This North American herb is not only a strikingly beautiful, butterfly-attracting plant but is also recognized among the most significant medicinal herbs as a prime remedy to help the body rid itself of microbial infections. Echinacea is widely used an immune-system stimulant with antiviral, fungicidal, bactericidal, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties.
Species: E. Purpurea, E. Angustifolia, E. Pallida
Other common names: Coneflower
Echinacea is mostly propagated by seed, which will germinated more readily after stratification. Sow seeds in container under cover at 18°C. Germination should occur within 20 days. When seedlings are large enough to handle, plant into prepared site at 30cm spacing. Propagation by division is best done in autumn or early winter when the plant is dormant. Do root cuttings in late winter or early spring.
Plant in a sunny site in a rich, free-draining soil as excessive wet will cause roots to rot. Echinacea will grow well in a large container with a soil-based substrate which should then be repotted each winter. They are drought resistant once they are established.
Plants require little except watering and weeding. After flowering cut back plant and collect the seeds. In spring, lightly mulch established plants with well-rotted manure. Check plants on a daily basis as spring growth in mature and young plants attract snails.
Pick flowers and leaves during flowering before the seed heads (cones) are fully formed. When the petals are dead, pick the seed heads and leave to dry. Dig up in autumn to harvest roots and rhizomes from four-year-old plants.
Roots, leaves, flowers and seeds
How to use
The most appropriate dose of Echinacea depends on the species and the parts of the plant used.
A tea infusion of the aerial parts (cones) of E.Purpureae is very effective in preventing colds and flu. The dose to drink is 2g of the dried herb in a cup a boiling water taken 3 times daily.
A decoction of juice extracted from the flowers can also be used to treat minor wounds, burns and boils and as a gargle for throat infections. To make the juice, liquefy fresh aerial parts of E.Purpureae with a little water in a home juicer or blender. The dose is 3ml of juice taken 3 times daily. The juice does not store well, so make only as much as you need to use immediately.
Echinaceae tincture is commonly available at pharmaceutical and health stores. Dose as prescribed.
McVICAR, Jekka. 2013. Grow Herbs: An inspiring guide to growing and using herbs. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.
THE READER’S DIGEST ASSOCIATION, INC. 2009. The complete illustrated book of herbs. New York: Adult Trade Publishing.
SERGEEV, Amédée. (2012), Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) in Mercer Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Humble (Houston area), Texas, May 17, 2012 [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.asergeev.com/pictures/archives/compress/2012/1056/15.htm [Accessed 21 January 15].
JAMIESON, Ruth J. (2010), Echinacea Purpurea [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.ebsqart.com/Art-Shows/Exhibits/FOTM-Echinacea-10/273/ECHINACEA-PURPUREA/657990/ [Accessed 21 January 15].