One of my favorite herbs, echinacea makes a beautiful addition to any garden, and growing and using it can be incredibly beneficial to your health.
Also known as “coneflower”, echinacea blossoms are exceptional, large purple daisies with spiky orange centers. They are a favorite of bees and butterflies, and you should always leave some blooms behind for your pollinating friends. A tall plant, echinacea bloom at the height of summer and prefer full sun. They can be started from seed or purchased as seedlings, and make excellent border plantings. They can also be grown in a container garden, but they have a deep taproot and require a large pot.
Echinacea like well drained soil and are a perennial. In the fall, trim them back so that the stalks do not fall over during the winter and cut off any dead flowers to prevent self-seeding.
All of the echinacea plant is medicinally useful, but the flowers and leaves are easiest to harvest. A freshly cut blossom can be put in a jar and submerged in alcohol for at least two weeks to create a tincture. Leaves can also be tinctured, and if you’re willing to sacrifice the whole plant, roots can be jarred with a 1:2 ratio of root to glycerin, and left for about a month to create its own tincture. Dried leaves and petals can be used to make a tea.
Echinacea tinctures and essential oils are crucial remedies to fighting the common cold. The plant will help to boost your immune system generally, aiding you in resisting infection, and if you already have cold symptoms a solution of the plant will help to alleviate the symptoms. “Coneflower” helps to stimulate cell production, and not just cells that cause colds. They can also increase production of the cells that fight off cancer and arthritis. Echinacea is used to combat other illnesses such as fatigue, headaches, and dizziness.
The name echinacea stems from the Greek for hedgehog, referring to the stiff bristles that make up the center of the flower. It had been used by Native Americans as an antiseptic and flu remedy for centuries, but was only introduced to Europe in the early 1800s. Because of its wonderful properties in fighting infections, it quickly became a wonder medicine and was remarked upon by “The Medical Gleaner” in 1914 as being used to treat nearly any sickness with good results.
Long used in ceremonies by the Plains Indians, echinacea was an effective cure for snakebites in the “wild west”, and was used to treat syphilis when first brought to Europe.
Echinacea is also a true favorite of butterflies and bees. If you’ve got a beehive or are trying to help your local colonies, it is one of the best plants you can have. The beautiful purple coneflower will brighten your garden, help your health, and aid the bees and the butterflies.
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