"purple coneflower" --- poison free organic gardening Victoria BC
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Purple Coneflower

echinacea purporea the purple coneflower

The showy Purple Coneflower was well known to the First Nations people of this land who used it to treat snakebite, cuts, wounds and infections. The early settlers soon learned of its value from the native tribes, and used it as an effective anti-inflammatory topical remedy for slow healing wounds, cuts, bruises, eczema, psoriasis and cold sores.

Since then, modern research has found that Purple Coneflower extract is almost as effective as the potent topical anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin for these conditions.

Meanwhile, Echinacea has long been used in Europe to reduce the severity and duration of colds, as well as for other respiratory and urinary tract infections, including prostatitis, and is recognized as a valid therapeutic agent by the German health care system - the reason for its recent and ongoing popularity among the health food crowd here.

Because of this popularity, many trials have been done here by biomedical investigators in the recent past, albeit with varying results. Many of these trials have found no significant advantage of echinacea extracts over placebos. However, a most recent preliminary trial (Mar. 1999) by Susan Percival of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences indicates that echinacea, an over-the-counter cold remedy, boosts activity in white blood cells, the immune cells which fight infections.

There are nine species, but only three of them (E. angustifolia, E. pallida, E. purpurea) are used as botanical medicines. Both the roots as well as the above ground parts of the plants are utilized medicinally. When fresh-squeezed juice is used, the dose is 6 to 9 ml, or approximately 1 teaspoons (= 7.5 ml). Other oral formulations should supply the equivalent of 900 mg of the herb daily. The herb should be stored away from light to maintain potency. In Germany it is given at the onset of a cold or influenza, and discontinued after the infection is gone.

One study indicated short-term boosts of cell-mediated immunity, but that repeated use over a period of weeks reduced the immune response. Most authorities suggest six to eight weeks as the maximum time to take echinacea preparations. Another study using the fresh juice of E. purpurea showed no problems for people taking it for up to twelve weeks. Clearly, all this show that echinacea should never be used as a daily supplement, but only as a medication.

Cautions: Echinacea species belong to the family of asters. Anyone allergic to ragweed or other flowers in the family should probably avoid echinacea products. Some of the alkaloids found in echinacea are similar to plant chemicals that can be damaging to the liver. Thus, some doctors suggest that echinacea should not be used with other drugs that can have negative effects on the liver, such as Nizoral, methotrexate, Cordarone, or anabolic steroids.

Another reference notes that flavonoids found in E. purpurea affect the enzyme responsible for metabolizing many common drugs. This is the same enzyme affected by grapefruit, but it is not known if the effect would be clinically important. If it were, medications as varied as cyclosporine, Plendil, Procardia, Sular, Propulsid, Hismanal, Mevacor, Zocor, Tegretol, or Viagra could reach higher levels in the body. Coumadin might also be affected. Much care and caution is advised in conjunction with other medications.

Now that we have all this behind us, we can at least grow a whole bunch of Echinacea for a very economical and effective anti-inflammatory agent for wounds, cuts and bruises - as well as for a long (July to early October) and showy display of their ever so cheerfully profuse blossoms.

Echinacea is a hardy perennial and makes large clumps of erect stems 4 to 5 feet tall in full sun or part shade. Good with Shasta daisies, sunflowers, Michaelmas daisies. Showy blossoms consist of a deep purple cone surrounded by light purple drooping rays, also coral, crimson, white and creamy white varieties. Great in the garden for attracting beneficial insects, and a plentiful source of great cut flowers to brighten our space indoors. Divide it in early spring or late fall for propagation, and enjoy its blooming exuberance, as well as its healing qualities.


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