Sunflower (American coneflower), called Echinacea in Latin, is intended to strengthen the immune system and prevent colds
The flower heads of the sun hat look like the prickly back of a hedgehog. Hence the Latin name of the plant: Echinacea. It is derived from the Greek echinos = hedgehog .
The American coneflower comes from North America. The herb should relieve toothache, heal wounds and help against snake bites. At the end of the 19th century, a resourceful German was introduced to the medicinal plant. He sold a brew of the plant as “Meyers Blutreiniger” – with great success. Echinacea was later also known in Europe.
How does Echinacea look and where does the medicinal plant come from?
Three species of Echinacea species native to North America are currently used as medicinal herbs: the small-leaved sunflower (Echinacea angustifolia), the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and the pale sunflower (Echinacea pallida). The narrow-leaved is up to 50 centimeters high and is bristly hairy. The plant has an upright stem and lanceolate leaves. The flower heads consist of a cone-shaped petal, which is covered with scales and tube-shaped disc flowers. The marginal flowers look linear and pale-purple.
The purple Echinacea (E. purpurea) grows higher: it reaches a height of 80 centimeters and has ovate, serrated margins. The pale Echinacea (E. pallida) differs from the other two species by its pink to white colored marginal flowers as well as by its size. It can grow up to one meter in height. Echinacea belongs to the Asteraceae and blooms from May to August.
Which parts and ingredients are used?
The root is used as a herbal remedy in the narrow-leaved Echinacea. It contains so-called alkamides as well as essential oil and kaffic acid derivatives such as the substance echinacoside. In the purple Echinacea, the herb is used, in all parts of the plant except the root. It contains the same material groups as the narrow-leaved Echinacea, but in different amounts. The pale Echinacea is rarely used as a medicinal plant, since it lacks the alkamides. Its roots are, among others, keto-alkenes. Otherwise the ingredients correspond to the other two types.
What are the ingredients? What helps Echinacea?
Sunflower plants – especially Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia – are said to have a positive effect on the immune system. In laboratory experiments, scientists have shown that the alkamides interact with immune cells. The coffee-acid derivatives also seem to play a role.
However, studies have not led to any clear results. It could neither be confirmed that a cold is significantly milder and shorter when the sick person takes echinacea. It is also possible to prevent a grippal infection with Echinacea. If at all, the trials were only slightly positive.
If you want to take Echinacea as an immunostimulant – whether in the form of drops or tablets – you should start with the first signs of a cold. Anyone who wants to use the medicinal plant preventively should take the herbal medicine for more than eight weeks. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
In addition, Echinacea is used in homeopathy – also against infections.