Thursday, August 6, 2009

Purple Coneflower- Echinacea purpurea

The echinacea is in full bloom here in the northeast. It is a beautiful plant that is very easy to grow. Purple coneflower, as it is commonly known, grows to 2-4 feet in height and prefers a well drained site in full sun. It doesn't mind poor soil. In fact, if the soil is too rich, you may have to stake your plants.

The Native Americans used echinacea for a wide range of ailments from colds to snake bites and external wounds. They also threw on the coals in the sweat lodge for purification.

It is now known that echinacea is an immuno stimulant that increases the production and activity of white blood cells, lymphocytes a
nd macrophages. It also increases interferon production which is used by the body to fight viral infections like the cold and flu.

Echinacea should not be used continuously because that will decrease its effectiveness. Also, those with auto immune or progressive conditions like lupus and multiple sclerosis, should consult their doctors before using. If you have an allergy to any member of the daisy family this is a plant you should avoid.

Commercial products containing echinacea are widely available in drug, health and grocery stores. If you want to harvest and prepare your own harvest the root when your plants are 3-4 years old for maximum potency. Wait to harvest until after several hard frosts when the plant is dormant and don't use roots from plants older than 4 years old.

I like to leave the plants up in my garden th
rough the winter as a food source for birds. Chickadees seem to especially love the seed heads!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like this could be a good addition to our garden. How do you process the roots to use it?