Purple Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea

A very beautiful purple coneflower and herb used for a variety of ailments. 5

Echinacea purpurea is more often found in the gardens of New Mexico than in the wild. Its native range is central and eastern North America (See Range Map). It is part of the Asteraceae, or daisy family. Other names include: snakeroot, narrow-leaved purple coneflower, scurvy root, Indian head, comb flower, black susans, and hedge hog (2).
Echinacea purpurea was native exclusively to North America (1), and used by Plains Indians for medicinal reasons including toothache, coughs, colds, sore throats, and snake bitesss (2). (#Ouch) Some Native Americans used the spiny seed head as a hair comb! (3) When doctors were too far away, many Spanish settlers would go to a curandera (folk healer) and she would treat them with herbs including Echinacea. In the late 1800s, "Eclectic" American doctors began using it for skin and respiratory infections (1). In the 1930s, it became popular in Europe, especially in Germany (1).
There are nine species of Echinacea but the most common is Echinacea purpurea (1). Its genus name comes from the Greek echinos, meaning "hedgehog" or "sea urchin" (1). To me, the seed pod head looks like a space ship flying upwards into the sun, with purple or pink petals like flames flying behind it. When I saw it in October in El Jardin de la Curandera in the Albuquerque BioPark, it looked like a brown spiked club standing among its still green, heart-shaped leaves. (See photo) It grows 2-4 feet high and has a fibrous root. All other Echinacea have tap roots (1). The whole plant is harvested about 6 inches above ground, or the root is dug in the fall of the 2nd or 4th year (1). It likes well-drained soil and full sun but will do well in part-shade (1).
Echinacea is one of the most studied herbs today (1). People believe that it can help with a common cold and flu and strengthens the body's immune system. It can be made into a tea, tincture, capsule, or salve. Here is one easy tea recipe from a book I read: "Steep 1-2 teaspoons of Echinacea leaf/flower in 1 cup of boiling water, or boil 1 teaspoon of root in 1-2 cups of water for 10 minutes (1)."
Echinacea tastes bitter but otherwise I highly recommend it for the common cold. I recently used store-bought capsules and I think they helped!

By Tas Palcza AGE: 10

Endnotes/References

1. Johnson, Rebecca L., et al., National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs.
Washington, D.C: National Geographic Society. 2012. 65-69.
2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Eastern Purple Coneflower".
Washington, D.C.: 2015 http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_ecpu.pdf
3. Upton, Roy. Echinacea.
New Canaan: Keats Publishing, inc. 1997. 7-16.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Virginia (Ginny) Sanderson, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND), http://www.flickr.com/photos/vsanderson/4710035605/
  2. (c) Tas Palcza, all rights reserved, uploaded by pineapplez, http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/2721739
  3. (c) pineapplez, all rights reserved, uploaded by pineapplez, http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/2721764
  4. (c) pineapplez, all rights reserved, uploaded by pineapplez, http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/2725801
  5. Adapted by pineapplez from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echinacea_purpurea

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