Medicinal Herb Profile: Echinacea
The moment we’ve all been waiting for: Echinacea! Also known as purple coneflower. Just in time for fall.
Latin name: Echinacea purpurea
Parts used: Leaves, flowers, roots, and seeds
Safety: Safe for general use for adults and children although rare allergic reactions have been recorded. May be contraindicated for those with auto-immune diseases.
Medicinal Uses: Echinacea is known as one of the most important immune enhancing herbs available. Echinacea is an immune system stimulant that increases overall resistance to disease and can treat the early phases of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. It speeds resolution of colds, flus, and all kinds of upper respiratory infections. Topically it can be used as an anti-inflammatory treatment for infected wounds and insect bites. It is a potent sialagogue (promoting salivation).
Echinacea is most effective when taken at the earliest signs of illness as a tea or tincture. Echinacea can be taken at the first sign of cold or flu to boost immune system function, and should be taken it in frequent small doses.
Echinacea can also be infused into oil and made into a salve or cream which is useful as a skin toner, for treating wounds, and as an anti-inflammatory against stings and venomous bites.
Recommendations for Use:
Dry: Strip leaves and snip flowers from the stems. Lay in a single layer on a screen or cloth. Allow to dry in a warm location with good air circulation (a fan can help) out of direct sunlight for 1-2 weeks. The plant material should be brittle and papery. Store in an airtight bag or jar.
Echinacea Tea: Cover 1/4 cup dried chopped echinacea leaves and flowers (or 1/2 cup fresh) with 8 oz. boiling water. Cover and allow to steep for about 15 minutes. Consider adding peppermint or lemon balm to improve flavor. Drink this tea a few times per week in preparation for cold and flu season, or several times per day for 2 days after noticing symptoms of illness.
Echinacea Tincture: Finely chop blossoms and flowers and add to a glass jar. Cover plant material by at least 1/2 inch with 80-proof vodka. Label your jar and store out of direct light. Visit your jar daily to agitate the contents. After one month your tincture is ready and you can strain out the plant material, store, and use. Take 1/2 teaspoon up to every 1/2 hour at the first sign of cold, flu, or respiratory infection; reduce dosage to 3x/day after 24 hours.