The Purple Coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia, was the most widely used medicinal plant of the Plains Indians.  They used it as a painkiller as well as for toothaches, coughs, colds, sore throats, and snake bite.  According to Ethnobotanist Melvin Gilmore, the Purple Coneflower was used by all the Indians of the Upper Missouri River region to treat snakebite and other venomous bites, stings and poisonings.  Gilmore also stated that these Plains Indians used Purple Coneflower for more ailments than any other plant.

The Dakotas used the freshely scraped root as a remedy for hydrophobia and snakebite and applied it to wounds that had putrefied.  They applied the ground root to to inflamed areas to relieve the burning sensation with its feeling of coolness.  The Lakota people used the plant for toothaches, tonsillitis, stomachaches, and pain in the bowels.  (Kindscher).

Omaha medicine men applied the macerated root as a local anesthetic so that they could remove pieces of meat from a boiling pot without flinching.  A Winnebago medicine man also used it to make his mouth insensitive to the heat allowing him to insert a live coal into his mouth to demonstrate his power according to Gilmore.

The Cheyennes made a tea from the leaves and the roots of the Purple Coneflower to remedy a sore mouth and gums along with toothaches and neck pains.  They also used this tea for a variety of other ailments including rheumatism, arthritis, mumps, and measles.  The roots were even mixed with blazing star (Mentzelia laevicaulis) and boiled.  This tea was used to treat smallpox.  During the Sun Dance, the root was chewed to increase the flow of saliva and worked as a valuable thirst preventative.  (Kindscher).

American Indians have many names for Echinacea indicating the many important roles it plays in their lives. The Omahas and Poncas called it "mika-hi" (comb plant) because they used the seed head to comb their hair.  The Pawnee referred to it as "ksapitahako" (hand to whirl) due to its use by children in play when they take two stalks of it and whirl one round the other, the two stalks touching by the two heads. The Lakota called it "ica'hpe hu" (something to knock something down with) when they found it in the hills.  When they find it in lower areas they refer to it as "on'glakcapi" (something to comb the hair with).  (Kindscher).


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