Echinacea, the hedgehog

Echinacea, the hedgehog


The Native Americans used this herb for hundreds of years to help everything from wound healing to scarlet fever. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries it was widely used in the United States as an anti infective before the introduction of antibiotics in the 20th century.

Its name comes from the Greek echinos, or hedgehog, because its spiky cone center looks like that small, feisty mammal when angry. Its common name is coneflower.

Widely studied, the coneflower contains ingredients that are known to be antiviral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Meaning, it can help improve the immune system, reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and can shorten the duration of the common cold and other viruses.

Echinacea is a hardy perennial. It grows tall in sun-filled locations. At the end of its slender but sturdy stems a single flower blooms all summer long in shades of pink and purple with a very large center cone filled with seeds. In the garden, it is a beautiful addition to the back border or in a cluster on its own. After the flower has bloomed, it attracts many butterflies and small birds feed on the seeds. The clumping green leaves fill the garden bed and they tend to spread rather quickly. Dividing them is not recommended. To be prevent overcrowding,  plant them at least two feet apart to ensure adequate room for growth.