Herb of the Week for 9th Feb
Echinacea in full bloom is stunning.
It attracts the eye of not only the garden
visitor but the attention of the bees
and butterflies. The attraction for our
winged friends is the lure of the nectar.
To a gardener it is the fabulous colour
and form of the plant. As a herbalist
the attraction is the incredible healing
in this herb and the only drawback in
all of this is that I harvest the flowering
tops when they are at their peak of perfection.
The flowering tops are infused in a high
proof alcohol medium to extract the powerful
constituents. This is a process that takes
a few weeks and then it can be bottled
as echinacea tincture which is used to
give your immune system a boost when feeling
under the weather or coming down with
colds or flu.
We also use echinacea in a cream to help
with itchy skin problems and it has proven
to be very effective.
Echinacea purpurea is the variety in the
photo and is available in garden centres
and nurseries and is an easy herb to grow.
It is a perennial so once you have it;
the plant will increase in size each year.
If you have an established clump of echinacea
you can divide it to increase the number
of plants you have. This is best done
in the autumn or very early spring.
It is a native plant of North America
where it grew wild on the plains and the
American Indians used it for everything
from colds to snakebites.
It is drought tolerant so once it is established
just let the heavens do the watering.
As a cut flower it lasts a long time in
a vase and there is a white variety available
called White Swan Echinacea. This would
not have the same healing as the purple
one but will look great in the garden.