Echinacea Purpurea


Lacey ThackerSometimes, I forget to remember that getting started with medicinal plants can be overwhelming. I grew up running around health food stores with my mom, and frankly, she’s forgotten more about herbal medicine than most folks ever know. Lucky for me, some of that knowledge and a whole lot of the interest rubbed off. I’ve taken that interest and expanded it into not only consuming plant-based remedies, but also growing and preparing them. Soon, I’ll share a bit about a useful framework for thinking about medicinal plants, but for today, I thought I’d start with a classic—Echinacea.

As a child, I remember complaining about feeling ill, only to be given an Echinacea-goldenseal combination. Now, that may be anecdotal evidence, but I will say I rarely got truly sick, even when very young. Though scientific studies are mixed about the reliability of this plant as an immune booster, it’s been in use in Native American healing for centuries, and I certainly swear by it.

Aside from its medicinal uses, Echinacea is a truly beautiful plant—and easy to grow, which makes it one of my favorites. It’s often called by the term “coneflower” due to its shape. When I see it, I can’t help but be pulled in my mind to the diverse woodland areas of the Ozarks.


Medicinal Uses

Echinacea is a fairly common plant in North America consisting of nine separate species, but it is Echinacea purpurea that has been tied to folk and Native American remedies. Both the roots and leaves may be used.  

Echinacea may be purchased in capsule form at the health food store, or grown in your garden for personal use. Its most common use is for boosting the immune system—rather than a daily supplement, it’s taken when you’re starting to come down with something, or, if people around you are becoming ill and you hope to prevent illness in yourself. It’s noticeably less effective when taken after you’ve already begun showing symptoms of illness.

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