Here at HIllside Gardens, our lovely Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) have been blooming all summer and are now ready to harvest and make medicine. I have a limited number of plants so I prefer to just harvest the flowers and leaves for making my Echinacea Tincture. I have in the past dug up the whole plant, divided the roots, replanted some, and made my medicine with the roots, flowers and leaves together.
Fall and winter are often the times people start eating a lot of sugar, especially related to holidays, but also just eating ice cream and other goodies. This lowers your immune system and it’s often why we think there is a ‘cold and flu season’. It also relates to kids going back to school. Schools are notorious for being germ factories, and kids bring home whatever is going around. There is also the issue of ‘flu vaccines’ which contain live virus. I’m convinced this is a harmful practice because I don’t see a lessening of flu but instead nastier varieties. Parents send their sick kids off to school for the baby sitting service. Please don’t do this. Think that your kids will also have the bad results from some other kid.
So, I don’t believe that there is so much a season. I just think it’s because we eat junk. Echinacea has been used for ages to help our immune systems combat bacterial and viral infections, and to strengthen our immunity in many ways. Besides fighting viruses, Echinacea can also fight against bacterial and fungal infection.
So, since it’s now the time in the garden to gather the makings, this will give you a nice supply to last for a long time.
If you go to the health food store or online and buy Echinacea tincture you will pay a lot of money. Typically over $8/oz. Why not make it yourself? It’s just a matter of growing Cone Flower in your garden and harvesting the flowers and leaves, or if you have a lot of the plants, harvest the roots. (Or you can purchase the herb from a reputable herb company like Mountain Rose Herb Company or Bulk Apothecary.) But you can cut the roots up and replant some of them so you don’t completely kill off the plant. Here is how to do tincture it:
I get the cheapest vodka, it isn’t for taste anyway. But any alcohol will do. Some use brandy or spirits, even wine though it is much less percentage alcohol. Don’t waste your money on 95% like Ever Clear or Moonshine unless you want to dilute it. I buy it by the quart. Usually I get the 80 proof which is 40% alcohol. You don’t need the higher (50% 100 poof) usually.
If you want a broader medicinal effect, blend it with other herbs which are mentioned in the article below – (increases effectiveness). But make each herb tincture separately and later blend the tinctures. You have more control over it that way.
BTW, other info I have is that Echinacea tincture shouldn’t be automatically taken every day (which would make it a tonic which it is not). But it can be taken 3x a day for 3 days then leave it for some time. I take it when I feel something coming on or when a cold or flu has gone on too long. It isn’t just an antibiotic, it’s a terrific immune booster. But you can abuse your immune system taking it too long. You’ll see that in this reference: https://practicalselfreliance.com/echinacea-tincture/ This gives a full tutorial on how to do the whole process. It also contains dosages.
I purchase or save quart mason jars for my tinctures.
As you make each individual kind of herb MAKE SURE YOU LABEL EACH BOTTLE! All tinctures look pretty much the same once they are in the jar – I put the herb name, the alcohol (i.e. Vodka 80 proof), the date made.
Put the jar out of direct sunlight (back of the kitchen counter works well) and shake it every day or so for 1 to 3 months. Once it has been masticating (soaking) for long enough, it needs to be strained. I sew a bag with muslin cloth (well washed, preferably not bleached), that just fits the inside of a mason jar and is long enough to curve over the top and down about 2” longer. Once ready, I put the bag into another clean mason jar (quart) and pour the whole jar with herbs and all into this. Then I pick the bag up by the part folded over the rim, slowly out of the jar, carefully, let it strain, then squeeze the dickens out of it to get every drop.
Then you can either compost the mast (solids) or if you want to make a double extract, put the now strained mast into a small pan, add filtered or purified water to cover the solids and a bit more, and slowly simmer (don’t boil) it for about an hour (replacing water as it evaporates). I like this method especially when using the root. Then repeat the filtering and pour the water (decoction) and the tincture (alcohol) together, mix and pour into dark glass bottles (old wine bottles of any color but not clear) work the best. Label it with the herb, the alcohol, the date, and call it Double Extract (or DX). This really gets all the medicinal compounds out of the herb. I especially do this with mushrooms or roots but any herb will do.
Enjoy the process.
Once you have a supply of the tincture made up, purchase glass dropper bottles of amber or other color https://www.bulkapothecary.com/categories/containers/glass-bottles/ Bulk Apothecary. Using a tiny mouthed funnel (can be found in a package of 4 sizes at Walmart), carefully fill a dropper bottle and label it (I cover my labels with clear packing tape so later the label doesn’t get washed off or damaged ).
Tinctures are a very long lasting way to preserve and extract the medicinal value of herbs and mushrooms. They last at least 12 years (some say much longer). As long as you keep them out of direct sunlight and in a cool place, almost indefinitely.
Caveat: This article is not meant to replace professional health care. I am not a doctor or a certified herbalist and am not practicing but if you wish to be more self-reliant, it’s a good thing to know how to make home remedies and be able to use plants especially if in a crisis situation. If you are on pharmaceuticals, be sure to check to make sure there are no clashes with what you are taking. Mostly personally I just grow about 150 different medicinal herbs, and make what we need. Echinacea (Cone Flower) is a native of Georgia and is a beautiful flower.
Diann Dirks 9/17/20 Hillside Gardens, Auburn, Ga.