Common names: eastern purple coneflower, hedgehog coneflower
The species of the genus Echinacea are members of the composite (Asteraceae) family. Except the purple cornflower, other species known for their use for medical purposes are: the narrow-leaf coneflower (E. angustifolia) and the pale purple coneflower (E. pallida). The purple cornflower is an herbaceous perennial plant, up to 80-150 tall. Its roots go down deep into the soil having fibrous ramifications, the rhizome is short and vertical. Its stems are cylindrical, covered with hairs, thickening towards their upper ends, enlarging under the capitula and becoming tubular. Its lanceolate or elliptic-oblong leaves are broad, covered with hairs on both sides. The flowers are cone-shaped, 4-6 cm long together with their pedicels and have a purplish colour. The flowering period extends from June to September.
Echinacea species are native to North America being cultivated in Europe as ornamental or medicinal plants. The plant grows best in soils with a deep humus layer, which are rich in nitrogen and have a good drainage
The cultivation cycle of the Echinacea species takes 2-3 or even 4 years. The plant can be propagated by cuttings, seeds or seedlings. To obtain dried herbs, the plant can be harvested already in its first cultivation year, although one cannot obtain significant quantities. In case of early propagation, flowers will appear already during the first year, although they should be harvested only starting with next one, when the harvest will be much richer. To produce root drug, the plants can be collected in the second or third cultivation year, at the end of the vegetation period.
The drug is made from the dried stems and flowers (Herba Echinaceae purpureae) or roots (radix Echinaceae purpureae). The most important active ingredients are: cichoric acid, alkylamides, polysaccharides, essential oils, flavonoids, polyacetylenes and alkaloids.
As internal treatment, it is used to activate the immune system, accelerate phagocytosis, and activate the macrophages. The plant also has proven bacteriostatic and antiviral effects. Purple cornflower products are used to improve the resistance of our body, especially in case of viral infections, acute or chronic inflammations. Due to its antibacterial effects, it is commonly used as an ingredient in mouthwashes or tea blends recommended in case of gingivitis, pharyngitis or urethritis. By pressing the freshly-harvested plants, one can obtain cornflower juice, which can be conserved by a gentle heat treatment and used for preventive purposes.
As an external treatment, Echinacea emphasizes epithelial cell regeneration and has anti-inflammatory effects. It is used as an ingredient in products created to heal wounds, ulcers and inflamed mucous membranes.