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Question about growing Echinacea Purpurea  RSS feed

 
Posts: 136
Location: Middle Georgia
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So my Echinacea Purpurea plant (started from seed in spring) has gotten 2.5 feet tall and produced about 20 blossoms this year. Was a shocker since I actually ordered seeds (from the U.K.) for Echinacea Angustifolia and all those plants were eaten by insects, but the purpurea seed that was accidentally included really thrived and is the only one still standing. I saved a bunch of seeds.

Anyway now the blossoms are all dying back which is to be expected, but also the whole plant is looking like it is dying back too. Is that normal? We are still having very hot days, no cold temps.  Should I water it more?  If the foliage is dying off for the year I would like to trim it and tincture the leaves, but if the plant needs help I will give it more water/fertilizer.

Any advice?
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Okay so I finally searched for an answer and yes, it appears the plant dies back after it stops blooming for the year. At that point it can be trimmed back to ground level if desired. I trimmed off the branches and the upper leaves and will tincture them.

(Wanted to update the thread in case someone else searches and finds this thread).
 
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My understanding of plants might differ from yours, so in speaking of this topic I will explain my understanding.  Plants like echinacea rise and fall with the seasons, and their energy does as well.  When your echinacea dies back visibly as you describe, it has already sent a lot of energy down into its roots for storage for next year's growth.  Your tincture will have some potency but not nearly what it would be if it were fresh and the energy full.  A tincture of the entire plant can be made when the flower is just in bud.  In the spring, fresh echinacea leaves can be tinctured.  This is when the leaves have the most potency.  That's where the energy is.  As the plant rises up to produce other products like flowers, these reach a peak of energy before they start to produce seed.  Many people make a tincture of echinacea flower.  This takes the least out of the plant's potential to store energy in it's roots.  The plant will be a perennial for quite a few years.  I'm leaving my roots in the ground for a minimum of 5 years before I tincture the roots.  Roots are either harvested in the late fall, or in spring as soon as the ground can be worked.  This ensures that most of the plant's energy is present in that part.  I hope that this is helpful.   
 
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Echinacea purpurea is indeed a perennial that dies back to ground level once reproduction is completed, completed means that the seeds are fully formed and dropping to the soil.
The best method of taking care of this particular plant is to just let it die back without trimming, once the plant leaves are dead then you can remove them if you so desire but they also form the perfect mulch for the root crown thus providing winter protection for the crown.

As Roberto brought up, the best medicines are made from vibrant leaves and flowers, not end of the season dead or dying leaves.
Once the flowers have been pollinated you can pluck the petals for use in medicine making and be fine potency wise.
Leaves are best cut at the base when they just reach their largest size. Roots are best when lifted just after the plant dies back because all the energy has made it into the crown at that point.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Roberto and Bryant thank you both for your thoughtful replies.

I am new to herbals and just began growing some (and tincturing) this year. This is the only surviving plant so I did not harvest any of the leaves or blooms this year as I was happy to have one plant thrive and produce seeds. The older leaves won't have as much medicinal value but there will still be some and it gives me something to tincture.

I don't use herbal sites much, if I find an herb I want to grow I try to research as much as I can on google scholar and look up studies on extraction and clinical studies. I got into this because I prep and I also have asthma so I wanted a plant that produced ephedrine, that started me researching (and I researched "ephedrine content" not "plant energy", kwim?)

Just an FYI, some of the studies I have seen state the best time to harvest the roots (and leaves) is in the spring:
---------------------------------------------

A total of 16 alkamides, three ketoalkenes, two ketoalkynes, and four phenolic acids (echinacoside, cichoric acid, caftaric acid, and chlorogenic acid) were identified in aqueous ethanolic (70%) extracts by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry and quantified by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. The major alkamides in the roots of E. purpurea were at their lowest concentration in the middle of autumn and early winter, and the total concentration of lipophilic compounds in E. pallida showed the same pattern. Moreover, all of the major phenolic acids in E. purpurea were at their highest concentrations in spring. The optimal harvest time in spring is in contrast to normal growing guidelines; hence, this specific information of seasonal variations in the concentrations of lipophilic and phenolic compounds in E. purpurea and E. pallida is valuable for research, farmers, and producers of medicinal preparations.

