Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
There are many different species of Echinacea. They are interchangable medicinally, so choose the species that is native to your area. I grow Echinacea purpurea because it is native to the midwest. A period of moist cold for 30 days will increase germination rates. Seeds may be sown outdoors in late fall or early spring to accomplish this, or put your seeds in the freezer for 30 days before sowing in flats indoors, six to eight weeks before your last frost. Seeds should be lightly covered with soil and kept moist until germination. Germination usually occurs within fourteen to twenty-one days. Echinacea prefers full sun, well drained soil and regular watering.
Contrary to popular belief, the leaves and blossoms can be used as well as the root.The root should be dug during dormancy and can be used fresh or dried. Leaves and flowers can be harvested at the peak of blossoming and used fresh or dried.Fresh Echinacea and quality tinctures will produce a numbing sensation on the tongue. Native Americans would chew a piece of fresh or newly dried root. Echinacea is safe for all ages, including children. It can be used as a preventative as well as a curative. Echinacea is very useful in the early treatment of bacterial and viral infections.Small amounts taken frequently at the first sign of a cold or flu will boost immunity and prevent illness or lessen the duration of an illness. Echinacea is specifically suited to treat strep throat. Echinacea tincture can be dripped in the mouth, mixed with saliva and allowed to trickle down the throat. Do not wash the tincture down with water, instead let it sit in the throat as long as you can. A tea can be made with a tincture by diluting a dropperful of tincture with one half cup water, or by steeping one teaspoon leaves and/or flowers in boiled water for twenty minutes.Cover the cup while it steeps to keep the essence intact. If you are using Echinacea root to make a tea, simmer one teaspoon root in one cup water, covered, for twenty minutes. This tea can be used as a gargle for strep, sore throat, sore gums and inflammation of the mouth. Echinacea tea is not known for it's great taste, so most people prefer to use a tincture instead. Echinacea can also be used for infected wounds and the bites and stings of insects and snakes. It should be taken internally as well as used as a poultice or fomentation on the wound or bite. Constant use of Echinacea can lessen it's effectiveness, so use for six days a week with one day off. If used for as long as six weeks you should take one week off before resuming your treatment.