The History of Echinacea

In the late 1800’s there was a man named Joseph Meyer from Pawnee City, Nebraska. He was a traveling salesman who went from town to town peddling wares from his wagon. He learned from the Plains Indians the virtues of a "Kansas root." The Indians had been using it for hundreds of years for wounds, colds, and snake bites. They knew that it helped the body to heal itself and that it protected the body from poisons and toxins.

Joseph Meyer made an alcohol tincture of this root and sold it as a cure for everything. He traveled west selling his tonic and became quite famous as both a healer and a showman: on stage, he goaded live rattle snakes into biting him and then drank his tonic. He never fell ill to the snake bites and he sold a lot of tonic.

If you have ever heard the term "snake oil peddler," this is where it came from; Echinacea was the first "quack" medicine labeled a "snake oil."  Meyer claimed his tonic would cure everything from cancer to mad dog bites to the plague.

By the end of the 19th century, Meyer wanted to know what this root actually was, so he shipped a case of his tonic to Professor King, one of the nation’s leading physicians and herbalists, and author of King’s American Dispensatory,.

Professor King could only laugh at the request, for how could you identify an herb from a tonic? He wrote Meyer telling him he would have to send the whole plant to King’s laboratory to discover what it was. Meyer sent off the plant to King who shelved it.

Meanwhile, Professor King’s wife was dying of cancer, and nothing he had given her would help. He had the best medicines of the day, but nothing helped his wife who was slipping away fast.

Just a few months later, Professor King’s wife had a full recovery, and King was overjoyed and came to her saying that he was glad that his medicines had finally worked. She told him that she hadn’t been following his medical advice, and to his astonishment, that she was taking the "snake oil" he had shelved.

Between 1919 and 1920, echinacea tincture was the most widely sold medical preparation in America and would have remained so, except that the AMA, a very powerful political organization, drove over 20,000 practicing herbalists out of business.

Echinacea can raise your T-cell count better than any drug available, and though most herbalists like to quantify data and write books, Dr Schulze, a master herbalist with years of clinical experience, will tell you that it will destroy tumors and help your body to heal any cancer, if you get a good, strong dose three to four times daily.Herb Pharm Super Echinacea Liquid - 1 oz

Most tinctures on the market recommend 15 to 30 drops three to four times daily. But herbal companies are in a competitive business, and price wars force them to create some pretty weak preparations. Personally, I take Herb Farm's Super Echinacea.

You can always make your own: get a fresh echinacea root, clean it, chop it up, and add 80 proof alcohol (vodka, brandy, etc.) so that the herb is covered (one to two inches above the herb). Shake daily for two weeks and then filter out the root. For even a more powerful formula, shake it daily for as long as you can or store it away for a year.

If you are growing echinacea, keep in mind that the entire plant can be used, but it is the root stock specifically that contains most of its power. Chinese wisdom tells us that the root is most powerful before the flower appears. At this time, the energy of the plant is in the root. When the flower appears, the energy is now in the flower. Thus, if you are going to use the root, you must dig it up before the flower appears. A good tincture will use not only the root, but the seeds and leaves and stems of a mature plant too. 

Keep in mind that tinctures destroy some of the properties of herbs, so teas and diffusions are also recommended, as well as capsules of freeze dried echinacea. And nobody ever said you can’t just chew on the plant.

If you want to order bulk herbs (organically grown), you can contact Pacific Botanicals, but remember, they sell only in bulk at quantities of a pound or more. You might find this expensive, but you’ll get much more for your money. They are located at 4350 Fish Hatchery Road, Grants Pass, OR 97527 (503) 479-7777.

A few last notes on echinacea: everybody we talked to praised this herb, recommending it for any immune system dysfunction and cancer, however, they all agreed that the body seems to get used to it when used for an extended period of time, so they recommend using it for two weeks, then a break for two weeks, and then going back on it for two weeks. In other words, echinacea is used to "kick-start" your immune system. You don't keep turning the key to your car after it has started, so you do not continue to take echinacea every day. Any formula that contains echinacea and is supposed to be used daily has been created by an idiot and you should steer clear of it. 

And one more warning: never mix echinacea with goldenseal. Two master herbalists have warned us on this one. You can mix it with astragalus, but never goldenseal. There are a bunch of herbal formulas with both echinacea and goldenseal. Master herbalists warn us to stay away from them.



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