I decided to make an Echinacea tincture as my first herbal project for Herbal Academy of New England. I’m enrolled in their Intermediate Herbal Course and one of my assignments was to make an herbal recipe and write about it. It’s not chance that I chose Echinacea. We are smack-dab in the middle of cold and flu season, and many of my Kindergarten students are presently fighting off colds. Echinacea tincture is the perfect and practical choice. I purchased one pound of organic Echinacea purpurea root and two large bottles of brandy. I chose brandy over vodka because brandy seems more soothing when you have a cold. Who wouldn’t like a brandy (or whiskey with lemon) by the fire when they’re feeling under the weather?
After a bit of searching the basement shelves, I found my large two-gallon jar. I cleaned it and dried it thoroughly. I put the dried Echinacea purpurea root in the jar and then covered it with the brandy in stages, stirring in between pours to make sure that all the herb was covered by the brandy. I put it in one of my kitchen cabinets to “rest.” Every so often I gave the giant jar a hearty shake. After a few days, I could see that the echinacea root was absorbing the brandy and the liquid wasn’t fully covering the herb anymore (and it should be) so I added additional brandy. After waiting almost four weeks (tinctures can “rest” three to six weeks) , I got impatient. Using a fine mesh strainer, I strained the tincture into sixteen amber glass 4 oz. bottles.
Just as I feared, two days ago, I started to feel sick: sore throat, brain fogginess, sinus pressure, and headache. I have been using the tincture for two days. To take the medicine, I squeeze the dropper and draw the tincture into the glass tube and drop it into my mouth. I do this twice. I prefer to take it this way rather than mixing it with water. Admittedly, it takes a little getting used to the earthy taste. I can happily say that the tincture is helping me fight the virus.
There are nine species in the genus Echinacea. Echinacea is a perennial. You may have some of these beautiful plants in your gardens already. I have the Purple Coneflower, aka Echincacea Purpurea, in my gardens. The pollinators love them. In fact, that’s the reason why I planted them last year. They feed my honey bees and many beautiful butterflies, and when the season is over the center cone provides food for the birds. The flowers, leaves, and roots can’t be harvested until the plant is at least three years old. Harvesting is done in the fall after the first frost when the leaves and flowers have browned.
Echinacea works as immune stimulant. If it is taken at the onset of cold, it can shorten and lessen the severity of illness. It should not be taken on a regular basis longer than six to eight weeks. If you take it to help you get through cold season it is best take it for a couple weeks, then take a week off, then resume. Always consult your health professional before taking Echinacea with other prescribed medications. As with any medication, drug interactions can occur.