Common Name:, purple coneflower
Botanical Name: Echinacea
Place of origin: Echinacea is native to the central and southeastern United States. It can be found growing in meadows, prairies, and open woodlands.
Ideal growing conditions: This perennial plant prefers full to partial sun, and will thrive in either. As for soil, echinacea prefers well drained soil and will tolerate dryer, rockier soil. However, it will not do well in marsh, muddy soil. You can plant echinacea in the spring or the fall, but not the summer. The seeds need a cold, moist period (called stratification) to germinate. Echinacea will not flower their first year, so to avoid this you might find it easier to start with transplants. Throughout the growing season echinacea is fairly hardy, and it does not require too much maintenance. In its first year of growing make sure it gets water every or every other day, and as you move into the summer, you can switch to watering every week. In its second year, you will not need to water it unless it hasn’t rained in 8 weeks.
Parts of the Plant to use: All parts of the plant can be used, but they will need to be dried. To harvest echinacea, cut the stem above the lowest pair of leaves, and then either hand the flower or leave it on a screen to dry. The drying process may take one to two weeks. To harvest the roots, make sure your plant is more than two years old. Carefully dig up the plant and its root system and snip parts of the roots off. Replant the echinacea and it should be just fine. With the harvested parts of the root, rinse all of the dirt off in cold water, chop them into small pieces with kitchen scissors, and then lay them on a screen to dry.
Benefits/Properties: Echinacea is known as an anti-microbial, anti-viral, immunomodulator, anti-inflammatory, and anti-catarrhal herb. It is particularly good to use when you have a bacterial or viral infections including strep throat, tonsillitis and laryngitis. Externally, echinacea can help heal boils, ulcers and abscesses.
Suggested Uses: The two most popular uses for echinacea are as a tincture or a decoction. Both of these utilize the dried roots, leaves, and flowers.
Culinary: There are no suggested culinary uses for echinacea.
Medicinal: A tincture is a common way to get the medicinal benefits of a plant and are concentrated herbal extracts. To make a echinacea tincture, fill a mason jar half way with a combination of the dried roots, leaves, and flowers. Next, take a 40% alcohol (vodka works well), and fill the jar an inch and half from the top. Close the jar and shake for 30 seconds. Then, leave the jar in a cool dark place for a month. Once it is ready, using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth, strain out any echinacea bits. You can take a spoonful of the liquid medicinally however frequently you like, and you will get an immune boost from it. The flavor can be very harsh, so you can mix it into a glass of water or juice.
Another common way to use echinacea is by making a decoction. A decoction is tea made out of roots. To make it, simply add dried roots and water to a saucepan in a ratio of one tablespoon of root to one pint of water. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for 15 mins. Strain the root out of the water and then add honey or lemon to the tea to improve the taste.