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The History of Echinacea, Part 2

2/19/2013 4:33:00 PM

Tags: Echinacea, Echinacea Purpurea, Echinacea Angustifolia, Cough Syrup, Cold & Flu Tea, Make Your Own Medicine, Herbal Remedies, Jennifer Heinzel

I previously wrote about the history of echinacea, an herb that has been used as a remedy for more ailments than any other plant. This is part two of my echinacea profile.

Echinacea started to become popular with the European settlers in the 1880s, according H.C.F. Meyer who sold a product labeled as the herb. But what he labeled as echinacea was actually a combination of hops and wormwood; he advertized its ability in treating rheumatism, neuralgia, sick headache, erysipelas, dyspepsia, ulcers, open wounds and dizziness. This "development" greatly popularized the native herb, and by the end of the 20th century E. angustfolia was used by physiciansto treat major diseases such as typhoid fever, anthrax, blood poisoning, smallpox and poisonous snake bites.    

After its exploding popularity in the late 19th century, echinacea—like many other native herbs—suddenly became shunned by physicians. Luckily, this popular coneflower became widely researched in Germany around the very same time. Since the 1930s, more than 300 echinacea products have been developed and are available throughout Europe.

What is echinacea good for?

When taken internally to support and stimulate the immune system, echinacea helps treat different ailments of the larynx, nose and throat; it is even more effective at preventing colds and the flu. Externally, echinacea is excellent at treating inflammatory conditions such as abscesses, wounds and even herpes, due to its ability to stimulate the body’s regenerative processes.

Echinacea containins polysaccharides and phytosterols. These compounds help boost echinacea's immune-stimulating properties and activate its macrophages, a type of cell that responds to inflammation (keeping the body healthier by destroying threatening bacteria and viruses). Echinacea even has the incredible ability to increase levels of properdin and phagocytosis and produce interferon, which activates natural killer cells. Studies also show that if you take about a teaspoon of E. purpurea, it has about the same anti-inflammatory effects on the body as 100 mg of cortisone. Echinacea is an excellent herb at accelerating recovery form a cold, according to a Swedish study of 246 volunteers, especially if taken within a week after a cold develops.

Echinacea Flower 

Echinacea Medicine for Colds

Here are my two favorite recipes to enjoy while recovering from the cold or flu.

Echinacea Ginger Syrup for Colds

• 1 part dried echinacea root
• 1 part fresh ginger root, chopped or grated
• Honey, to taste

Note: You can add herbs such as wild cherry bar and licorice to soothe coughs; valerian to treat restlessness; and elecampane to heal respiratory infection.

1. Combine herbs.

2. To make the syrup, add 2 ounces of your herb mixture to 1 quart water in a saucepan. Simmer the liquid over low heat, down to 1 pint. Strain and pour back into pot.

3. Add 1 cup honey per pint of tea; melt honey, remove from heat and bottle. —Recipe courtesy Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.

Cold & Flu Tea with Echinacea

• 1/2 teaspoon echinacea root
• 1/2 teaspoon peppermint leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon hyssop leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon yarrow flowers
• 1/2 teaspoon elderflowers
• 1/2 teaspoon schissandra berries

1. Combine herbs and steep in 1 quart boiling water for more than 20 minutes. Drink and enjoy. —Recipe courtesy Kathi Keville’s book Herbs for Health & Healing.

Jennifer HeinzelFreelance writer, community herbalist and medicine maker, Jennifer Heinzel hails from the cold city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jennifer is an avid writer, especially for anything folklore or myth-related to herbalism. She has written for the Chequamegon co-op, the United Plant Savers' journal, and the NorthPoint Health & Wellness center. Visit Thymes Ancient Remedies to read more from Jennifer. 

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