The pinkish-purple coneflowers of echinacea bloom from midsummer to fall, looking very much like rose-colored black-eyed susans. Plants are 2-4 feet tall in bloom. Native to prairies and open woods of the North American plains, they bloom best in sun and light shade, and thrive in well-drained loamy soil that is moderately moist and not acidic.
Traditional Healing Uses: In their herbal medicine, native American people of the plains have used Echinacea species more than any other. Echinacea has been traditionally used for a wide range of ailments: to stimulate the body’s resistance to infections and chronic inflammation; to speed recovery from flu, colds, sore throats, tonsillitis, laryngitis, fevers, streptococcus infections, and bladder infections; to heal insect bites, snake bites, tumors, cancers, burns, sores, and sounds; and to ease rheumatism, dizziness, and dyspepsia. Contemporary research has shown that echinacea may strengthen the immune system, and echinacea is being used to boost resistance to cold and flu systems of people who have received chemotherapy. Echinacea root is used to make a tea as well as tinctures, lotions, mouthwashes, and compresses for wounds or painful swellings.
Harvest: In the third or fourth year of growth, dig roots in fall after several hard frosts, when plant tops have died back. Clean and dry roots (crown may be replanted after harvesting).
Preparation: Put 1-2 teaspoons of the root in 1 cup of water, bring slowly to a boil and simmer 10-15 minutes. Take 3 times a day.
Other Uses: Echinacea’s flowers attract butterflies to the garden and are beautiful in both fresh and dried bouquets.