Echinacea: Seeing a Plant from the Past in a New Light

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When I first started interning at The Herb Companion, I read many articles about an herb that I had never heard of before called echinacea. After a few weeks, I finally looked up this mystery plant on the Internet, and a smile formed on my lips as memories flooded back.

You see, as a child I was very familiar with echinacea, but I knew it as the tall purple plant in the front yard garden that my dad hated. My family’s relationship with echinacea started out innocently enough–the plant was pretty and contained, staying on its side of the garden, and “playing nice” with the rest of the flowers in the garden. However, as the years went on, echinacea slowly but steadily took over our garden, making it look like a jungle rather than a flower garden, as my dad would say. If I had a dollar for every time he threatened to weed-eat the whole thing, I’d be a very rich gal.

Echinacea contains many health benefits.
Photo by avogel_ch/Courtesy

So, I found it extremely ironic that this herb can actually be quite beneficial, especially with cold and flu season approaching.

These purple coneflowers, as they are sometimes called, are most often used in decoctions, infusions and tinctures. They are most known in the herbal world for boosting the immune system and warding off infection. These plants also increase your body’s production of interferon, which is a protein in the cells that stops virus replication in its tracks. This purpled-flowered plant is beneficial in reducing fevers, treating upper respiratory tract infections and helping reduce the severity of colds and flu. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals such as niacin, iron and zinc.

Echinacea may even be helpful in the treatment of cancer. Studies show that echinacea helped cancer patients produce more white blood cells after radiation. Who knew that pesky plant from my childhood years could be so useful?

I doubt my dad will ever completely make peace with the herb that took over our flower bed and is still growing and expanding to this day. But for all of you echinacea lovers out there, here is a recipe I found to help keep you healthy during cold and flu season this year:

Echinacea Herbal Tea

• 1 teaspoon dried organic echinacea
• 1 cup boiled water
• 1 slice ginger root
• Lemon juice
• Honey

1. Steep ehinacea in water for 12 minutes. Add a slice of ginger root for extra flavor. You will need to reheat at this point due to the long steeping time required. Simply strain the ginger root and echinacea, and reheat on the stove, do not boil.

2. Add lemon and honey for taste. 

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