Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Herbs
Coneflower (page 4 of 4)
by Holly Shimizu
Native Americans considered coneflower an important medicinal plant. They applied crushed root pieces directly to venomous bites and stings, and they chewed on dried root to treat a variety of ailments. Modern herbalists agree that coneflower root is one of the best herbal remedies available to prevent, and reduce the severity of, colds and flu.
Both roots and aboveground parts of E. angustifolia and E. purpurea are the sources of most of the modern echinacea remedies, but the dried roots are used in homemade preparations. Powdered roots and tinctures are sold in health-food stores and some supermarkets.
Allow seed-started plants to grow for 3 to 4 years before harvesting roots; divided plants need two years. Dig them in the autumn after flowering is finished, and cut washed and dried roots that are thicker than 1/2-inch into sections to speed drying. Allow the roots to dry in a warm but shaded place. Replant the crown with smaller roots to continue your supply.
Prepare roots in either of these ways: Grind dried root pieces into a powder. Mix 4 tablespoons of powdered root per quart of water; cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, then strain. Drink the solution hot or cool, 1 to 2 cups per day. The tea cannot be stored because it becomes unstable, which is why most herbalists prepare it in an alcohol tincture.
Make a tincture by covering washed, chopped, and dried root with 1 to 2 inches of 100-proof vodka in a clean glass jar that has an enamel cap. Allow it to steep at room temperature for two weeks, shaking the container daily. Proper dosage is an individual matter, and you should consult with a naturopathic physician or qualified herbalist before using any herb. Echinacea tincture is effective in very small amounts. Generally, half to one full eyedropper (30 to 60 drops) a day in water, juice, or tea is about right.
Coneflower's resilience, its rich history, its medicinal value, and its sturdy beauty make it an exceptional plant worthy of further study, cultivation, and appreciation.
Holly H. Shimizu is an herb garden specialist and the executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington D.C.
Photography by Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association