Echinacea aka purple coneflower.
There are a great many variants of the echinacea plant however the variety used in traditional medicine is for the most part; Echinacea angustifolia and also Echinacea purpurea.
The common name 'coneflower' is due to the distinctive cone at the center of the flower. In fact the name 'echinacea' comes from echinos meaning 'hedgehog' which , as you can see, is exactly what spiky flower heads look like.
Did you know that this plant is indigenous to the North American prairies? It was extensively used by the Native Indians of the Great plains. In our current time, we tend to use it for coughs and colds however Native Americans used it much more broadly; for toothache, sore throat, snake bites, enlarged glands, gingivitis ( to name a few) as well as a local topical anesthetic.
In 1911, a famed ethnobotanist (one who studies plants used for medicinal, traditional and religious uses) wrote that 'the roots seem to have been used as a remedy for more ailments than any other plant'.
Echinacea root is very well known to assist with 2 primary indications
1. Upper respiratory tract infections
2. External wound healing
There has been a tremendous amount of research as well as clinical data regarding the use of this plant. Echinacoside may be the most important compound in this plant as it is highly valued for its medicinal value.. This compound has been studied extensively and has clinically been shown to have anti bacterial properties similar to penicillin in the correct amounts. It has also been used with much success to treat and reduce the recurrence of yeast infections in woman.
Clinical data has also shown that Echinacea root extract (tincture) is excellent as a preventative treatment of colds , reducing the severity and duration by stimulating the body's immune response.
Not all Echinacea species are used to support health. And for the most part, the roots are the part of the plant that are used. In addition, this plant is a part of the Asteraceae family so individuals with allergies to plants in the daisy family may also be allergic to this plant.
And lastly, Echinacea is not to be used as a daily supplement but rather to treat infection at the first sign of a cold, or as a supplement when heading into an environment where one could be exposed to a bacterial or viral infection.