Guest Columnist #67 - Coyote: Echinacea

ECHINACEA
     Purple cone flowers are a perfect starting point for budding herbalists (forgive the pun). They are highly useful as medicine, with a long, long history of use. They are easy to grow, easy to use and have no known toxicity. The seeds included with this paper are E. purpuren because in purpurea the leaves contain the medicinal substances as well as the roots. This means that, unlike the more potent E. angustifolia, you can harvest a little medicine without having to kill the plant.

     To sprout the seeds try either of two methods.
     To start them before frost or during the scorching hot part of the summer, mix them with a small amount of potting soil in a zip lock baggie. In a few days you will see the sprouts. Turn the contents of the baggie out onto a plate and carefully pick out the sprouts with the flat tip of a knife and deposit them into the soil filled cells of a seeding box. Protect them from extremes of weather. When they have grown to 4 or 6 leaves and the weather is milder, put them out.
     In the spring, when danger of frost has passed, turn up the soil and seed directly into the ground. Once the plants have grown and established themselves they should be able to survive both freezing winters and mid-summer drought. They are perennials and will blossom the second year.

     Though echinacea can be made into complex formulas (and has been for many years by drug companies), it can be prepared for simple home use in the form of tea. Steep a teaspoon of the finely cut root (preferable dug after a couple freezes) or a tablespoon of the finely cut    leaves in a cup of hot water, take a tablespoon 3 to six times a   day.  A favorite use of echinacea is in colds and flu. At first sign of oncoming illness, begin taking the tea. It is also antiseptic and alliterative and is used as a blood purifier. When frequent boils and infections suggest a toxic condition of the blood, echinacea helps disinfect it and bolster immunity.

     Even this simple use of echinacea makes it worth keeping a few of these beautiful plants around. A little research will reveal how very useful and welcome they can be.

     Coyote hopes you will plant a few and let them grow just in case. Share them with any friends and neighbors who want to keep them around. If you're like Coyote, you don't need a world wide disaster. You can find yourself too broke to buy an aspirin for no reason at all. And besides, if people will plant enough of them, then foragers won’t have to pick the wild ones down to nothing trying to fill the commercial demand of the botanical market.