The Medicinal Herb Garden: Echinacea
July 29, 2013 — by Stephanie Ross, Director of the Complementary and Integrative Therapy Program, Health Sciences Department
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.; Asteraceae)
Echinacea is a member of the aster family, like ragweed and chrysanthemums, and is commonly known as purple coneflower due to its stunning color and distinctive shape. The genus name, Echinacea, is derived from the Greek echinos that translates into ‘hedgehog”, referring to the flower’s centrally located cone of upright scales surrounded by a striking palette of purple-to-pink petals.
Echinacea has a rich tradition among Native Americans of the great Midwest Plains region that used it medicinally more than any other plant. It was used for toothache, enlarged glands, sore throat, coughs, burns, and as an analgesic.
In modern herbal medicine, Echinacea is used primarily to reduce the symptoms and duration of colds, flu, upper respiratory tract infections, and to help stimulate immune system activity. In Germany, herbal liquid extracts containing the entire floral, stem and leaf plant parts is recommended as a supportive therapy for colds and chronic infections of the respiratory and lower urinary tract. For external applications Echinacea is also indicated for use in the treatment of hard-to-heal wounds and chronic ulcerations.