Ancient and forever young
Echinacea purpurea was introduced into culture in 1692. For the first time this plant in 1753 was described by Karl Linnaeus under the name "purple rudbeckia" (Rudbeckia purpurea) and attributed it to the genus rudbeckia, and only forty years later, echinacea was isolated as a separate genus. The main difference between these genera is that in rudbecky reed flowers in baskets are very rarely red, and bracts on the receptacle are soft, in contrast to Echinacea with its purple or crimson reed flowers and thorny hedgehog on the receptacle. Obviously, the very name of the plant comes from the Greek word echinos - prickly.
Genus Echinacea belongs to the aster family (Asteraceae) and includes, according to various sources, from five to nine species. The most famous types of Echinacea purpurea (Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench), Echinacea strange (Echinaceaparadoxa Britton) - the only yellow echinacea in the genus, pale echinacea (Echinacea pallida Nutt) and echinacea angustifolia (Echinacea angustifolia DC). Only Echinacea purpurea has been well studied; it is widely used in medicine and is popular in ornamental gardening.
The homeland of Echinacea purpurea is Atlantic North America, the USA and Mexico, where it grows wild in fields, limestone wastelands, rocky hills, in dry steppes and on moist rich soils, in light sparse forests, but always in open spaces. Throughout July and August, the vibrant, colorful patches of Echinacea draw attention, bringing the heat-faded landscapes to life. The American Indians, knowing about the healing power of echinacea, cultivated it centuries ago and used it as a universal medicine for a variety of diseases.
Echinacea came to Europe shortly after the discovery of the American continent and since the medicinal plant has been cultivated in Germany, France, USA, Moldova, and the European part of Russia.
Echinacea purpurea is a perennial herb 90-130 cm high with beautiful flowers resembling large daisies. Stems straight or slightly branched, rough, covered with bristly hairs. The rhizome is multi-headed, branched, with numerous roots that penetrate deeply into the soil, edible, strongly burning in taste. Basal leaves usually with five longitudinal veins, on long winged petioles, broadly oval, serrated, sharply narrowed towards the petiole, collected in a rosette, pubescent on both sides. Stem leaves with three veins - sessile or almost sessile, lanceolate, rather rough, arranged in regular order.
Inflorescences are large baskets up to 15 cm in diameter, with radial placement of petals and a protruding cone-shaped prickly receptacle, located at the top of the stem and in the axils of the upper leaves. Ligulate flowers - with an underdeveloped pistil, purple-pink, pointed at the apex, up to 5 cm long; bisexual tubular - reddish brown. The receptacle of baskets at the beginning of flowering is flat, then becomes convex, almost spherical or conical, on it, between small tubular flowers, there are dark-colored subulate thorny bracts. The plant blooms in July - September for about 60 days. Only tubular flowers bear fruit. Fruits - tetrahedral, oblong brown achenes 5-6 mm long, with a small tuft, up to 3000 pcs in 1 g.
Echinacea roots and herb contain essential oils, resins, phytosterols, carbohydrates, isobutylamides, fatty oil, and a variety of other substances.7 groups of biologically active substances have been found in plants, which include polysaccharides, flavonoids, caffeic acid derivatives, essential lipids, alkylamides, vitamins and trace elements.
The main active substances with immunostimulating activity - polysaccharides - are found in all organs. Simple sugars, oligosaccharides (sucrose) and polysaccharides (starch, cellulose, hemicellulose, inulin, pectin) were isolated from echinacea. Fructosan inulin was found in the roots. Its greatest amount is typical for Echinacea angustifolia (5.9%), and it accumulates maximally in autumn and winter, while in summer its amount is minimal.
All plant organs contain essential oil (0.01-0.3%), the main component of which is non-cyclic sesquiterpenes. The roots contain glycosides, betaine, resins, organic acids (palmitic, linoleic), and phytosterols. The most important derivatives of caffeic acid include echinazides, chlorogenic acid, sinarin, which increase the body's resistance to infectious and viral diseases, and accelerate the healing process. Echinazides accumulate in the roots, are present in small amounts in the flower and can be as effective in killing viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa as penicillin.
The roots contain echinacin, which has a cortisone-like activity and accelerates wound healing. In addition, the roots contain betaine, echinacene, echinacoside, arabinose, fructose, echipolon, fatty acids, glucose, inulin, polysaccharides, resin, protein, tannins, vitamins (A, C, E), carbonates, sulfates, chlorides, phosphates, etc. silicates, as well as cations of calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron and many other substances. In the dried roots of Echinacea purpurea and narrow-leaved in a small amount (0.006%), alkaloids characteristic of Compositae were found.
