Thursday, November 17, 2011

herbal ritual: echinacea tincture





Making echinacea tincture to ward off colds and flu is another one of my herbal rituals. I don't need to make it every year, only when our stock runs low. The last batch was made in 2008 and we're down to a few drops in the last jar of that batch. (A tincture will last indefinitely as long as it contains at least 25% alcohol.)

My method has evolved over the years. At this point, I tincture the whole plant of homegrown fresh echinacea purpurea and purchased dried echinacea angustifolia root separately and combine them later to make a super-potent echinacea tincture. The flowers, leaves, seeds and roots of fresh echinacea purpurea are all used, each tinctured at their own best time, and added to the mix. I use 100 proof, or 50% alcohol, vodka as my menstruum.

The healing energy of echinacea sinks into the roots in the fall so the beginning of the next batch has been made. The roots of several plants 2-3 years old have been dug up and brushed off, swished briefly in cool water, dried, and chopped. A jar was filled with the roots and then filled again with vodka, to be infused for at least six weeks. In the next few days, I'll also be starting a brew with dried echinacea angustifolia roots in a separate jar. In six weeks, the two will be combined and we'll be able to use the tincture as medicine. Next year, I'll tincture fresh flowers and leaves, seeds, etc. adding them to the mix as I go.

I find it's better to make as much as I can so that we're free to use it as generously as is needed. Say you pay $10 for a bottle of tincture -- first of all that's a lot of money, and second of all that's not very much tincture. Depending on the specific herb and dosage, the bottle could be used up in a few days. When people say that herbs don't help them, I often wonder if the problem was they simply didn't take enough because of the cost.

If you use echinacea tincture even once in a while, it is worth every penny and every minute to grow and make your own.

15 comments:

Trish said...

Looks amazing.x

Marie said...

I have been an echinacea fan for years! I need to learn this asap.

I think you are right about the people not getting enough of the herb to heal because of the expense.

Do you ever just make a tea with the leaves?

Deb G said...

I haven't been brave enough yet to make anything with roots. Maybe in a couple years when my marshmallow gets big enough. I have valerian too (sp?).

woman with wings said...

Trish, an amazing herbal medicine!

woman with wings said...

Marie, I usually use echinacea in tincture form. But if you'd rather make a strong tea/infusion or decoction, you'd use the dried roots of echinacea angustifolia -- also a very effective way to partner with this great plant!

woman with wings said...

Deb, valerian is one of my all-time favorite plants ever ever. It self-seeds all over my yard and I adore it. Some people don't like the smell of its roots but I love it, I want to just eat 'em up -- but I don't of course! "They" say if you love the smell, that it is one of your plant allies. Marshmallow seems to need too much water for here but I envy you oh so much ...!

Nancy said...

You are so knowledgeable!

handstories said...

i am one of those who buys the tincture & swear by it, especially w/the goldenseal. i used to get strep throat all the time before using this. for a terrible uninformed lazy gardener, how difficult would it be to grow echinacea in the northwest?

Deb G said...

Cindy, I've tried growing echinacea a couple times and it always dies on me. I don't baby anything other than my bay tree though.

Peggy, I've never had the valerian re-seed but I've moved it and found that even a tiny piece of root keeps growing! I love having it in the garden, even though I've never used it.

woman with wings said...

Nancy, well thanks -- it's from the "doing", like with anything!

woman with wings said...

Cindy & Deb -- you two are both in the NW so go by Deb's experience. Echinacea purpurea is a popular ornamental as well as a medicinal -- maybe you see it around in people's gardens, known as coneflower? -- it doesn't need water although it can take it, I see people water the heck out of it -- but then I get concerned that the medicinal value is less from overwatering. It might be worth babying if that what it would take. Or, do you think you tried to grow E. angustifolia, Deb? That one's a bugger to grow BUT does well out on the prairie on its own with very little water and harsh conditions. I can't grow it either. Wild goldenseal is an at-risk plant so look for the cultivated variety in your medicines -- *and* the good news is that Oregon grape root is a great replacement for goldenseal that would be native for you!

Deb G said...

Not sure which one, probably purpurea since I've usually bought it at nurseries. I think I've tried some from a garden sale too though. It grows fine during the summer but never comes back. For Cindy-I've tried it both in Bellingham and Seattle, both gardens had/have high clay content. I think the roots get too wet in the winter and freeze/rot.

woman with wings said...

Deb, I bet you're right, that would be hard on a low-water plant's roots. How big is your bay tree? I haven't done well with that one either. But I have over-wintered an orange tree under lights...dumb luck, I think.

handstories said...

i guess, being the pathetic gardener that i am, that i'll keep splurging on the tincture, but not be skimpy with it. thanks both of you.

Deb G said...

The bay tree, well the current one is about 15 inches. I bought it from a local grower that took cuttings off her tree. She leaves it outside and wraps it each winter and says hers is about 4 or 5 feet now. In the past I've had 3 foot trees in planters that I've hauled in and out each winter. Always hard to find the right spot inside for them. I should do a post on this... :)

Cindy- probably a good idea. I bet I've spent as much on plants as you have on tincture!