Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)


Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Historical note Echinacea was first used by Native American Sioux Indians

centuries ago as a treatment for snakebite, colic, infection and external wounds,

among other things. It was introduced into standard medical practice in the USA

during the 1800s as a popular anti-infective medication, which was prescribed

by eclectic and traditional doctors until the 20th century. Remaining on the

national list of official plant drugs in the USA until the 1940s, it was produced by

pharmaceutical companies during this period. With the arrival of antibiotics,

echinacea fell out of favour and was no longer considered a ‘real’ medicine for

infection. Its use has re-emerged, probably because we are now in a better

position to understand the limitations of antibiotic therapy and because there is

growing public interest in self-care. The dozens of clinical trials conducted

overseas have also played a role in its renaissance.




E. angustifolia — American coneflower, black sampson, black susans, coneflower,

echinaceawurzel, Indian head, kansas snakeroot, purple coneflower,

purpursonnenhutkraut, racine d’echinacea, Rudbeckia angustifolia L., scurvy root,


E. purpurea — Brauneria purpurea (L.) Britt., combflower, purple cone flower,

red sunflower

Rudbeckia purpurea L. — E. pallida, Brauneria pallida (Nutt.) Britt., pale

coneflower, Rudbeckia pallida Nutt.


Echinacea species (family Asteraceae [Compositae])

The name ‘echinacea’ generally refers to several different plants within the genus

—E. purpurea, E. pallida and E. angustifolia.


Root, leaf and aerial parts


The most important constituents in regard to pharmacological activity are the

polysaccharides, caffeic acid derivatives, alkylamides, essential oils and polyacetylenes,

although there are other potentially active constituents, as well as a range of

vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, resins, glycoproteins and sterols (Pizzorno & Murray

2006). Constituent concentrations vary depending on the species, plant part and

growing conditions. In regards to the final chemical composition of an Echinaceacontaining

product, the drying and extraction processes further alter chemical



Due to the wide assortment of chemical constituents found in Echinacea, it has varied

pharmacological effects.


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