The medicinal power of echinacea has been known for thousands of years.
Coneflowers in the Snow
Sentries, standing tall, erect
waiting for spring
the coneflowers in the snow
frozen in place
green long gone,
the brown turning to gray
the seeds still there
save for those the birds picked
standing with the flocks,
the other garden plants,
tall above the snow
MS Guardio is writing a series of short articles about the healing properties some plants, flowers and foods at this time of pandemic and national crisis.
Apart from the medicinal power of Echinacea, it is a spectacular plant with large daisy like flowers in various shades of purple, red, orange, yellow and white. It is considered a flowering herb as not only it is a gorgeous plant to enjoy in your garden and as cut flower, but echinacea has numerous medicinal properties.
Echinacea (from Greek: echino, meaning prickly, because of its spiky centre) is also known as coneflower after the plant’s cone-shaped middle. The generic name, Rudbeckia purpurea, comes from the name of Olaf Rudbeck, a botanist and physician, and the son of a great Swedish botanist who studied the plant in mid 18th century.
Echinacea is native to the eastern and central prairies of North America.
The medicinal power of echinacea was well known to indigenous Americans and settlers alike. It was one of the most popular remedies in the medicine chest of the early settlers and pioneer doctors, commonly used for colds, coughs, toothache, snake bites, rheumatism, arthritis, various infections and burns.
It has been used by indigenous American tribes as a sacred medicinal herb for centuries The medicine men washed their hands in Echinacea juice in order to pick out meat from boiling stews with the plant juice acting as burn preventative!
The first commercial European preparations of echinacea were made in mid 20th century in Germany, and then in Switzerland . Echinacea first arrived in England in 1699, and has been growing in popularity as both, a garden plant and a herbal remedy, ever since.
The medicinal power of echinacea
The medicinal power of echinacea is wide ranging:
- hydrating and protecting from oxidative stress (skin preparations)
The medicinal power of echinacea has been very well studied. Similar to other medicinal herbs, the strength of echinacea’s medicinal properties is largely dependant on where and how the plant is grown and prepared for consumption. But overall its immune-supporting, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties have been clearly established.
These are linked to the health promoting properties of caftaric and chicoric acids found in all parts of the plant.
Cancer Research UK states that while there is not yet sufficient evidence to use echinacea as a cancer treatment, laboratory studies have shown that echinacea stimulates immune cells and prevents inflammation and caused colon cancer death . Another study by a Canadian researcher showed that echinacea sup-ports natural killer cells and that daily consumption of Echinacea is ‘prophylactic, extends the life span of aging mice, significantly abates leukaemia and extends the life span of leukaemia mice’ .
While we are not mice (though humans are 97% genetically common with mice!), other research has established with a great degree of certainty the medicinal power of echinacea for people who are prone to colds. The Hannover Medical School review of randomized controlled trials in 2015 concluded that Echinacea reduces the risk of respiratory tracts infections by cold viruses by a massive 35% . The British Herbal Medical Association (BHMA) has classified echinacea as a remedy for the relief of symptoms of the common cold as well as influenza type infections.
It seems that the medicinal power of echinacea may have a role in the treatment of COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic spearheaded research into effective antivirals to help our white cells fight coronaviruses including those responsible for Covid-19. In September 2020, the Virology Journal published a study into a number of such sub-stances which indicated that a herbal extract of Echinacea purpurea is capable of killing coronaviruses . Another study (awaiting peer review) by the University of Jeddah, published in January this year also suggested strong effects of echinacea against Covid-19.
Echinacea should never be used in place of medicine prescribed by your doctor and other disease protective measures (eg. vaccination, social distancing, masks and hygiene). But it is a great complementary herb if you want to enhance your immune system and promote general well-being.
The medicinal power of echinacea extends to treatment of the skin. Echinacea is a popular skin remedy. In 2010, the International Journal of Cosmetic Science published a study which showed the effectiveness of echinacea cream preparation in improving the condition of skin and reducing wrinkles.
