Harvest the roots of a 2-3 year old plant in the spring or the fall. E. Augustifolia has fibrous roots and E. Purpurea has a tap root.
To harvest Echinacea, using a shovel or a garden fork, lift the roots out of the ground around the Echinacea plant. I use a large shovel and basically dig up the whole root ball of the plant.
Now you can take pieces of the root from the root ball to harvest and replant the rest, or you can remove the whole plant to harvest the roots. Removing the whole plant can allow you to thin out your Echinacea patch.
After you have dug up the roots, clean them off. I pull off as many dirt clumps as I can with my hands then I spray them down with a hose and then I get up close and personal giving them a good scrub. I like to get them as clean as possible without scrubbing off skin of the roots.
Now that they are all cleaned up I chop them into ¼-½ inch pieces to be used. From here you can dry them, tincture them or turn them into a decoction.
Tincture Supplies and ingredients
¼ cup dried echinacea root or ½ cup fresh echinacea root
80-100 proof alcohol.
Strainer set up (you can create your own set up but this is what I use)
Tiny funnel (I found mine in the camping section, the ones used to put kerosene into lanterns)
Glass Amber dropper bottles (optional)
Or a Jar to store your finished tincture.
Tincture notes: This is the folk method which means it’s simply done by pouring the alcohol over the roots (or other herb parts). Tinctures can be very complicated when you go into percentages and volumes of water in the herbs and the menstruum (alcohol.) You can learn more about this in the Medicine Maker's Handbook. Personally I like the folk method, it is simple and effective!
You can also make tinctures using glycerin or vinegar. The process is the same but the alcohol tinctures will keep much longer than the other menstruum versions.
Check the tincture after a day to make sure all your roots are still covered. If not add more menstruum.
This tincture will need to sit for at least 6 weeks in a dark area, shaking daily (at least weekly.) It can sit longer if you don’t have the time to strain it right at 6 weeks.
Strain out your herbs, leaving the jar setting upside down for a while to make sure all the liquid is strained out is a good practice so you don’t waste a drop.
Using the tincture
You can add this tincture to a tea, mix it on a spoon with some honey or take it straight.
You can also make an echinacea throat spray. This spray can soothe the throat, the tingle of echinacea helps numb the irritation and the echinacea helps fight the infection causing the sore throat.
Side note: I believe I’ve discovered why the jar of echinacea tincture was so much darker...The tincture stained the jar. I noticed the same thing happening on a different batch. When I really looked at the tincture itself it wasn’t that dark.