Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, E. purpurea

Other names: Black Sampson, Niggerhead, Rudbeckia, Sampson Root, Purple Coneflower, Hedgehog, Red Sunflower

Echinacea, also known as purple coneflower, is the root or above ground parts of three species of large, robust daisy like plants of the aster family. The entire world supply is cultivated. The scientific name is derived from the Greek ‘echinos’ meaning hedgehog and relates to the appearance of the prickly looking seedhead.

Although several echinacea’s have been used historically for medicinal purposes, E. purpurea is the species of choice.

The taste of echinacea is slightly sweet then bitter leaving a tingling sensation on the tongue. The odor is faintly aromatic.

Echinacea as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

EchinaceaTraditionally, herbalists consider echinacea a blood purifier and aid to fighting infections.

It has also useful properties as a strong aphrodisiac. As an injection, the extract has been used for hemorrhoids and a tincture of the fresh root has been found beneficial in diphtheria and putrid fevers.

Native Americans of the prairie used echinacea for more medicinal purposes than they did any other plant, for everything from colds to cancer.

Echinacea is a tissue detoxifier that also stimulates digestion and acts to promote perspiration to sweat out toxins. The three echinacea roots, purpurea, pallida, and angustifolia are considered to be clinically identical and interchangeable.

Echinacea entered formal medicine in 1895, becoming the best-selling American medicinal plant prescribed by physicians into the 1920s. Later replaced by antibiotics in the United States, it has enjoyed continuous popularity in Europe. In 1993 German physicians prescribed echinacea more than 2.5 million times.

Echinacea has been used externally as either a wash of the decoction or a diluted tincture for pus formation, sores, infections, infected wounds, gangrene, vaginal discharge (douche), hemorrhoids, impetigo, herpes, acne, psoriasis, pyorrhea (mouth wash), gingivitis (mouth wash), sore throat (as a gargle), and tonisilitis (gargle). The powder has been used as a dust for infected skin conditions such as boils, weeping/infected eczema, and psoriasis.

Echinacea has been combined with equal parts of tinctures of Myrrh, Rhatany (Krameria triandra), or Oak Bark, for gum disease; the mixture is applied 3 times daily to the gums with a fine brush.

Tincture has been used internally and externally for the treatment of mastitis and cracked nipples. Tincture has been used in 10 ml doses to treat food poisoning and snakebite.

In folk medicine, native Americans use the herb externally for burns, swelling of the lymph nodes, and insect bites.

The herb is used internally for pain associated with headaches and stomach aches, measles, coughs and gonorrhea. The herb has also been used for rattlesnake bites.

Echinacea was used in rituals by Native Americans to give more courage, stamina, and tolerance to pain and in smoke treatment for distemper in horses.

Today most consumers use echinacea to prevent and treat colds and to help heal infections. Echinacea enhances the particle ingestion capacity of white blood cells and other specialized immune system cells, thus increasing their ability to attack foreign invaders, such as cold or flu viruses. Besides stimulating a healthy immune system to deal more effectively with invading viruses, it helps accelerate healing if infection already exists.

A 1992 German double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 180 volunteers found that a dose of 4 drops of echinacea extract decreased symptoms and duration of flu-like infections. More clinical studies are needed to determine clear therapeutic indications, the best preparations, and the most effective dosage.

Smaller doses (1 cup tea or 30 drops of extract taken several times daily) are said to work better than a larger single dose. Best used periodically: a few weeks on a a few weeks off. If rootstock has lost its odor, do not use.


Tincture is also made from the fresh flower heads of E. purpurea and sometimes in combination with the root of E. angustifolia: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (or 10 to 30 drops) taken in water every 2 to 3 hours for the first 2 days for flu, chills, urinary tract infection.

Gargle: 10 ml tincture in a glass of warm water.

For colds, drink 1 cup freshly made tea several times daily.

Culinary Uses of Echinacea

No known uses.


Persons who are allergic to the pollen of other members of the aster family, such as ragweed, may also be allergic to echinacea. The German government recommends that nonspecific immunostimulants, including echinacea, should not be used in cases of impaired immune response (involving diseases of the immune system itself) including tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, and HIV infection.

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