Useful facts about echinacea: a medicinal plant you can grow

Use of this Amerindian traditional remedy remained limited in Europe until the 1930s, when the German laboratory Madaus studied its scientific properties. Today, you can use the roots, leaves, flowers and seeds to improve your health. Here are some useful facts.

Useful facts about echinacea: a medicinal plant you can grow

1. Gardening

  • There are nine species of rudbeckia, all from North America.
  • They are resistant perennials. Three of them have therapeutic properties, including the Echinacea purpurea, or the Rudbeckia purpurea, the best known and easiest to grow.
  • It has fibrous roots rather than a tap root and supports cold and wet conditions.

Varieties

  • Several varieties, considered as ornamental plants or cut flowers, are also known for their medicinal properties.
  • In particular there is the "Magnus", with very large pink-purple flowers, White Spot with cream flowers, which reproduces quite well from seed, and Robert Bloom, with bright purple flowers.
  • The Little Giant is a dwarf variety that does not exceed 30 centimetres (12 inches) high, while the Razzmatazz has double deep pink flowers.
  • The narrow-leafed coneflower (E. angustifolia) and rudbeckia with pale mauve flowers (E. pallida) have stronger therapeutic properties E. purpurea. Yellow rudbeckia (E. paradoxa) is the only species with yellow flowers and has similar properties to E. pallida.
  • It was crossed with E. purpurea to give varieties of peach and orange flowers much like the Sunrise and Sunset.

Location

  • Coneflowers need a well-drained soil and sun exposure.
  • Because of their deep roots, it is appropriate to use raised beds if the soil is poor.
  • It tolerates drought well once planted.

Multiplication

  • Divide varieties in autumn and spring. Species and varieties ranging in colours (called series) grow through sowing, since stratification accelerates germination.
  • To speed up the germination of seeds, you can stratify them.
  • Mix the seeds with moist sterile sand or vermiculite, and place them in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Leave in the crisper of the refrigerator for four weeks before sowing. Or, you can sow in pots or trays and leave them chilled until germination the following spring.

Care

  • Remember to label the young plants and to weed because they sometimes bloom the second year.
  • Use stakes for tall plants because the flowers are heavy.

Pests and diseases

  • No particular problem.

Harvest and conservation

  • Dig up the roots of mature plants in autumn, dry them. Collect the flowers and foliage from mature plants as needed.

2. Herbal medecine

  • Use the roots and aerial parts of the varieties Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea and E. pallida. The coneflower is widely used to boost the immune system; it has antiviral, fungicidal, bactericidal, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties.
  • It is known to treat colds, the flu and respiratory infections.
  • Scientific studies and clinical trials indicate that it may reduce symptoms and speed healing.
  • The coneflower is also a traditional remedy against many infectious diseases and certain skin infections.
  • It improves the immune system and allows the body to fight against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.
  • It can help people whose immune system has been weakened by a long illness.
  • Do not take coneflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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