As we continue our series on preparing for the cold & flu season, I must mention echinacea. Our medicine cabinet would not be complete without one of the most popular, immune-enhancing herbs, echinacea.
Echinacea is a staple in my home, along with Elderberry Cold & Flu Syrup and Fire Cider, especially during the fall and winter months.
Fall is the perfect time for harvesting echinacea root. If you don’t have access to fresh echinacea, you can use dried echinacea (Echinacea purpurea / E. angustifolia) in the recipe or you can purchase a pre-made Echinacea Tincture. I recommend this brand and also this one for children.
What is Echinacea?
Echinacea (also known as purple coneflower ) is a perennial plant that grows in the United States and Canada. All parts of the plant can be used as medicine. Echinacea is best known for boosting the immune system by promoting blood circulation and lymph flow and by stimulating white blood cells.
Echinacea is useful for:
treating cold & flu
lowering fevers (by stopping the spread of infection)
as an antiseptic to clean wounds
treating sore throats (squirt or spray the tincture directly on the back of your throat every hour or so)
How to Use Echinacea
Echinacea should not be taken daily to “prevent” a cold or flu. It works best when taken at the onset of symptoms and continuing ONLY while you have symptoms.
Herbalist Paul Bergner in the Medical Herbalism Journal suggests the following dosage:
A high dose of a teaspoon or more per hour for the first few hours, then tapering to 4 tsp per day on the second day and continuing while symptoms are present.
Keep in mind that you will be taking your tincture mixed with a small amount of water.
For our tincture, we will be only be harvesting the root. The best time to harvest echinacea root is in the fall, when all the energy in the plant moves to the roots in preparation for winter. Harvest only 2-3 year old plants as the older plants are tough and woody and difficult to chop.
How to Make an “Immune-Boosting”
Echinacea Tincture & Throat Spray
You can read more about tinctures here.
1 quart wide mouth jar with lid ** See recipe notes.
1 pint or regular quart jar with lid for storing your completed tincture
Tincture bottle with dropper and spray glass bottle like this one (if desired for throat spray and/or antibacterial spray)
Approximately 6-9 fresh echinacea roots or 2 cups dried echinacea root
Approximately 3 cups 80-100 proof vodka, apple cider vinegar or food grade vegetable glycerin
Clean your echinacea roots by scrubbing, peeling and breaking them apart as necessary. Chop them small and place them in your glass jar.
Pour enough vodka (or apple cider vinegar or glycerin) over the chopped roots to completely cover them by 2-3 inches then seal your jar with a tight fitting lid.
Let the roots soak in a warm spot, out of direct sunlight for 4-6 weeks. Shake your jar often, every day if possible.
After 4-6 weeks, strain the roots from the liquid. Fill a small tincture bottle for daily use and a glass spray bottle (if desired for throat spray and/or antibacterial spray) and pour the remaining tincture in a clean glass jar. Label and date your tincture. Store in a cool, dark place.
Note from Jen:
Apple cider vinegar will cause your metal caps to rust. If using apple cider vinegar in your tincture, use either a plastic lid or place a piece of plastic wrap between the jar and the metal lid.