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.