Nine species of rhizomatous perennials make up this genus, which is native to E USA. Coneflowers give a colorful display in the border from mid-summer to early autumn and are excellent for cutting. The generic name Echinaceae comes from the Greek echinos, "hedgehog", and refers to the prickly scales of the flowers' central cone. Echinaceae purpurea is one of several species, including E. angustifolia and E. pallida, used by native N Americans, mainly to treat wounds. In Particular, the Plains tribes regarded E. angustifolia as a cure-all. The three species have similar constituents and can be used interchangeably. Both E. angustifolia and E. pallida were listed in the U. S. National Formulary (1916-1950), and the former became important in homeopathy in Europe in the early 20th century. Cultivation of E. purpurea began in Europe when the seed of E. angustifolia was in short supply. The seed was imported in 1939 by the German herbal company Madaus, who pioneered research into this species. It proved and easire crop, hence its place as a market leader today. Echinaceae is considered the most effective detoxicant in Western medicine for the circulatory, lymphatic, and respiratory systems. The chemistry of Echinacea is complex, and there appears to be no single constituent responsible for the detoxifying, immune stimulating effects. Key constituents are: alkylamides, which are anti-bacterial, anti-fungul, immune-stimulating, and detoxifying and cause a tingling sensation on the tongue; echinosides, with anti-bacterial properties; polysaccharides, which are anti-inflammatory and stimulate the production of interferon (a protein that inhibits virus replication); inulin (as in Inula helenium, See, Japanese elecampane); flavonoids, which strengthen blood vessels and destroy free radicals; polyacetylenes, which are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal; caffeoyl derivatives that are strongly anti-oxidant, preventing skin photodamage; resins; and volatile oil. Echinacea products are standardized for echinosides and polysaccharides, though other constituents may be equally important in the overal effect.

Scientifically proven to have antibiotic effects, echinacea (also known as the purple coneflower) was used by Native Americans to treat snakebites and skin wounds. Today research has shown that echinacea stimulates the production of the infection-fighting white blood cells, has antiviral activity, and is helpful in easing allergies, making it an excellent immune system enhancer.

Tall, rhizomatous perennial with hairy, ovate-lanceolate leaves, to 15cm (6in) long. Purple-pink, honey-scented, daisy-like flowers, to 15cm (5in) across, with conical, orange-brown centers, are produced in summer and early autumn.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Black Sampson, Coneflower, Hedgehog, Purple Coneflower, Sampson Root, Rudbeckia
Botanical Name:
Echinacea purpurea
Native Location:
Rich, deep, well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil (ideally sandy soil) in sun. Tolerates drought.
By seed sown when ripe at 20°C (68°F); by root cuttings in late autumn to early winter; by division in autumn or spring. Fresh seed germinates in 5-20 days. Seed sown in spring may need stratifying for 28 days. Sow in deep pots, rather than seed trays, to allow root development.
Roots and rhizomes are lifted in autumn and dried for use in decoctions, infusions, liquid extracts, powders, tablets, and tinctures.
Leuchstern syn. Bright Star
Has deep magenta flower heads
Height: 80cm (32in)

has large flower heads, to 18cm (7in) across, with deep purple ray petals.

Robert Bloom
Has vivid, magenta pink ray petals that open wide.

White Lustre
Has creamy white flower heads.
Height: 80cm (32in)

