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How to Make Echinacea Tincture--Growing and Using Purple Coneflower for Medicinal Use

Updated on March 19, 2016
Echinacea (Purple Conflower) with butterfly
Echinacea (Purple Conflower) with butterfly | Source

Echinacea tincture has almost endless medicinal uses. It will quickly cure many infections, both major and minor: urinary tract infections, infected teeth, chickenpox, and shingles are only a few. Many people take Echinacea in some form for colds and flu—in fact, for almost any minor illness.

HOW TO GROW ECHINACEA

While the native range for Echinacea is the eastern United States, it is a common plant, both wild and in flower gardens, throughout the Midwest and will grow almost anywhere. It is tolerant of drought, heat, humidity and poor soil, and may be grown in Zone 3-8. So it will take both very cold and very hot climates. The only real restriction of growing it successfully is that it requires full sun.

Echinacea is easily grown from seed, and purchased nursery plants will usually reseed themselves very productively.

While I’ve found that Echinacea seeds germinate very well, it is sometimes suggested that germination can be improved by two weeks of “stratification”—that is, “cold treatment.” This done by putting seeds in a small amount of moist potting soil and refrigerating. A pill bottle is a nice size for this.

Plant the seeds to the depth of the seed’s size in prepared soil. It doesn’t have to be great soil. Keep the bed watered, and you’ll soon see the seedlings emerging. They look a lot like weeds, so weed cautiously.

WHEN TO HARVEST THE ROOTS

While there are studies indicating that the whole plant has medicinal virtues, it is traditionally the root that is used. I am kind of a snob in this matter and I’m suspicious of claims about the medicinal value of the “whole plant” or the “aerial portions”—which you should look out for, if you buy Echinacea in capsule or tincture form. I don’t think the above-ground portions of the plant are as valuable.

Echinacea blooms in the second year after sowing the seeds. The root should not be harvested until at least the second year and is usually harvested in the autumn.

How to harvest? Just dig it up, cut off the top growth, and wash well. It’s a good idea to use a vegetable brush to make sure you’ve removed all the dirt.

HOW TO MAKE ECHINACEA TINCTURE

Chop your freshly harvested, thoroughly cleaned roots and stuff them in a pint jar. It would be good if the pint jar were stuffed full. Now pour a pint bottle of vodka over this, enough to completely cover the roots. Put a lid on the jar and let it stand for about a month. Strain off the liquid and store in a bottle.

This is the procedure for making all tinctures. In the old herbals, directions for making tinctures say you should use “rectified spirits.” That means “vodka.” It could also mean “Everclear,” but I find that tinctures made with Everclear are entirely too fiery going down.

A month is the usual time required for a tincture to be ready for use. One of my herbalist friends puts it a little differently: “One moon cycle.” So that’s the magic time.

When you’re done, you’ll have a whole pint of Echinacea tincture—which is pretty pricey stuff if you buy it in little 2-ounce bottles at the herb store or health-food store.

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