Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Echinacea-Echinacea Augustifolia, Echinacea Purpurea, Echinacea Pallida, Echinacea Paradoca, Echinacea Tennesseerisis, Echinacea Simulata
Also known as: black root, black Samson, Missouri snakeroot, Purple coneflower
Parts Used: leaves, flowers, root
Meridians/Organs affected: lungs, liver, stomach, immune, blood, digestive
Properties: sialogogue, immuno-stimulant, tonic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, vulnerary, alterative, carminatice, stimulant, antibiotic, analgesic, maturating, depurative, anti-scrofulous, anti-putrefactive, diaphoretic
Echinacea is a member of the Compositae (Sunflower) family. There are nine species of echinacea native to North America. It is a tap-rooted perennial that can get over three feet tall and is loved by gardeners for its beautiful pale pink to dark purple flowers. Most species of echinacea have hairs on the leaves and stems. The leaves are alternate and sometimes have toothed margins; they are longest near the bottom of the plant and progressively get smaller as they rise up the stem. The plant blooms from June to August depending on the climate in which it is grown. It can be found on open plains or in wooded areas throughout the usa and Canada. The leaves of the echinacea are best gathered before the plant flowers while the root is best harvested in early spring or in late fall after the green has died off.
Echinacea is one of those plants well-used by the Native tribes and it is to them we owe our knowledge of this plant. Several of the Indian tribes used it to treat snake bites and for most types of infections. The chewing of the root (tincturing was unheard of back then so the root was chewed to 'tincture') can cause burning/tingling in the mouth which is why it was often employed as a pain killer for sore throat. It was also used for inflamed gums, tonsillitis, lung and digestive issues and sinus congestion. Echinacea was used externally for hives, wounds, stings, bites, ulcers, pain and to reduce putrefaction. It was commonly used by the Plains Indians for earaches, pneumonia, to stop bleeding and to disinfect wounds. Many runners (tribal members chosen to carry messages from one place to another) would use it to stimulate the production of saliva when they had to run long distances between water holes rather than carrying water with them. They would take a petal off an echinacea plant and chew it and be on their way once more.
Alma Hogan Snell ("A Taste of Heritage, Crow Indian Recipes and Herbal Medicines") told a story of a man diagnosed with gum cancer as he had lesions all over his gums. She gave the man the leftover pulp she had from making tincture and told him to chew it instead of his tobacco. After three weeks of chewing the pulp his lesions totally disappeared. The Indians also used it in their bravery rituals as they believed it increased their tolerance to pain and gave them more stamina and courage.
Echinacea was in the National Formulary from 1916-1950 and is still in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia. Most herbalists today use it for blood cleansing as it is very effective for blood poisoning and blood disorders. It also has been found beneficial for gangrene, insect bites, abscesses, typhoid, syphilis, boils, tumors, mononucleosis, myalgic encephalomyelitis, allergies, colds, flu, colic, etc.
Studies have shown that echinacea blocks the formation of hyaluronidase, the enzyme that destroys the natural barrier between healthy tissue and toxic organisms in the body. It was printed in 'The Journal of Medical Chemistry' the echinacea extract was found to inhibit tumor growth in rats (1972) and in 'Planta Medica' it was stated that echinacea was effective against both the flu and herpes viruses (1978). It also has been found to be effective as part of the treatment for eczema, psoriasis and candida. Echinacea strengthens the immune system, stimulates T-Cell production, etc. Michael Tierra (The Way of Herbs) said he has seen echinacea work even on the most severe inflammatory conditions including septicemia, pus like sores, and acute viral and bacterial infections. Studies in Germany have found it useful for certain cancers, AIDS and acute arthritic conditions. Dr. Christopher declared it useful for goiter and lymphatic tumors. He also spoke of the Sioux Indians using the freshly scraped root for snake bites and rabies-very successfully apparently.
Echinace is one of the best herbs for inflammatory conditions, hands down. It is a powerful immuno stimulant as well and should be kept on hand for emergencies. Echinacea is not known to be toxic but it is best to take it in small amounts and let the body rest from it for a while so that the echinacea will keep working for you when you need it to (so do one week on and one week off kind of thing).
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal. Use them as you deem necessary!