ECHINACEA

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Echinacea spp.
Root, seed, aerial parts

Antimicrobial, alterative, immune stimulant, immunomodulant,
lymphatic, sialagogue

There are several varieties of Echinacea that are used: Echinacea purpurea, E. pallida and E. angustifolia. I have only used E. purpurea personally.

Echinacea is also known as Coneflower and if you pick up just about any seed catalog you will find dozens of colors and combinations of colors these days. It is a native wildflower and remarkably easy to grow, given heat, sunshine and good drainage. Echinacea is a wonderful addition to your flower garden, too.

Leaves and stems can be harvested at any time during the growing season, seeds (obviously) can only be harvested in the late summer or fall after seeds have set and matured. Roots are harvested in the fall, after the first frost. Where I live in SW Florida, that’s a really good long wait! Most years, we don’t get a frost so I generally let the tops go dormant as our weather dries out and then lift the plants to harvest the roots. And I always put a piece or two of root back so it can return in the early spring.

If you choose to purchase echinacea already dried, be sure to choose a supplier that is strictly organic and grows the plant ethically. It is seriously endangered in the wild because of overharvesting.

Echinacea was taken to Europe after someone realized that our Native Americans used it as serious medicine and it is now cultivated all over the world. This is probably one of the most commonly used medicinal herbs, and for good reason.

In Germany, where they have an extensive herbal medicine practice that includes a lot of scientific research, it has been proven to lessen the length and severity of colds and flu.

There is a trick to it, though. Time is of the essence. When you feel that first hint of a tingling or scratchiness in the back of your throat, THAT’S when you start using echinacea. Wait too long and it is significantly less effective.