White Swan
Is a dwarf, with white-rayed flowers to 11cm (4¼in) across.
Height: 60cm (24in)
1.5m (5ft)
45cm (18in)
With all the popular attention echinacea's recieved in the last few years, it may seem as if alternative and mainstream medicine just discovered the healing potential of this native North American plant. Touted for its singular therapeutic and preventative powers against viruses and bacteria, echinacea has joined the ranks of the premier multipurpose herbs—dong quai, garlic, ginseng, ginkgo, and St. Johnswort. But this beautiful ornamental plant, grown in home gardens as the purple coneflower, is far from a recent discovery.
For centuries, Native Americans used echinacea to treat blood poisoning, boils, burns, colds, gangrene, infected wounds, insect and snake bites, and even rabies. Early American settlers soon learned about echinacea's infection-fighting properties, and the herb was commonly prescribed to treat bacterial infections, colds, diphtheria, eczema, flu, rheumatism, syphilis, and typhoid. By the 1920s, echinacea was the most widely used patented plant drug—cultivated and manufactured by several pharmaceutical companies—despite a 1910 proclamation by the American Medical Association (AMA) that it was "worthless". It only fell out of favor after newer commercial drugs arrived on the scene in the 1930s, but it remained on the United States' National Formulary" of drugs until 1950. By that time, European researchers, most notably in Germany, had been studying the herb's properties for almost 15 years. That research continued for the next 40 years and by 1990, echinacea reemerged as a potential "wonder drug".
Parts Used:
Leaf, roots, rhizomes, above ground parts, whole plant
A bitter, slightly aromatic, alterative herb that stimulates the immune system, promotes healing, and has anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for skin diseases, fungal infections, septicemia, boils, abscesses, slow-healing wounds, chronic infections, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), venereal diseases, and early stages of coughs and colds; excess causes throat irritation. Externally for herpes, acne, psoriasis, and infected injuries, also as a gargle for sore throat, and to prevent premature aging and UV damage to skin. Often combined with Arctium lappa (See, burdock) for boils with Baptisia tinctoria (See, wild indigo) or Commiphora myrrha (See, myrrh) for throat infections, and with Hypericum perforatum (See, St. John's wort) for herpes.
To treat colds, infections, wounds, and leg ulcers; to stimulate the immune system. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of Echinacea purpurea to treat the common cold, cough, bronchitis, fevers, wounds, burns, infections of the urinary tract, and inflammation of the mouth and throat, and to reduce the risk of infection in susceptible people. It has also approved the use of Echinacea pallida to treat colds and fevers.
Echinacea is not the cure-all panacea some people believe it to be. There is no hard evidence that taking the herb every day will result in a "super" immune system, resistant to any infection. (In fact, echinacea loses much of its medicinal value with regular daily use). Nevertheless, the plant has remarkable and diverse healing properties—antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, and immune-stimulating. Many clinical studies indicate that echinacea also contains tumor-inhibiting agents that may help fight cancer, and it is an excellent general tonic that detoxifies and supports the blood.
As an infection fighter, echinacea has broad-based antiviral and antibacterial actions that directly target common maladies such as bronchitis, colds, ear infections, flu and other respiratory illnesses. At the same time, it inhibits the growth and action of the enzyme hyalurinodase, which, unchecked, helps spread bacterial infections throughout the body.
As an immunostimulant—and perhaps the best one among the plant herbs—echinacea boosts and supports the immune system on several levels. First, it increases the number of immune cells in the body. Second, it stimulates a biochemical process called phagocytosis, in which specific infection-fighting cells, particularly white blood cells, attack and destroy viruses, bacteria, and toxins. Third, echinacea additionally stimulates the production of interferon, a special cell protein that also fights infectious organisms.
As a possible cancer-fighting agent, echinacea appears to stimulate the production of another protein called the tumor necrosis factor, which inhibits the growth of cancerous tumors.
Echinacea is taken internally to prevent and to treat colds and flu and for its general antiviral and antibacterial actions. It is sometimes prescribed as a secondary treatment for AIDS and cancer, in tandem with conventional medical treatment.
Echinacea is widely available as dried herb and in commercial teas, capsules, and tinctures. To make a decoction, add 2 teaspoons of dried root to 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, and allow to cool. Drink 1/3 cup three times a day.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of echinacea (either purpurea or pallida) is 500 to 1,000 mg in capsule form taken three times a day.
