Other Names Purple coneflower (E. purpurea), pale purple coneflower(E. pallida), Narrow-leaf purple coneflower(E. augustofolia), Kansas niggerhead, Sampson root, American coneflower, Black Sampson, Black Susan, Comb flower, Hedgehog, Indian Head, Kansas snakeroot, Red sunflower, Rock-up-hat, Scurvy root, Snakeroot
Echinacea is a native of North America and can be found in wild prairies and open woodlands. It also adapts well to the garden. There are nine species, three of which, E. purpurea, E. pallida, and E. agustofolia, have medicinal properties.
The flower of E. augostofolia has a bristly disk surrounded by drooping pink rays. The leaves are lance-shaped and narrow. This plant grows to about 20 inches tall.
E. pallida is taller and similar in appearance.
E. purpurea has broader leaves and petals of a deeper purplish-pink. The spines of the bristly disk are tipped with orange.
Echinacea is a perennial that reseeds readily and blooms late into autumn.
History and Folklore
The name Echinacea comes from the Greek echinos, which describes the nature of a hedgehog or sea urchin, in reference to the bristly scales of the dried seed head.
This is a North American native and was used extensively by the Native American populations for all manner of ailments. The Plains Nations used it more than any other herb.
E. purpurea is the easiest to grow and the most commonly used.
Echinacea is being stripped from its wild populations and responsible herbalists should grow their own or make sure your source uses sustainable practices. Echinacea is showing up more and more in garden centers as planting for pollinators becomes more fashionable and it looks great in the flower bed. Natural rainfall is usually sufficient for its needs and it likes a nice mulch in the winter, but it usually doesn’t need much in the way of care. It will return year after year and if you don’t deadhead it, it will feed the finches and other small birds through the winter and what seeds are left will sprout new plants in the spring.
Starting echinacea from seed can be tricky as they need cold stratification and young seedlings are easily overwhelmed by weeds. If you plant them in a clean bed in the fall, you’ll be fine. Otherwise, refrigerate them for a few weeks then start them in pots.
Echinacea attracts bees and butterflies and small birds enjoy the seeds as winter snacks.
Harvesting & Storage
Harvest the tops in the third year, and the roots in the fourth year.
Thoroughly wash and dry the roots. Lay roots and tops out in the sun to dry.
Carrying Echinacea will provide inner strength during trying times. It can also be grown around the house or brought into a house and placed in a vase to draw prosperity into the home and protect the family from suffering from poverty.
Echinacea is an appropriate flower for offerings, especially to place spirits and river God(dess)es.
Including Echinacea in any spell or charm will increase its effectiveness.
The long-lasting cut flowers are beautiful in arrangements.
Echinacea is a wonderful all-around healing tonic and it has been used as a cure for just about everything. It increases your T-cell count and stimulates your immune system. It is safe to use indefinitely but loses potency if you use it too long, so it’s best to only use it during flu season or when you’re not feeling well and take a break the rest of the time. Two weeks on and two weeks off seems to be the most common recommendation. It can be alternated with astragalus.
The entire plant is useful, but most of the power is in the root. To make a tincture, use the root or uproot the entire plant and chop it up fine and place it in a wide-mouthed jar. Cover it with 80+ proof alcohol and seal it. Store it in a cool place for several weeks, giving it a shake every few days.
Alternatively, you could make a tea out of the leaves. Or just chew them.
People with asthma or autoimmune dysfunction including AIDS and Lupus should use Echinacea with caution. No studies have documented negative effects, but the action of the active constituents of Echinacea could theoretically complicate autoimmune problems.
Those with allergies to other members of the daisy family, ex. ragweed should use Echinacea with caution.
Anyone taking immune-suppressing drugs should avoid echinacea as their actions contradict one another.
Echinacea makes a pleasant tea.