In the aerial part of Echinacea purpurea, flavonoids and rutin, tannins, starch were found, and the total content of fiber, pectins, hemicellulose and other insoluble carbohydrates is about 38% in terms of dry matter. Echinacea has the richest mineral composition: potassium and calcium, silver, lithium, sulfur, copper, molybdenum, nickel, barium, beryllium, vanadium, manganese and zinc, selenium and cobalt, which are extremely important for the immune system. In the last century, alkaloids were isolated from echinacea. Echinacea purpurea is characterized by the presence of betaine-glycine, while echinacea pallidum and purpurea contain saponins, which have virus-neutralizing and immunostimulating activity.
Will not hurt anyone
Echinacea is one of the most popular medicinal plants that has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The roots of the plant in America have long been considered the primary remedy for poisonous snake bites and blood poisoning. In addition, all kinds of ulcers, tumors, colds, infected wounds, animal bites, and serious infectious diseases were treated with echinacea. Since the end of the 17th century. Echinacea angustifolia was included in the US Pharmacopoeia. The European Pharmacopoeias describe two types of Echinacea: Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia. The Pharmacopoeial Committee of Ukraine approved a temporary pharmacopoeial monograph on the roots of Echinacea purpurea.
For the past thirty years, echinacea has been studied all over the world. It turned out that it increases the effectiveness of any traditional methods of treatment. Clinical experiments have shown that echinacea increases the activity of white blood cells (macrophages), thereby preventing the onset of illness or relieving cold symptoms. Extracts from the roots and herb of echinacea with flowering buds are included in more than 240 preparations, including a patented remedy for the treatment of AIDS. Echinacea preparations have a stimulating effect on the immune system. It manifests itself not only in adults, but also in children, as well as elderly people, in whom the functions of this system are reduced due to the general aging of the body.
In Russia, the drug estifan was obtained from the herb Echinacea purpurea, since 1995 it has been approved for use in scientific medicine as an immunostimulating agent. Today, many foreign medicines are sold in pharmacies, which include Echinacea purpurea and angustifolia - antiseptin, put down, uroflux, Active Day, Echinacea and Golden Root. Lollipops, sweet soda and echinacea tea are also produced. In classical homeopathy, echinacea is used to treat purulent inflammatory processes, sepsis, erysipelas, etc.
Experts recommend taking echinacea for any septic conditions, symptoms of blood poisoning, meningitis, bronchitis, tonsillitis, otitis media, burns, boils and purulent ulcers, gangrene, stomatitis, gum disease, candidiasis, psoriasis, eczema, inflammatory processes of the genitourinary system, postlercosis , gonorrhea, herpes, hemorrhoids.
Echinacea can be a useful adjunct in the treatment of cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is effective in states of mental depression, physical and nervous exhaustion, and has a stimulating effect on the lymphatic system. With prolonged use of echinacea, the depression of the nervous system does not occur. Echinacea purpurea-based preparations are used in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system, chronic pyelonephritis, and inflammation of the thyroid gland. Echinacea tincture improves the condition of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, as well as those who have undergone radiation, the components of this plant are able to suppress the growth of tumors. Juice from fresh inflorescences accelerates the healing process for burns of I-III degree and severe bedsores. In this case, the analgesic effect of echinacea is manifested. Echinacea preparations are used for diseases caused by exposure to harmful chemical compounds in the air and food (heavy metals, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides).
As it turned out, echinacea not only stimulates antiviral and antibacterial immunity, but also directly, like antibiotics, causes the death of bacteria, viruses and some fungi. It is especially effective to use echinacea during epidemics, as it helps the body to cope with viral diseases. Echinacea extracts inhibit the growth and reproduction of streptococcus, staphylococcus, Escherichia coli. The preparations of this plant are effective in the treatment of prostatitis, gynecological disorders, various wound processes (trophic ulcers, osteomyelitis). Juice from fresh inflorescences accelerates blood clotting. In general, the remedy is recognized as non-toxic, but in some cases it is not recommended to take echinacea - during pregnancy and lactation, with tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, collagenosis.
The many-faced beauty
As an ornamental plant, echinacea is planted on the lawn in separate groups in combination with shorter perennials, near trees. The plant can be used for cutting, echinacea inflorescences stand in water for a long time.
