Echinacea benefits and uses are widely known among herbalists and non-herbalists alike. It has become one of our most popular herbal medicines.
Echinacea is also called purple coneflower and is common to many ornamental gardens. The large showy purple blooms are quite attractive and they’re very easy to grow. It’s often grown just for its beauty alone.
Echinacea is native to the North American prairies from Texas up into Canada. These plants prefer full sun and warm weather. They are also tolerant of droughts.
The species Echinacea purpurea is the largest and most beautiful of the echinaceas. Echinacea angustifoilia and Echinacea pallida are also a good medicinals. The purpurea species needs a richer soil and angustifolia prefers a poorer soil.
It’s important to grow echinacea yourself or purchase plants that are organically grown. This is because plants in the wild are at risk of being over harvested due to popular demand.
The flowers bloom from mid to late summer. Prolong blooming by removing any dead flowers. They are perennial, growing for multiple years and will self propagate on their own by seed.
Medicinally, you can use all parts of the plant. Many herbalists simply make a tincture of the root. However, this does take the life of the plant. To use all parts of the plant, the leaves and seeds can be harvested during the second year of growth. During the third year, the flowers and roots can be harvested.
Echinacea Benefits and Uses
Echinacea has a long traditional use by Native Americans. Today, it is one of the top immune enhancing herbs. It raises the body’s natural resistance to infection when the immune system is temporarily weakened.
Specifically, echinacea helps to lesson the incidence, severity and duration of colds and flu. You can use it for bronchitis, sore throats, oral infections, laryngitis, tonsilitis or excess mucus in the sinuses.
Echinacea works by increasing the macrophage and T-cell activity which is the body’s first line of defense against foreign antigens. It’s antibacterial and antiviral.
Echinacea’s ability to prevent or treat wintertime illness has been quite controversial. While many studies point to its efficacy, there are other studies that state otherwise, usually due to insufficient dosing. To get to the bottom of echinacea’s effectiveness, a meta-analysis was performed on the studies. It concluded, “Based on the analysis, the likelihood of experiencing a clinical cold was 55% higher with placebo than with Echinacea.” 
You can take it as a tincture or a tea but you want to take it in frequent doses at the first sign of a cold or flu for any respiratory infection. Sprays and lozenges can also be made for these purposes.
If taking Echinacea for prevention, take ½ teaspoon of tincture twice daily. This is for short-term prevention only. Do not take for longer than 8 weeks and do not use in place of building and nourishing a healthy immune system. If taking Echinacea once a cold or flu hits, be sure to start taking the tincture frequently at the very first signs of the infection. This would be ½ teaspoon every two hours for the first 24 to 48 hours.
Echinacea is an also exceptional detoxifier by helping to cleanse the blood and the lymphatic system. It is what herbalists call an alterative. For this purpose, take the standard dose of ½ to 1 teaspoon twice daily.
Topically, Echinacea is anti-septic for sores, cuts, bites, stings, boils, acne and fungal infections. It is also used for any type of inflamed skin condition. Use it both internally and externally for best results.
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 Schoop R, Klein P, Suter A, Johnston SL (2006). Echinacea in the prevention of induced rhinovirus colds: a meta-analysis, Clinical Therapeutics, doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2006.02.001