Echinacea, the beautiful pop of color speckled throughout Kansas prairie's in the summer and one of my favorite herbs to work with in the fall.
So what’s the deal with Echinacea?
Echinacea is a beautiful prairie flower, it is also an endangered plant that must be cared for. To make sure this herb continues as a beautiful wild flower it’s a good idea to grow your own for harvest instead of wildcrafting.
Echinacea was the main player in one of the original snake oils. In the 1800’s Dr. Meyer made claims that it could cure many things including snake bites. In combination with other herbs such as plantain it may be useful for snake and spider bites.
Echinacea is an anti-microbial, anti-viral, immunomodulator, anti-inflammatory, anti-catarrhal, and alterative. Because of this Echinacea good for bacterial and viral infections.
Echinacea should not be taken as a daily immune booster. It is wonderful at shortening the duration of an illness or infection but using it as a daily immune booster may make it less effective when you really need it. It may not make you free from symptoms but it will make you feel better quicker.
The aerial parts can be used just as you would use any other aerial part in a tea. You can drink one cup of this every 2-3 hours for acute conditions. I personally don't mess with the aerial parts and find the roots more worth my time.
Echinacea can be used safely in all ages, those with a rare allergy to the aster family may be allergic to Echinacea.
To take a deeper look into Echinacea check out my post over at Self Reliant School.
To create your own Echinacea remedies you'll need to start with roots. You can harvest your own or you can purchase dried roots through Mountain Rose Herbs or Bulk Herb Store.
Making the tincture.
I'll give you measurements but I never really measure. I use the folk method for my tinctures so I'll also show you how I do that.
1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup fresh Echinacea root
1 cup 80 proof vodka or other 80 proof alcohol.
For the no measure method follow the steps.
1) Place the roots in a jar. If doing the no measure method fill your glass jar 3/4 of the way full.
2) Pour the vodka over the root. For the no measure method pour the vodka until it is 1/2 inch over the roots.
3) Cap and Shake well.
4) Label with the date you made the tincture. Place in an area out of direct sunlight.
5) Check the tincture the next day to make sure the alcohol is still covering the roots.
6) Shake your tincture often. Daily is best but let's be honest some days you forget.
7) After 6 weeks you can strain the roots out of the tincture and bottle the liquid. You can let the tincture sit longer than 6 weeks. It won't hurt a thing.
What to do with the tincture?
Now that you have the tincture how can you use it?
You can place the tincture on ulcers and athlete's foot as a fomentation.
You can place your drops in a tea. This tea will leave a strange feeling in your mouth because of the tingling feeling echinacea leaves.
To make sure I get the Echinacea down quick I put my drops on a spoon with honey and take it down quick.
You can use it as a throat spray.
Basic Echinacea Throat Spray
2 tbsp of Echinacea tincture
1 tbsp of warm water
1/8 tsp of peppermint extract (tincture)
2 tbsp of raw honey
Combine all the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake it to mix well. Spray directly into your mouth. Use it often.
Making the Decoction
Making a decoction of Echinacea can be very useful. You can drink it to fight illness or apply it externally for ailments such as fungus and wounds.
1 tsp dried root chopped
1 pint water
1) Simmer the root for 10 minutes.
2) After you are done let it sit to cool for 30 minutes.
3) Strain the root from the liquid
4) You may store this in the fridge for a day or two.
What to do with the decoction?
Decoctions can be used for fomentations to place on old sores, ulcers and fungus such as athlete's foot.
Fomentations are basically a warm compress. You can soak a clean tea towel in the decoction and place it where it's needed.
You can also use a warm decoction, not hot, for a gargle for a sore throat.
Decoctions can be taken internally for acute (sudden) illnesses.
For Echinacea to be effective you should start taking it at the first signs of an illness or infection. It is not a cure all but instead it helps to boost the body's systems that fight off infections.
Take 15-30 drops of a tincture every 2-3 hours. You can take it more often if needed. Other sources say a teaspoon or more per hour for the first few hours, reducing the amount to 4 teaspoons a day on the second day and the days following, until the symptoms are gone. Do this for up to 5 days. Take at least a 2 day break and resume if needed.
Take a decoction internally one tablespoon frequently.
Externally the decoction can be used as a wash or a fomentation, no real dose to this. Leave it in place as long as it is warm. Change it out as often as needed.
There ya have it, echinacea decoded. The key to this is taking the right amount of whatever form you choose. Remember it is not meant to make the symptoms disappear but instead to shorten the duration of an infection or illness. However the tingling feeling certainly soothes a sore throat.
I hope this was helpful. If you have anymore questions ask away!