A Little Prairie Soul Medicine

Ahhhhhh—chooo! 

Echinacea – the name almost sounds like a sneeze, doesn’t it?

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So perhaps it’s not surprising that the pale purple coneflower of the Illinois prairie, Echinacea pallida, is one of the three coneflowers used for medicine. Specifically,  for fighting colds.

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Two other species used medicinally are purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and narrow-leaved purple coneflower or “black Samson” (Echinacea angustifolia). I have the purple coneflower, purpurea, in my backyard garden. Pretty! The goldfinches love the seeds.

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Native Americans smeared the juice of coneflowers on their hands, then plunged their hands painlessly into boiling water or were able to handle hot items without flinching. When chewed, the coneflower root helped numb toothache pain. Coneflowers were also made into concoctions used as a remedy for sore throats and as an antidote for snakebite.

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The scientific name for pale purple coneflower comes from the Greek, echinos, meaning “sea urchin” or “hedgehog.” Take a look at the center dome. Yup. Appropriate, isn’t it?

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The Mayo Clinic notes that Echinacea sales make up to 10 percent of the dietary supplement market, but offers cautions as to results. There might be better cold remedies than this prairie icon.

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Maybe the best use of the pale purple coneflowers is as eye candy on days when the world seems like it is lacking in beauty.

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Or perhaps, the coneflower’s best use is as medicine for the soul.

Feel your spirits lift just looking at them? Me too.

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Against a backdrop of white wild indigo and bright blue spiderwort, could anything else be prettier? And yet… we could lose them all unless we continue to care for our prairies.

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As the poet Ranier Maria Rilke wrote,

…simply to be here is so much

and because what is here seems to need us,

this vanishing world that concerns us strangely —

us, the most vanishing of all.

***

All photos of pale purple coneflower, Echinacea pallida, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; except garden photo of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) with bee balm (Monarda didyma, black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and gold flame honeysuckle (Lonicera x hecrottii), author’s backyard, Glen Ellyn, IL; bottom landscape photo of Schulenberg Prairie includes pale purple coneflowers, blue spiderwort, Tradescantia ohiensis, and  wild white indigo, Baptisia alba.

Rilke quote is from 9th Duino Elegy. Mayo Clinic information is found online: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/echinacea/background/HRB-20059246.  Info on medicinal uses and scientific meaning of the coneflowers is from Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie: The Upper Midwest by Sylvan Runkel and Dean Roosa and Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel Moerman.

7 responses to “A Little Prairie Soul Medicine

  1. Your posts are always a delight, Cindy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for letting us enjoy the prairie with you every week!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Susan Whiteman

    Beautiful photos!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barbara Maxson

    Thanks for the lovely piece. Cone flowers are my favorite. They help me celebrate 4th of July with their color.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful information on one of my favorite flowers. I’m in the middle of docent training for the Konza prairie in Manhattan, Kansas and feel that more information on the beauty and uses of plants like Echinacea will create a better appreciation for our prairies. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gaylemdowell, congratulations on your work at Konza — that prairie is on my bucket list! It’s people like you who keep us aware of and connected with the tallgrass. Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  6. Thanks for the affirmations and encouragement, all!

    Like

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