September 28, 2003
The photo above was taken in northern Nevada and shows a Purple Coneflower plant (Echinacea). While it's indigenous to portions of the U.S., it's now commercially cultivated in Europe and the U.S. as well, particularly E. Purpurea, which is easier to grow since it requires little water. Echinacea's name is derived from the Greek word for hedgehog and was inspired by the appearance of the flowers's central cone.
The Comanche Indians used echinacea as a remedy for toothache and sore throats and the Sioux took it for rabies, snakebite and septic conditions. Echinacea is a very important immune stimulant in Western herbal medicine. It's used for infections of all kinds and is particularly helpful for chronic infections, such as post-viral fatigue syndrome. In addition, it seems to be a helpful remedy for treating allergies and asthma. Moreover, Echinacea seems to have a general stimulating effect on the body's immune defenses and is currently being investigated as a treatment for HIV and AIDS.