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf303292t
 
Bryant RedHawk
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There are two schools of thought on many of the herbs potency.
One school believes that first sap flow is the best, most potent time of year, the other believes that right after sap stops flowing is the most potent time.
When you study the life of a plant, how the plant derives the energy and nutrients to thrive you can surmise that neither school of thought is incorrect.
When spring arrives and sap begins to flow, the stored nutrients from the roots is brought up through the stems to stimulate leaf buds to open and grow.
When fall arrives and the sap is pulled down into the roots for winter storage, the roots swell with nutrients and hold on to them, waiting for the next spring warmth.
Leaves loose their nutrients and thus the medicinal value as the sap leaves the leaf, in trees the leaf stem seals off not allowing any more nutrient flow to the leaf, as the leaf starves it changes color then turns brown and falls to the ground as the dried out leaf stem hardens and the seal becomes brittle.

When to harvest is actually more of a "what part of the medicinal uses are you needing right now?" question over a "when should I harvest for medicine?" question.

This is where knowledge of each herb is most useful and the more complete your knowledge the better you can make the all important determinations of time to pick, use it fresh or use if dried, decoction, tincture, essential oil, or some other method should be used for the particular need at the time.
This is why it takes so many years to become a true Herbalist, there are literally hundreds of medicinal herbs and not surprisingly, the culinary herbs are also medicinal herbs, even the needles of evergreens are medicinal herbs.

One of my Herbal books lists 450 different herbs, what each one effects, how it effects, the known side effects, what type of affects to expect and all the methods of extraction along with how to use those extractions to best effect on each malady.

You did your search correctly by looking for ephedrine content, since that is the drug you seek for your treatment. One other way to search would be "plants that contain ephedrine"
You could also search by "herbs for treating asthma" which might give some additional plants to research.

You are starting a long and very interesting journey, should you decide to continue herbology.

Redhawk
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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I will admit I am very skeptical of most herbal sites. If you search for "herbs for asthma" many sites list 80 different herbs with NO real explanation of why they may work and many sites will claim many herbs cure pretty much every ailment known to mankind.

The chemical properties of the plant are what makes it work and if a source disregards that aspect entirely I suspect they are just repeating things they heard or read without any basic understanding of WHY it works. Though I understand that sometimes no one really knows exactly why a plant may be effective (Echinacea for example) and that is okay too if people state that and are honest about it.

It is probably a left vs. right brained thing, many folks interested in herbal remedies are left brained therefore they like vague language that speaks of emotion/energy/chi etc... I am right brained when looking for solutions to problems so I want facts and cold hard data whenever possible.

I just grew a few this year and some didn't do well. Sida Cordifolia (low ephedrine content), Ephedra (will take years before big enough to harvest), Echinacea, Valerian (which doesn't seem to like full sun after all, at least not during very hot Southern summers), Elecampane (anti-inflammatory, that didn't do well either), and some flowers that shall go unnamed. Also grew tobacco and that did really well, but can't really claim it is for medicinal purposes I just like to smoke it.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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If you want to really learn this craft (I consider it a craft because you used to be able to apprentice to an herbalist to learn), these books might be of interest to you Lucrecia.

medical herbalism

The herbal bear

introduction to chinese herbology

Those should get your library started nicely and they are not filled with bunk.

Redhawk
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:If you want to really learn this craft (I consider it a craft because you used to be able to apprentice to an herbalist to learn), these books might be of interest to you Lucrecia.

medical herbalism

The herbal bear

introduction to chinese herbology

Those should get your library started nicely and they are not filled with bunk.

Redhawk



Thank you! Having a short list of good books helps a lot. I am learning to garden in general (steep learning curve) and half my stuff failed to thrive this year. I will be tweeking my methods and trying again next year and then I will think about adding some new herbs and researching which ones to grow.
 
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