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Echinacea

Botanical name

Purple Echinacea - Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench, Pale Purple Coneflower - Echinacea pallida Nutt.

Family

Composite family (Asteraceae)

Common name

Eastern purple coneflower, purple coneflower, American coneflower, black susans, comb flower, echinacea, hedgehog, Indian head, Kansas snakeroot, narrow-leaved purple coneflower.

Useful information about the plant

The genus echinacea is widely spread in North America and ranges from the Gulf coastal plain in the south on the Great Plains and central lowlands to the Great Lakes in the north, in the east it includes the mountain ranges of the Appalachians and reaches its western limit in the range of the Rocky Mountains. Both species E. purpurea and E. pallida overlap here. In Europe, echinacea is now introduced as an ornamental plant. The genus name comes from Greek "echinos" (= hedgehog), thereby also explaining the name. In fact, the strongly curved conical receptacle is reminiscent of a hedgehog with its long tubular flowers, which is also dominated by prickly chaff leaves.
The purple echinacea is the larger of the two species. It grows to be 60 to 180cm high, the pale coneflower only 40-120cm. Both species have large oblong-lanceolate, rough, hairy leaves, with the purple-coloured echniceas these are roughly sawn. Very characteristic are the large flower heads with their strikingly long, drooping or reflexed ray florets. With the purple-coloured echinacea they are 2 to 4cm long and purple, with the pale coneflower they are 4-9cm long, pink or white (Latin "pallida" = pale). In the highly curved base of the flower, in both species, are numerous tubular flowers. Flowering time is late summer.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

With purple-coloured echinacea both the herb, preferably the juice of the fresh herb, and the root are used, the drugs come from farms in the Americas and Europe. With Pale Coneflower just the root is used medicinally. The commercially available drug is mainly collected in the wild in North America, to a lesser extent from farms in the U.S. and Europe.

Ingredients of the drug

Purple-coloured echinacea (herb and root): polysaccharides, caffeic acid derivatives, alkamides, polyacetylenes, essential oil.
Pale Coneflower (root): polysaccharides, caffeic acid derivatives, ketoalkene and essential oil

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of the following drugs or drug preparations is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.):

  • Purple coneflower herb (Echinacea purpurea herba)
  • Purple coneflower root (Echinacea purpurea radix)
  • Pale coneflower root (Echinacea pallida radix)

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

Purple echinacea herb: Internally for adjuvant treatment of recurrent infections of the respiratory tract and urinary tract, externally for the slow healing of superficial wounds (Commission E, ESCOP).
The HMPC has accepted the fresh plant preparations of purple echinacea herb for internal use over for a short-term prophylaxis and treatment of colds as "well-established medicinal use".
Purple echniacea root: Internally for adjuvant treatment of recurrent infections of the respiratory tract and urinary tract (ESCOP).
Pale coneflower root: Supportive therapy for flu-like infections (Commission E). For the supportive therapy and prophylaxis of recurrent infections of the upper respiratory tract (ESCOP).

Traditional use

The fresh plant preparations made from purple echinacea herb were classified by the HMPC for external use as a traditional herbal medicinal product (§ 39a AMG). Based on many years of experience, purple coneflower herb can be used to treat small, superficial wounds (see also "recognised medical use"). Purple echinacea root and pale coneflower root was classified by the HMPC for internal use as a traditional herbal medicinal product (§ 39a AMG). Based on a long tradition classified as traditional herbal medicines (§ 39a AMG). Based on a long tradition, preparations of both drugs can be used for the supportive treatment of colds.

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

Purple echinacea herb

Purple echinacea root Pale coneflower root

Dosage

To ensure the effect, echinacea should only be taken in the form of finished drugs, the dosage is specified in the leaflet.

Preparation of a tea infusion

The preparation of a tea infusion is not recommended.

Advice

Echinacea preparations are to be avoided with people who have an existing allergy to Compositae (Asteraceae). The use of echinacea is generally discouraged for those prone to allergies. Because of the immunostimulatory effect of echinacea, patients with a severe systemic disease, autoimmune diseases, immunodeficiency diseases and immunosuppressive patients must not use coneflower or echinacea (not for tuberculosis, leukosis, collagenosis, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, HIV infection).
There are still no studies on the safety of the use of coneflower or echinacea during pregnancy and breast-feeding as well as for use in children under 12 years old. Women who are nursing cannot give breast milk with echinacea.

Side effects

Allergic reactions

Interactions

None known

References

Drug monographs

HMPC, Commission E, ESCOP, WHO Vol. 1

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 228, pg. 232
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 244
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 129, pg. 130
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Purple echinacea herb, no. 1823; Purple echinacea root, no. 1824; Pale coneflower root, no. 1822)

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