By: Teo Spengler
Coneflowers are perennials with daisy-like blossoms. In fact, Echinacea coneflowers are in the daisy family. They are pretty plants with big, bright flowers that attract butterflies and songbirds to the garden. Read on for more information on coneflower herbal uses.
Echinacea Plants as Herbs
Echinacea is a native American plant and one of the most popular herbs in this country. People in North America have been using coneflowers medicinally for centuries. Medicinal Echinacea was used for years in traditional medicine by indigenous Americans, and later by colonists. In the 1800s, it was believed to provide a remedy for purifying the blood. It was also thought to deal with dizziness and treat rattlesnake bites.
During the early years of the 20th century, people began using Echinacea herbal remedies to treat infections as well. They would make extracts of the plant and apply or ingest them. Echinacea plants as herbs fell out of favor when antibiotics were discovered. However, people kept using cornflowers medicinally as an external treatment for wound healing. Some continued ingesting medicinal Echinacea to stimulate the immune system.
Coneflower Herbal Uses Today
In modern times, using Echinacea plants as herbs is again becoming popular and its effectiveness is being tested by scientists. Popular coneflower herbal uses include combatting mild to moderate upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold.
According to experts in Europe, Echinacea herbal remedies can make colds less severe and also cut short the duration of colds. This conclusion is somewhat controversial, however, since some scientists say that trials were flawed. But at least nine studies have found that those who used Echinacea herbal remedies for colds improved significantly more than the placebo group.
Since some parts of Echinacea plants seem to enhance the human defense system, doctors have considered whether the plant’s herbal uses might include prevention or treatment of viral infections. For example, doctors are testing Echinacea for use in the fight against the HIV virus, the virus that causes AIDS. However, more testing is necessary.
At any rate, the use of coneflower tea for cold treatment is still a popular practice today.
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Read more about Coneflower
How to Harvest Echinacea for Tea
Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) is both an ornamental and an herb. It grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. The large purple flowers add color to summer and fall gardens. Those left to mature will develop attractive cone-shaped seed heads that attract birds and supply winter interest. Coneflowers also provide a key ingredient in many herbal tea blends. Although all parts of the plant are edible, the leaves and flower buds are most commonly harvested for herbal tea.
Harvest coneflowers beginning in their second year. Pick leaves anytime during the flowering cycle, or harvest the flowers when the buds just begin to open.
Cut through the stem with a sharp pair of shears. Make the cut just above the lowest set of leaves for foliage harvesting, or cut above the topmost leaf set if you are only harvesting flower buds.
Strip the leaves from the stem after harvest. Cut off the flower buds just behind the flower head. Dispose of the remaining stem.
Spread the flower buds and leaves out on a drying screen. Place them in a warm, dry room with good circulation where they aren't exposed to intense light or heat. Dry the coneflower parts for five to seven days, or until they feel brittle and papery.
Store the dried coneflower leaves and flowers in a sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place until use.
Things You Will Need
Make tea by brewing 1 or 2 teaspoons of the dried coneflower in hot water. You can also combine coneflower with other herbs to make an herbal blend tea. Honey works well as a sweetener in herbal teas.
Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.
Health Benefits of Echinacea
'Kim's Knee High' Dwarf Purple Coneflower
'Kim's Knee High', as the name suggests, is a dwarf purple coneflower that maxes out at a height of 1 to 2 feet. Like its taller cousin, it features rose to purple petals that fall away to reveal a spiny, copper-orange cone.
Curious about the benefits of Echinacea? This perennial herb native to North America was a common herbal remedy among Native Americans for centuries, often used for a host of maladies as well as to strengthen the body and to prevent diseases. Native Americans used Echinacea externally for wounds and insect bites and internally for various pains and stomach cramps. The herb was used medicinally in the United States and at the beginning of the 20 th century was the most commonly used plant preparation. But with the advent of antibiotics, Echinacea largely fell from favor as a popular herbal remedy. However some contemporary herbalists continue to tout Echinacea’s potential benefits as a remedy for everything from snake bite to migraines. Echinacea advocates have supported its possible beneficial use as a treatment for the common cold and flu. Are Echinacea's benefits real? Read on to find out more about some of the claims for Echinacea's reported health benefits.
The term Echinacea derives from the Greek word for hedgehog, echinos, because of the spiky scales on the plant’s large seed pod. The herb is available commercially in tablets, capsules, in tinctures, extracts and ointments and can often be found in various preparations containing other herbs, vitamins and minerals.
When used medicinally, Echinacea can be used in both dried—in tea or capsule form—and fresh forms, using the petals, flower heads and flower buds of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) or narrow-leaf coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) or Echinacea pallida.
Health Benefits of Houseplants
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The claims for Echinacea’s health benefits are myriad. Some herbalists claim that Echinacea is one of the most effective treatments for strep throat. Others have championed its purported antibacterial properties and have suggested the herb may help to kill germs on open wounds. By far the most often cited value of Echinacea is its possible role in fighting colds, flu and other infections, as well as its claimed benefits in boosting the immune system. Some herbalists routinely use Echinacea to either ward off or lesson the symptoms of cold and flu. Noted herbalist Steven Foster, the co-author of the National Geographic Society’s Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine and author of Echinacea: Nature’s Immune Enhancer has written that he often treats the onset of a cold with regular doses of Echinacea. Some believe that Echinacea can prevent a cold if caught early, or that the herb may even lessen the symptoms of a cold if taken regularly. Debate continues over Echinacea’s effectiveness in treating or lessening the symptoms of the common cold.
The National Institutes of Health warn that Echinacea can have side effects. Echinacea has been known to cause allergic reactions in some, as well as a possible host of gastrointestinal side effects. Like other herbal medications, Echinacea may also interact with other herbs, supplements and medications. Before using any herb for medicinal purposes, be sure to check with your doctor.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a professional healthcare provider before trying any form of therapy or if you have any questions or concerns about a medical condition. The use of natural products can be toxic if misused, and even when suitably used, certain individuals could have adverse reactions.
When taken by mouth: Echinacea is LIKELY SAFE for most people in the short-term. Various liquid and solid forms of Echinacea have been used safely for up to 10 days. There are also some products, such as Echinaforce (A. Vogel Bioforce AG) that have been used safely for up to 6 months.
Some side effects have been reported such as fever, nausea, vomiting, bad taste, stomach pain, diarrhea, sore throat, dry mouth, and headache. In rare cases, echinacea has been reported to cause serious allergic reactions and liver damage.
When applied to the skin: Echinacea is POSSIBLY SAFE short-term. A cream (Linola Plus Cream) containing echinacea has been used safely for up to 12 weeks. In some people, applying echinacea to the skin may cause redness, itchiness, or a rash.
Echinacea is most likely to cause allergic reactions in children and adults who are allergic to ragweed, mums, marigolds, or daisies. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking echinacea.
There’s a reason why some people call echinacea a miracle herb. It has been used for centuries by Native Americans and its medicinal benefits are undoubtedly great. Just a cup of echinacea tisane will be able to help you deal with various ailments. Cultivate this plant in your garden so you have a steady supply of this reliable medicinal powerhouse. Alternatively, you can also get echinacea supplements from the market, just make sure you get them from reputable brands and sellers.
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at [email protected]
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