Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolio)

Echinacea Angustifolia L. Echinacea Purpurea L. Echinacea Pallida L.

Photo © Steven Foster 


Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia) in the Aster family (Asteraceae) are perennials native to the prairies and eastern United States, and are easily recognizable by their pink/purple daisy-like flowers with orange/brown centers.

History and Traditional Use

Echinacea was universally used as an antidote for snake bites and other venomous bites, stings, and poisonous conditions.1 Physicians used echinacea for sores, wounds, gangrene, and as a local antiseptic. Internally, it was used for diphtheria (upper respiratory disease), typhoid conditions, cholera, syphilis, and blood poisoning. Echinacea was used by Native Americans as a cough medicine, a gastrointestinal aid, a remedy for venereal disease, sore throat, toothache, and the common cold.2

Modern Medicinal Use

Echinacea has been approved by the German Commission E for the treatment of colds and chronic infections of the respiratory tract and lower urinary tract.3 It has been used as therapy in chronic candidiasis (infections of mucous membranes of vagina).4 Externally, it has been approved for poorly healing wounds and chronic ulcerations.3  Echinacea increases resistance to infection and is used as a stimulant to the immune system It is also used for the treatment of eczema, burns, psoriasis, and herpes. As an immunostimulant, echinacea is used in the treatment of chronic respiratory infections, prostatitis, and polyarthritis (rheumatoid arthritis).1  Echinacea can be used to treat a sore and ulcerated throat and mouth, and topically for wound healing and other inflammatory skin conditions.2

Modern Consumer Use

Echinacea has ranked among the top in herbal supplement sales in the natural foods market for several years. It is most commonly used in cold and flu season to ward off, shorten, or attenuate the common cold.2  Echinacea is also commonly seen in cosmetics such as lip balms, shampoos, and toothpastes.1


1 Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley-Interscience; 1996.

2 Flannery MA. From rudbeckia to echinacea: the emergence of the purple coneflower in modern therapeutics. HerbalGram 2000; 51:28-33.

3 Blumenthal M et al. The Complete German Commission E Monographs&emdash;Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; Boston (MA): Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998.

4 Blumenthal M, Hall T. Goldberg A, Kunz T, Dinda K, Brinckmann J, et al, editors. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; 2003.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

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