What is Echinacea Purpurea?

Vanessa Harvey

Echinacea purpurea, more commonly known as purple coneflower, is a perennial flower frequently chosen by gardeners as ornamental plants. Gardeners, however, are not the only people who take an interest in this botanical. It also is of interest to herbalists because of its medicinal properties. Purple coneflower is often used to prepare herbal preparations used in alternative medicine, particularly the herbal medicine practiced in North America and Europe. It is widely sold in health foods stores and in the health foods section of grocery stores in the United States, and it usually is available in a variety of forms: tincture, bulk herb, extract and capsules.

Myrrh is often mixed with echinacea purpurea to treat fevers such as scarlet and typhoid.
Myrrh is often mixed with echinacea purpurea to treat fevers such as scarlet and typhoid.

One of the most significant medicinal properties of echinacea purpurea is its ability to stimulate the immune system by encouraging the production of leukocytes, the medical term for white blood cells. The immune system is responsible for keeping the body healthy by helping it fight off infection, disease and even the early development of cancer, but it often needs to be stimulated and strengthened in order to perform its job efficiently. These special white blood cells are essential in this system of defense to seek out and destroy organisms such as harmful bacteria and viruses. This is why echinacea purpurea is said to be antiviral and anti-inflammatory.

Echinacea purpurea can be a source of dietary iodine.
Echinacea purpurea can be a source of dietary iodine.

Some of the conditions that have been successfully treated with alternative medicine that involved the use of echinacea purpurea are colds, influenza, scarlet fever, diphtheria, infections of the ear and urinary bladder and malarial infections. People suffering from certain health problems, however, are advised against using this botanical without first consulting with their doctor. They can consult their herbalist if they are receiving strictly alternative medical treatments. Tuberculosis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and disorders of the blood, liver and immune system are among the health conditions that should cause careful consideration to be taken when planning to treat another illness with an herbal preparation containing any form of echinacea purpurea.

It is not only the medicinal properties of echinacea purpurea that makes it an important botanical to herbalists, it also is its nutritional value. The purple coneflower offers vitamins A, E and C and the minerals iodine, copper, sulphur and potassium. People who wish to enjoy the nutritional as well as the medicinal benefits of this herb are advised to use it in its bulk form to make an infusion or tea. Myrrh is one of the most frequently chosen herbs to mix with echinacea purpurea, especially in the treatment of fevers such as scarlet and typhoid and when using the purple coneflower as a blood cleanser.

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