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Echinacea is a genus or group of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family. The Echinacea genus has nine species, which are commonly called purple coneflowers. They are found only in eastern and central North America, where they are found growing in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. They have large, showy heads of composite flowers, blooming from early to late summer. These flowering plants and their parts have different uses. Some species are cultivated in gardens for their showy flowers. Echinacea purpurea is used in folk medicine. Two of the species, E. tennesseensis, and E. laevigata, are listed in the United States as endangered species.
Echinacea species are herbaceous, drought-tolerant perennial plants growing up to 140 cm or 4 feet, in height. They grow from taproots, except E. purpurea, which grows from a short caudex with fibrous roots. They have erect stems that in most species are unbranched. Both the basal and cauline (stem) leaves are arranged alternately. The leaves are normally hairy with a rough texture, having uniseriate trichomes (1-4 rings of cells) but sometimes they lack hairs. The basal leaves and the lower stem leaves have petioles, and as the leaves progress up the stem the petioles often decrease in length.
The leaf blades in different species may have one, three, or five nerves. Some species have linear to lanceolate leaves, and others have elliptic- to ovate-shaped leaves; often the leaves decrease in size as they progress up the stems. Leaf bases gradually increase in width away from the petioles or the bases are rounded to heart-shaped. Most species have leaf margins that are entire, but sometimes they are dentate or serrate. The flowers are collected together into single rounded heads at the ends of long peduncles. The inflorescences have crateriform to hemispheric shaped involucres which are 12–40 mm wide. The phyllaries, or bracts below the flower head, are persistent and number 15–50. The phyllaries are produced in a 2–4 series. The receptacles are hemispheric to conic. The paleae (chaffs on the receptacles of many Asteraceae) have orange to reddish-purple ends and are longer than the disc corollas. The paleae bases partially surrounding the cypselae, and are keeled with the apices abruptly constricted to awn-like tips. The ray florets number 8–21 and the corollas are dark purple to pale pink, white, or yellow. The tubes of the corolla are hairless or sparsely hairy, and the laminae are spreading, reflexed, or drooping inhabit and linear to elliptic or obovate in shape. The abaxial faces of the laminae are glabrous or moderately hairy.
Indications and usage approved by Commission E: Common cold; cough/bronchitis; fevers and colds; infections of the urinary tract; inflammation of the mouth and pharynx; the tendency to infection; wounds and burns
Echinacea herb is used internally as supportive therapy for colds and chronic infections of the respiratory tract and lower urinary tract. It can also be applied locally to poorly healing superficial wounds.