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Echinacea purpurea

Common Name: Coneflower   


Botanical Name:  Echinacea spp.  


E. angustifolia, E. atrorubens, E. laevigata, E. pallida, E. paradoxa, E. purpurea, E. sanguinea, E. simulata, and E. tennesseensis.


Native American Lakota Name:  Ichahpe hu. 


AKA:  Purple Coneflower, Snakeroot


Family:  Asteraceae


Origin:  Native to Eastern and Central North America.  The above species can be found in almost all states. 


Morphology: Stiff, tall, erect stems.  The leaves are dark green, oblong- lanceolate with tiny hairs.  Veins are deep and predominate.  I have noticed the leaves on the lower portion of the plant (older leaves) become larger with age.  As for flowers, the center disk holds the actual reproductive structures, and the colorful petals (ray) surrounding the center may serve to attract pollinators and allow a place for them to land and sit while collecting nectar. Flowers unfold from a cup shape to flat, then as they mature and seeds begin to develop, the disk begins to mound upward into the shape that may resemble a pinecone and the ray petals fold straight down the ground. Roots of E. angustifolia have been preferred for medicine making.  The roots grow more as a tap root, but E. purpurea is just as good and easier to grow or obtain.  Their roots are more like a large fibrous root. 


Description:  A perennial plant growing up to 4 feet tall. 


Habitat:  Was a common native prairie plant that has been over harvested so you rarely see it in its native habitat.  Prefers full sun and tolerates sandy dry soil.


Growing:  Echinacea purpurea is most widely grown as a perennial plant in the garden.  Allow space for mature size of about 1–2-foot square.  Full sun preferred but will tolerate some shade.  You may notice less flowering.  Once established, this plant will tolerate dry soil.  This is an important pollinator plant for birds and butterflies.  You can collect seeds (nutlets) from the flower heads in late fall or allow them to drop and spread.  I am growing E. angustifolia, which isn’t as vigorous, and have yet felt the need to harvest any for this reason.  I have unsuccessfully grown E. pallida and E. tennesseensis in Northern Michigan.  There are many cultivars now available of Echinacea purpurea with a wide range of colors, yellow, oranges, reds and purples.  I consider these more ornamental than medicinal and have yet to see any research, but have been told any echinacea spp. will work and be effective.  They are a gorgeous in the garden. 

Echinacea in herbal bouquets

Parts Used:  Roots are most used for medicinal purposes, but flowers and leaves are also collected and used.  The petals make a visually appealing tisane. Echinacea is also a beautiful cut flower.


Harvest:  Only harvest cultivated species.  Never harvest from the wild.  Harvest three year old roots in the fall.  Flowers and leaves can be harvested throughout the years during their peak time. 


Taste/Uses:  Sweet, cold, diffusive (tingling), stimulating.  I have found it more of a numbing than tingling effect on my tongue with a hint of an earthy flavor.  Echinacea helps ease sore throats. 


Farm Notes: Not only has it been a favorite perennial in my garden for as long as I can remember, but this is also the first plant that I connected to as an herbalist and was the first plant I tinctured.  I love the daisy shaped flowers with purple ray petals. Visually stunning to me in the pollinator habitat, as well as any of the gardens around the farm or my home.   I cultivate both E. angustifolia and E. purpurea.


Echinacea growing at Heartwood Forest Farm

Constituents:  Volatile, oil, glycoside, echinaceine, phenolics


Actions:  Anti-microbial, alterative, anti-catarrhal, tonic, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, stimulates saliva, helpful for treating allergies and asthma. Research has shown that there is an increase in white blood cells and their strength of action 3 Native American uses by Camanche for toothache and sore throat, Sioux used herb for rabies, snake bites and septic conditions 3 Only supportive of traditional uses-not those of “armchair Western herbal experts” that promote it as an “immune stimulant” 5


Energetics: Cooling


Preparation and Dosage:  Decoction: prepare 1-2 tsp roots in 1 c. water, slowly simmer 10-15 minutes and drink 3 x day.  I make and prefer a tincture: 1-4 mL 3 x day.  I only take 1 x day for 2 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off (this is what I was taught years ago). Capsules can be made of powdered root for colds 500mg 3 x day. 


Combinations:  Combines well with goldenseal


Cautions: I knew someone that told me they experienced headaches. If you have any sensitives or allergies to plants in the Asteraceae family I would use caution.


References-These are references used in my herbal studies. I'm sure that throughout my learning about echinacea, there have been others.

1.     The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman

2.     The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman

3.     The Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH

4.     The Earthwise Herbal Vol.1 by Matthew Wood

5.     The Earthwise Herbal Vol 2 by Matthew Wood

6.     A Modern Herbal Vol 1 (A-H) by Margaret Grieve

7.     A Modern Herbal Vol 2 (I-Z) by Margaret Grieve

8.     The Herb Book by John Lust


Native American Legends About Coneflowers

The purple coneflower, also known by its Latin name Echinacea, is a native wildflower of North America known to many different American Indian tribes. In Western tribes like the Ute, coneflowers are associated with elk and called by the name "elk root," due to the belief that wounded elk seek them out as medicine. Coneflower roots were used as traditional healing herbs by many tribes, especially in the Great Plains and Midwest, to treat many types of swelling, burns, and pain. Coneflower has also been chewed ritually during sweatlodge ceremonies and the Sundance. The coneflower is considered one of the sacred Life Medicines of the Navajo tribe.


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