.
Echinacea grow from one to four feet high with erect, simple or branched stems. Most species have rough, bristly, stiff hairs on the stems and leaves. The simple alternate leaves are oval to lance-shaped with relatively long petioles (leaf stalks) at the base of the plant. The leaves become progressively smaller and sessile (without leaf stalks) toward the flower head. The leaves are entire or have coarse teeth. The cone-shaped flower head or hemispherical receptacle with radiating ray florets ranging in color from rose, pink, purple, white, and yellow, characterize the plant. Disk flowers range from brownish-orange to reddish-brown. The ray florets are drooping (reflexed), especially in E. pallida. Flowering begins as early as mid-May in the South, extending into October in the northern limits of its range. The fibrous, horizontal or vertical root-stocks, pungently aromatic with a bitter flavor, are six to twenty-four inches in length. Several rosettes of leaf and flower stalks may arise from a single root.
E. pallida, E. purpurea and E. angustifolia are the most common species. K. pallida has long, slender, entire leaves, five to twenty times longer than broad. The purple, pink, or white ray flowers are 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long and drooping. The plant stands sixteen to thirty-six inches tall and ranges from Michigan to Nebraska, south to Georgia, and west to Texas.
E. angustifolia is the species listed in most herb catalogs and books, though much of the root on the market tends to be E. pallida and E. purpurea.E. angustifolio is smaller than other Echinacea species, growing from six to twenty inches high. The ray flowers are as long or shorter than the width of the disk (seven-eighths to one and one-half inches long). The stiff hairs on the plant appear swollen at their bases. It grows from Minnesota to Saskatchewan, south to Oklahoma and Texas.
E. purpurea grows from two to four feet (rarely six feet) tall. Its leaves are oval with acutely pointed tips and coarse teeth. Ray flowers are rose to deep purple. This species is the most widely distributed, ranging from Georgia west to Oklahoma, north to Michigan and Ohio. The seed of this species is widely available on the horticultural trade, sometimes known as Rudbeckia purpurea. Several hybrids are offered including 'The King', 'Sombrero', and 'Bright Star'. German seedsmen offer variants known as 'Alba', 'White Prince', 'White Lustre' and 'White King'. An English cultivar with heads six to seven inches across is sold under the name `New Colewall Strain.' Ronald McGregor, author of the Taxonomy of the Genus Echinacea, reports that all these variants have been observed in natural wild stands.
Unlike other "purple cone flowers", the paradox of E. paradoxa var. paradoxa lies in its yellow ray flowers and near-hairless smooth stems and leaves. Although rarely cultivated, it is a good candidate for the herb garden. However, it is quite rare, found only in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks.
Propagation is by seed or by carefully dividing branching crowns from the main rootstock in spring or fall. Echinacea seeds sprout better if stratified before germinating. This can be achieved by sowing the seeds on the surface of a sandy soil mix in an open cold frame during January. Once the weather warms in early spring the seeds readily germinate if provided moisture and sunlight. Also, they germinate easily if stratified in moist sand in a refrigerator for one month. Like many prairie plants, echinacea seeds need sunlight to germinate. Tamp the seeds into the soil mix but do not cover them. A light dusting of soil or a straw mulch will help retain moisture.
Sown from seed, they need to grow for three or four years before sizable roots can be harvested. Plants propagated by division can be harvested two years after planting.
Most echinaceas grow in poor, rocky, slightly acidic, to alkaline (pH 6 -8) well-drained soils. E. purpurea likes a moderately rich soil. All species are drought-resistant. Full sun is required, except for E. purpurea which enjoys dappled shade during hot summer months. Deep and frequent cultivation encourages healthy growth.
Harvest the roots in autumn after the plants have gone to seed. Dry in shade or under forced heat. Roots over one-half inch in diameter can be split before drying.
Echinacea was one of the most important traditional health plants of the Plains Indians. The root can be used as an antidote for all types of venomous bites and stings. A piece of the root was applied to toothaches to help support pain. The Kiowa Indians chewed the ground root slowly, swallowing the juice for sore throats and coughs. A decoction was used in steam baths so that participants could endure higher temperatures. The Sioux used the roots as a supportive for rabies. E. pallida was used to help support mumps, measles, joint pain, bad colds, virus infection, mouth sores, and many other ills. Indians used echinacea to help support more than 100 types of immunity issues. Kiowa women used the bristly dried flower heads as hair combs.
Dr. John King of Cincinnati, a leading botanic physician in his day, first described the health uses of E. purpurea in the 1852 edition of his Eclectic Dispensatory. In an article in an 1887 issue of the Eclectic Medicinal Journal, Dr. King again became the first to extol the properties of E. angustifolia in print. King used the herb extensively in his private practice and found it to be useful as a way to help support his wife's immune deficiencies. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, liquid extract of echinacea became the fastest-selling medicine derived from a native plant, despite denunciations of the herb's usefulness in the Journal of the Medical Association. By the late 1920s echinacea fell into disuse as did plant drugs in general. Today both scientific and popular interest in echinacea are increasing rapidly, thus creating the threat of over-harvesting wild populations. Cultivated supplies of the root are needed.
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Take 1 capsule, 3 times daily, with meals.
No known toxicities.
If symptoms are severe or persist for more than two days, consult a physician.
Echinacea is contraindicated in those with an auto-immune disease (ie. Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS etc.) or allergies to plants in sunflower family.
Not recommended for preqnant or lactating women or those with allergies to soya.
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