Echinacea is an immunostimulant; stimulating an already overactive immune system—as in the case of autoimmune disorders, for example—may have serious consequences. If you have an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, do not take echinacea; talk with your medical practitioner instead. If you have cancer, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus) or ARC (AIDS-related complex), do not self-treat with echinacea except under the advice of your medical practitioner.
If you are considering taking echinacea on a regular basis, talk with your medical practitioner about the best way to use the herb. Research studies indicate that echinacea loses its immune-boosting properties with regular daily use. Many practitioners advise following a one-week-on, one-week-off treatment program.
Possible Side Effects:
Echinacea's side effects include allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, fever, heartburn, and constipation.
Drug Interactions:
Taking Echinacea with these drugs may cause or increase liver damage:
Abacavir, (Ziagen)
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Acetominophen, (Genepap, Tylenol)
Allopurinol, (Aloprim, Zyloprim)
Atorvastatin, (Lipitor)
Celecoxib, (Celebrex)
Cidofovir, (Vistide)
Ciprofloxacin, (Cipro, Ciloxan)
Colchicine, (Ratio-Colchicine)
Cyclosporine, (Neoral, Sandimmune)
Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
Docetaxel, (Taxotere)
Dofetilide, (Tikosyn)
Doxycycline, (Apo-Doxy, Vibramycin)
Erythromycin, (Erythrocin, Staticin)
Famotidine, (Apo-Famotidine, Pepcid)
Fluconazole, (Apo-Fluconazole, Diflucan)
Fluphenazine, (Modecate, Prolixin)
Fluvastatin, (Lescol)
Foscarnet, (Foscavir)
Fosphenytoin, (Cerebyx)
Ganciclovir, (Cytovene, Vitrasert)
Gemfibrozil, (Apo-Gemfibrozil, Lopid)
Gentamicin, (Alcomicin, Gentacidin)
Glipizide, (Glucotrol)
Glyburide, (DiaBeta, Micronase)
Ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin)
Indinavir, (Crixivan)
Ketoconazole, (Apo-Ketoconazole, Nizoral)
Ketoprofen, (Orudis, Rhodis)
Ketorolac, (Acular, Toradol)
Lamivudine, (Epivir, Heptovir)
Levodopa-Carbidopa, (Nu-Levocarb, Sinemet)
Lovastatin, (Altocor, Mevacor)
Meloxicam, (MOBIC, Mobicox)
Methotrexate, (Rheumatrex, Trexall)
Methyldopa, (Apo-Methyldopa, Nu-Medopa)
Methylprednisolone, (Depo-Medrol, Medrol)
Moxifloxacin, (Avelox, Vigamox)
Naproxen, (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Nelfinavir, (Viracept)
Nitrofurantoin, (Furadantin, Macrobid)
Ofloxacin, (Floxin, Ocuflox)
Ondansetron, (Zofran)
Paclitaxel, (Onxol, Taxol)
Pantoprazole, (Pantoloc, Protonix)
Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
Piroxicam, (Feldene, Nu-Pirox)
Pravastatin, (Novo-Pravastatin, Pravachol)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Rifampin, (Rifadin, Rimactane)
Rifapentine, (Priftin)
Ritonavir, (Norvir)
Saquinavir, (Fortovase, Invirase)
Simvastatin, (Apo-Simvastatin, Zocor)
Stavudine, (Zerit)
Tamoxifen, (Nolvadex, Tamofen)
Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
Tetracycline, (Novo-Tetra, Sumycin)
Triazolam, (Apo-Triazo, Halcion)
Zidovudine, (Novo-AZT, Retrovir)
Taking Echinacea with these drugs may worsen HIV or AIDS:
Abacavir, (Ziagen)
Acyclovir, (Alti-Acyclovir, Zovirax)
Allopurinol, (Aloprim, Zyloprim)
Amprenavir, (Agenerase)
Cidofovir, (Vistide)
Famciclovir, (Famvir)
Ganciclovir, (Cytovene, Vitrasert)
Indinavir, (Crixivan)
Nelfinavir, (Viracept)
Rifabutin, (Mycobutin)
Ritonavir, (Norvir)
Saquinavir, (Fortovase, Invirase)
Valganciclovir, (Valcyte)
Zidovudine, (Novo-AZT, Retrovir)
Taking Echinacea with these drugs may interfere with the action of the drug:
Antithymocyte Globulin, Equine, (Atgam)
Antithymocyte Globulin, Rabbit, (Thymoglobulin)
Azathioprine, (Imuran)
Basiliximab, (Simulect)
Betamethasone, (Betatrex, Maxivate)
Cyclosporine, (Neoral, Sandimmune)
Daclizumab, (Zenapax)
Dexamethasone, (Decadron, Dexasone)
Efalizumab, (Raptiva)
Hydrocortisone, (Cetacort, Locoid)
Methotrexate, (Rheumatrex, Trexall)
Methylprednisolone, (Depo-Medrol, Medrol)
Muromonab-CD3, (Orthoclone OKT 3)
Mycophenolate, (CellCept)
Pimecrolimus, (Elidel)
Prednisolone, (Inflamase Forte, Pred Forte)
Prednisone, (Apo-Prednisone, Deltasone)
Sirolimus, (Rapamune)
Tacrolimus, (Prograf, Protopic)
Thalidomide, (Thalomid)
Triamcinolone, (Aristocort, Trinasal)
Taking Echinacea with these drugs may worsen tuberculosis:
Doxycycline, (Apo-Doxy, Vibramycin)
Isoniazid, (Isotamine, Nydrazid)
Tetracycline, (Novo-Tetra, Sumycin)
Taking Echinacea with these drugs may be harmful:
Etodolac, (Lodine, Utradol)—may cause or increase gastrointestinal irritation.
Lab Test Alterations:
  • May increase alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), lymphocyte counts, serum immunoglobulin E (IgE), and blood erythocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).
  • May interfere with sperm enzyme activity, when echinacea is taken in high doses.
Disease Effects:
May trigger allergic reactions in those who typically do not show allergic responses to skin testing.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited Pp 199-200
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.192-194
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp.54-56