Herbs > Echinacea (echinacea augustifolia)
Also known as Black Sampson, rudbeckia, coneflower and Sampson root,
Echinacea is native to the United States. It has been
used extensively by Native Americans for centuries,
but has only recently come to the attention of the
rest of the world. Today, much of what is known about
echinacea was learned from traditional Native
American medicine. Its excellent antiviral and
immune-system boosting applications have made it very
popular, and it is now widely available.
Unlike many other herbs, echinacea is most
effective as a preventative, rather than a cure.
During the cold and flu season, regular consumption
of echinacea extract while healthy will boost the
immune system and prevent infections from occurring.
The most effective way of taking echinacea is simply
taking the extract which is widely available in
capsule form from health stores, and even from
supermarkets. Take 1-2 capsules per day. While it is
good to take when colds and flu are making the
rounds, it isnt recommended to continue taking
In addition, echinacea can be taken at the first sign
of a cold or flu to reduce the severity of the
illness, or even nip it in the bud completely. Take
two capsules of extract every hour at the first sign
of cold or flu. This dosage of echinacea should not
be continued for more than a day or two. Echinacea
tea, available in tea bags from herbal tea companies,
is also an excellent way of taking the herb for this
purpose - one cup of tea per hour.
More controversial studies into echinacea have shown
it to be beneficial in treating a very wide range of
infections and viruses, including tonsillitis,
tuberculosis and meningitis. It is known to increase
the production of white blood cells, which fight to
eliminate all types of infectious diseases. German
scientists have found that echinacea can mimic
interfon, a protein which occurs naturally in the
body in small amounts. Echinacea, they found, would
boost the bodys natural supply of interfon to
such an extent that it could reduce the size of
malignant tumours and resist the AIDS virus. However,
these uses of echinacea are experimental at best. A
professional herbalist should be consulted before
using echinacea for these reasons, and it should not
replace conventional treatments.
Externally, echinacea can be used to cleanse and heal
wounds. It is most effective in a poultice, mixed
with comfrey. Mix 1 tablespoon of echinacea root
extract and 1 tablespoon of powdered comfrey extract
with just enough boiling water to form a smooth
paste. Allow this to steep for 10 minutes, then
applied directly to the affected area. Cover the herb
with gauze, and leave in place for at least 30
It has been reported that Native American
medicine-men would chew raw echinacea root to numb
their mouths to such an extent that they could place
burning coals in their mouth without pain or injury.
They would use this technique to demonstrate their
power to their tribes. This use of echinacea is not
Research is being conducted into the possible
application of echinacea as an environmentally-sound
insecticide. Studies have thus far shown it to be
toxic to mosquito larvae and certain crop-specific
pests. However, use of echinacea as an insecticide is
not yet economically viable, and the preparation
required makes it too complex for domestic use.
Echinacea can be grown from seeds, planted in autumn.
They should be placed on the top of the soil surface
and tamped down, rather than fully covered with soil,
and then covered with straw mulch for protection.
They prefer a lime-rich soil, and good drainage. The
roots can be harvested after 12 months.