Thursday, July 22, 2010
Range: Most of the eastern United States; another similar species of the flower is found in Western states with similar medicinal and cultural uses; found in open woods, thickets, fields, and meadows.
Origin: Purple coneflower is native to Eastern and Central United States
Botanical description: Purple coneflower is a 2-3 foot perennial with large, daisy-like flowers with swept back reddish-purple rays. The center disk of the flower is cone shaped, large and orange-brown in color. The leaves are low on the flower stem, long and tapering with a rough-toothed edge. The flower is unmistakable; it resembles a black-eyed Susan dipped in raspberry juice. When not flowering, the plant is somewhat harder to identify.
What’s in a name: Purple coneflower’s genus name, Ecinachea, is derived from the Greek word for hedgehog, which was inspired by the appearance of the central cone.
All in the family: Purple coneflower is a member of the Compositae family, the composites, which includes the daisy-like flowers, dandelions, chicory, and a host of other Echinachea species that are also used medicinally.
Cultural uses: Purple coneflower has a long history of medicinal use. Native Americans used it as an antidote for snake bit and other venomous bites and stings. It was also used in a smoke treatment for headaches. Purple coneflower was used to calm toothaches and sore gums, and tea form it was drunk to treat colds, mumps, arthritis, and a blood purifier (often a euphemism for the treatment of venereal diseases). Further, it was used as a treatment for pain, indigestion, tumors, malaria and hemorrhoids. After a long period of disregard, purple coneflower has come back into vogue in recent years. It is used primarily as an immune-system booster and it has been used as a treatment for skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis, boils and wounds, burns, cold sores and genital herpes. It is also recommended for use to treat bronchitis, tonsillitis, meningitis, tuberculosis, abscesses, whooping cough, arthritis and ear infections.
Active compounds: alkamides, caffeic acid esters, polysaccharides, volatile oil, echinolone, and betaine
Research: Research has yet to determine what exact compounds in purple coneflower give it its medicinal properties. Early research with purple coneflower and its relatives were done with adulterated or misidentified samples, so results of those tests are unreliable. Although clinical trials have been poorly designed, animal and test tube studies have shown that purple coneflower extracts do fight certain viruses and appear to stimulate the immune system to ward off bacterial infection. Some animal studies have shown that purple coneflower promotes phagocytosis, but the results are not conclusive. Laboratory findings have shown that purple coneflower is effective in healing superficial wounds. More study must be done before any clear recommendations about the use of purple coneflower can be made.
Purple coneflower Administered as:
Herbalists usually recommend the use of Echinacea purpurea in boosting general immunity in the event of colds, flu, respiratory tract infections, and mild bladder infections. Echinacea purpurea or purple coneflower is usually administered in the form of dried root or herb, as tea, standardized tincture extract, powdered extract, tincture and as stabilized fresh extract.
Its beautiful pink-purple petal is edible, making it an excellent salad garnish.