Echinacea purpurea and echinacea strange are often grown as ornamental plants. It is on their basis that many varieties and hybrids have been bred, combining the best features of their parents - large inflorescences, excellent color and pleasant aroma. In addition to the traditional rose-raspberry range, selective echinaceas are orange, yellow and white. Some varieties have fragrant flowers. Echinacea varieties are popular in modern garden culture: with pink-raspberry petals - Merlot, Hope, Magnus, Ovation, Pica Bella, Rubinstern (Ruby Star), Ruby Giant, Springbrook's Crimson Star, Raspberry Tart; with white petals - White Lustr, White Swan - a short plant (up to 1 m) with soft creamy, almost white flowers; with yellow petals - Harvest Moon and Big Sky Sunrise; terry - Razzmatazz; low (55-60 cm tall) - Bright Star, Little Giant, Fatal Attraction, After Midnight (Emily Saul), Kim’s Knee High with pink-crimson petals and Finale White, Cygnet White, Kim’s Mop Head with white petals. The small size of these plants makes them suitable for front row mixborders and container growing.
Today, gardeners and gardeners are especially popular with original varieties with unusual flowers Summer Sky (Katie Saul) - a two-color echinacea with unusually large and fragrant flowers, which have peach petals with a pinkish halo at the core; Prairie Frost is the first variety with mottled foliage, flowers with pink-purple petals and a bronze-brown center; Art's Pride, Sunset - flowers with peach-orange petals; The King is a very tall variety (150-220 cm) with huge (up to 15 cm) reddish-pink flowers; Granatstem is a plant up to 130 cm high, baskets are large (diameter up to 13 cm), ligulate flowers are purple, at the top with two teeth, somewhat lowered; Zonnenlach - up to 140 cm tall, baskets up to 10 cm in diameter, ligulate flowers are dark purple, lanceolate. To maintain a high decorative effect and prolong the flowering of plants, you need to cut off dried flowers and spray the plants with water after a hot day in the evening hours. After the flowering of the central inflorescence, it is better to remove the lateral processes, since they will have a different shade.
Grow your own medicine
Echinacea is propagated by seeds and vegetatively - by dividing the rhizome in early spring or late autumn. The seeds do not need stratification, but they sprout for a very long time - up to 40 days, and they need enough moisture and heat, so it is better to sow them in a greenhouse in order to plant ready-made seedlings in a permanent place. Otherwise, by the end of the first year of life, only a rosette of leaves is formed in plants. In order for the plants to bloom in the year of sowing, echinacea is sown in late February - early March in a box with soil to a depth of 0.5-1 cm, sprinkled on top with a very thin layer of soil or washed sand, carefully moistened. The optimum temperature for seed germination is 13 ° C. In mid-May, the plants are planted in open ground in a sunny place. Echinacea does not like waterlogging, but it also does not tolerate drought. She prefers sunny locations and well-drained, sufficiently moist and fertilized soils.
The plant is thermophilic, therefore, in severe winters in the northern regions, it is advisable to cover it with a layer of leaves. It is grown on rich, necessarily deeply cultivated soils with the addition of lime; on light sandy soils, it grows worse. Mature plants usually hibernate well without shelter. Echinacea grows well in one place for 5-6 years.
Caring for echinacea comes down to maintaining optimal soil moisture and protection from weeds, and it is quite resistant to diseases and pests itself.
At the end of flowering, the stems are cut to the ground and the echinacea plantings are spud with garden compost or good garden soil with humus.
For medicinal purposes, plants are used from the age of two. The aboveground part of plants, together with leaves and flowers, is harvested in summer during the period of mass flowering, when many biologically active substances accumulate in them. Cut the plants in the morning after the dew is completely dry on them.
Freshly harvested echinacea can be prepared for the winter. Fill half of a glass bottle with a screw cap with flowers and leaves of echinacea and pour 70% alcohol or strong vodka. After two weeks, the drug is ready.
Small bouquets of echinacea are dried in the shade under a canopy or in the attic. Sometimes the flowers are dried separately, spreading them in one layer on any litter available.
The best time for harvesting roots is autumn, the end of the growing season of plants. If you did not have time to prepare them in the fall, you can dig them up in early spring, before the leaves grow back. Rinse the roots well in running water, cut off spoiled or diseased roots. They can be dried in the shade, in the open sun and even in the oven at a temperature not exceeding 60 ° C. Dried medicinal raw materials of echinacea retain their healing properties for two years.
For centuries, Echinacea has endowed people with its extraordinary beauty and healing properties. For its lovely purple inflorescences, Echinacea is called the "American Golden Flower" or "Evening Sun".And today, with its unusually attractive inflorescences, it will decorate any garden, and beekeepers will appreciate it at its true worth - after all, it is an excellent honey plant. Blooming from mid-summer to mid-autumn, Echinacea flowers attract many butterflies, bees and bumblebees to the garden. As a honey plant, the plant is valuable because it blooms at the end of summer, when the main honey plants have already faded. From one hectare of continuous crops of Echinacea purpurea, 60-130 kg of honey can be obtained.