How to benefit from the medicinal power of echinacea
The purple variety of echinacea (echinacea purpurea) is the one most commonly used in commercial preparations of tablets, tincture, cream and as dry herb. All parts of the plant, the leaves, flowers and roots contain medicinal compounds and can be utilized.
A purple coneflower tea
The caffeine-free herbal tea is the easiest and least expensive preparation that can be made by anyone who has access to echinacea’s roots, flowers or leaves.
You can benefit from the medicinal power of echinacea by growing it in your back garden. It is an easy to grow, hardy perennial that can survive even the coldest of winters!
The Royal Horticultural Society has many wonderful varieties of echinacea on their website, including two echinacea purpurea plants which won the Award of Garden Merit: Rubi Giant and Elton Knight Elbrook. You can see them here:
If you don’t grow your own echinacea, you can buy dry herb for making tea from Neal’s Yard and other suppliers online. It is easy to make. I put 1-2 teaspoons to a cup of water, simmer for 10-15 minutes and sip it throughout the day. It has a pleasant, earthy taste and you can add half a teaspoon of honey or lemon if need be.
Efficacious Echinacea Tincture
Neal’s Yard echinacea alcohol and water based preparation is their best selling therapeutic tincture. But my favourite one is A Vogel’s Echinaforce, the original commercial preparation first introduced in late 1950’s. I have tested its efficacy over many years on myself, and my family when coming down with cold and flu like symptoms. It has never failed me!
For dosage, follow specific manufacturer’s instructions.
Echinacea tablets for colds and flue
Holland and Barrett sell Echinacea cold and flu capsules and tablets. They are easier to use than the tincture and I always have a supply in my bag when I travel.
Medicinal power of echinacea cream
A.Vogel make a great skin cream with echinacea which I use for minor burns and cuts, and as daily moisturizer to smooth out my crow’s feet!
DO NOT use it however if you are allergic to nuts as it contains peanut oil.
Carefully goes it!
The medicinal power of echinacea has been amply demonstrated, however, as with all herbs and medications it should be used with care.
Echinacea is not to be taken by children under 12 years old
Since echinacea can stimulate the immune system, people with diabetes or an immune system disorder, and people taking immunosuppressant medication should avoid it or seek medical advice.
Echinacea is probably safe to take during pregnancy but there is not enough data to be absolutely certain this is the case.
Enjoy the medicinal power of echinacea
The medicinal power of echinacea has been harnessed by people for many centuries. It is a versatile plant which should be at the top of your list of remedies to enhance your overall wellbeing.
It is packed with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and immune supporting compounds. It can pre-vent, relieve and shorten colds and viral infections.
It is a soothing treatment for various skin conditions, and an effective wrinkle smoother. Give it a try!
- Sweet Alyssum
– Alyssum has powerful health benefits
– Essential nutrients to the body
– Prevent kidney diseases
– Natural diuretic
– Prevent an excessive retention of water in the body
– Widening blood vessels
– Treating atherosclerosis
– Packed with nutrition
– High levels of vitamin C
– Improve the immune system
– tackling sore throats, coughs, and colds and
– bacterial and fungal infections.
– Immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory properties,
– Reduce alleviation of cold symptoms
- Day Lily
– Daylilies are edible, herbs for cooking purposes
– A treat to sight
– Helps in detoxifying and curing insomnia
- Garlic Chives
– Rich in vitamins C and A, potassium, iron, beta carotene
– Maintaining blood pressure
– Increasing immunity power
– Lavender oil has antiseptic properties.
– And anti-inflammatory properties
– Counteract hair loss
– Relieve toothache
Our kind planet supports many flowers and plants that offer completely natural medicinal properties.
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Great article! Easy to read and a great combination of historical facts with the latest science.
Thanks for your feedback Michal. We’re glad you enjoyed the article.