What is Echinacea?
Echinacea is a type of flowering plant that is related to the daisy family and that grows predominantly in Canada and the United States of America. There are nine species, which are commonly called 'purple coneflowers' or ‘hedgehog coneflowers’. Coneflowers are native to North America, where they grow in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. Echinacea is most commonly found in the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains regions of North America and can grow up to half a metre or two feet tall. It’s often grown for its vibrant flowers, which usually bloom in June and July. The echinacea flower has vibrant pink or purple daisy-like petals surrounding a hard seed head or cone that is spiky and dark brown, red or orange in colour. At Nerada, the species we use to make our Echinacea & Lemon Organic Herbal Infusion is echinacea purpurea and it is grown in Italy. Purpurea grows up to 1.5 metres tall and 25cm wide, and we only use the aerial parts of the plant.
What is Echinacea used for?Native Americans have used echinacea for centuries for a multitude of applications, and today it is one of the most common ingredients used in herbal cold and flu remedies worldwide. Like many other plants, all types of echinacea contain phenols. Phenols control the activity of a range of enzymes and cell receptors within the plant. They protect the plants from infections and UV radiation damage, and scientists believe they may have beneficial antioxidant properties in humans. Promoters of echinacea believe that the plant’s specific type of antioxidants may boost the immune system and help reduce symptoms of the common cold. While the jury is still out on the evidence, there is no doubting the wellness benefits of sipping on a warm cup of herbal tea. In fact, herbal teas are a great way to ensure hydration and adequate water intake during the cooler months, when drinking cold water may be less desirable. Echinacea can be found in a variety of forms in health food stores, supermarkets, chemists and via your local naturopath. However, some of the most common ways to consume echinacea include:
- fresh or dried in herbal teas
- as a dietary supplement in pills
- as an extract in capsules