Echinacea purpurea

Botanical name :Echinacea purpurea
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Heliantheae
Genus: Echinacea
Species: E. purpurea
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Synonyms :  Brauneria purpurea. Echinacea intermedia. Echinacea serotina. Rudbeckia purpurea.

Common Names: Echinacea, Eastern purple coneflower, Hedge Coneflower, Black Sampson , Purple Coneflower

Habitat : Echinacea purpurea  is native to North America and it extends through the Great Plains from Michigan all the way down to northern Texas and Georgia. It grows in dry open woods, prairies and barrens

Description :
Echinacea purpurea is a  herbaceous  perennial plant. It  is 120 cm (47 in) tall by 50 cm (20 in) wide at maturity. Depending on the climate, it blooms throughout spring and summer. Its individual flowers (florets) within the flower head are hermaphroditic, having both male and female organs on each flower. It is pollinated by butterflies and bees. Its habitats include dry open woods, prairies and barrens, as well as cultivated beds. Although the plant prefers loamy or sandy, well-drained soils, it is little affected by the soil’s pH.

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A popular perennial with smooth, 2-5 ft. stems and long-lasting, lavender flowers. Rough, scattered leaves that become small toward the top of the stem. Flowers occur singly atop the stems and have domed, purplish-brown, spiny centers and drooping, lavender rays. An attractive perennial with purple (rarely white), drooping rays surrounding a spiny, brownish central disk.

Cultivation:
E. purpurea is also grown as an ornamental plant, and numerous cultivars have been developed for flower quality and plant form.Unable to grow in the shade, it thrives in either dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought once established. The following have gained the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit:-

*’Magnus’

*’Rubinstein’

*’Ruby Giant’

Propagation:
It can be propagated either vegetatively or from seeds. Useful vegetative techniques include division, root cuttings, and basal cuttings. Clumps can be divided, or broken into smaller bunches, which is normally done in the spring or autumn. Cuttings made from roots that are “pencil-sized” will develop into plants when started in late autumn or early winter. Cuttings of basal shoots in the spring may be rooted when treated with rooting hormones.

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Medicinal Uses:
Preparations of this plant were used by the Plain Indians (Comanche and Sioux) for the treatment of upper respiratory infections, burns, snakebites, and cancers. The European settlers learned about these indications from the Indians. It has been demonstrated that plant extracts stimulate the immune system to combat bacterial and viral infections. It also possesses antibiotic properties. Echinacea’s name is derived from the Greek word for hedgehog and was inspired by the appearance of the flower’s central cone.

Echinacea should be of particular interest during the cold and flu season when you are exposed to these illnesses on a regular basis. When used correctly it is the closest thing to a cure for the common cold.

Echinacea stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infection. Unlike antibiotics, which directly attack bacteria, echinacea makes our own immune cells more efficient at attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells, including cancer cells. It increases the number and activity of immune system cells including anti-tumor cells, promotes T-cell activation, stimulates new tissue growth for wound healing and reduces inflammation in arthritis and inflammatory skin conditions.

The most consistently proven effect of echinacea is in stimulating phagocytosis (the consumption of invading organisms by white blood cells and lymphocytes). Extracts of echinacea can increase phagocytosis by 20-40%.

Echinacea also stimulates the production of interferon as well as other important products of the immune system, including “Tumor Necrosis Factor”, which is important to the body’s response against cancer.

Echinacea also inhibits an enzyme (hyaluronidase) secreted by bacteria to help them gain access to healthy cells. Research in the early 1950’s showed that echinacea could completely counteract the effect of this enzyme, helping to prevent infection when used to treat wounds.

Although echinacea is usually used internally for the treatment of viruses and bacteria, it is now being used more and more for the treatment of external wounds. It also kills yeast and slows or stops the growth of bacteria and helps to stimulate the growth of new tissue. It combats inflammation too, further supporting its use in the treatment of wounds

One study shows E. purpurea has antidepressant properties in white rats as it increased the stimulating action of L-DOPA. Echinacea is believed by many people to stimulate the immune system.

Known Hazards : Possible suppression of immunity with habitual use. High doses over 1000 mg may cause dizziness. Use of herb for 10-14 days recommended followed by a short break.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echinacea_purpurea
http://www.piam.com/mms_garden/plants.html
http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-echinacea.html

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