[History of a plant: the example of Echinacea]

Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2003 Apr;10 Suppl 1:9-12. doi: 10.1159/000071678.
[Article in German]


In comparison with other medicinal plants, the history of use of Echinacea is relatively short. The plant originates from North America and was employed by the indigenous Indians. The first archaeological evidence dates from the 18th century. Included in the name Echinacea or purple coneflower are several species of the Asteraceae family: Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench, Echinacea angustifolia DC. and Echinacea pallida (Nutt.) Nutt. Information about the use of the plant from traditional healers ranges from external application for wounds, burns and insect bites to the chewing of roots for toothache and throat infections, and internal application for pain, coughs, stomach cramps and snake bites. The interest of white settlers was also drawn to this medicinal plant. The first Echinacea preparation, known as Meyers Blood Purifier, arrived on the market around 1880, with rheumatism, neuralgia and rattlesnake bites as indications. At the beginning of the 20th century, Echinacea was the most frequently used plant preparation in the USA. Commercial cultivation was started in Germany around 1939. The introduction and cultivation of Echinacea in Switzerland by A. Vogel was around 1950. Chemists and pharmacologists became interested in Echinacea and many constituents are now known, such as polysaccharides, echinacoside, cichoric acid, ketoalkenes and alkylamides. The extracts exhibit immunostimulant properties and are mainly used in the prophylaxis and therapy of colds, flu and septic complaints. Although there are over 400 publications concerning the plant and dozens of preparations of Echinacea n the market, the true identity of the active principles still remains open.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / history
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use
  • Common Cold / drug therapy
  • Common Cold / history
  • Common Cold / prevention & control
  • Echinacea* / chemistry
  • Europe
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • North America
  • Phytotherapy / history*
  • Plant Extracts / history*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Plant Extracts