Before you know it, the cold and flu season will be upon us again. Why not make your own medicinal tea now in preparation?
Echinacea AKA Purple Coneflower is an effective immune booster that has been used for centuries in folk medicine. It’s effects are now backed by research – studies show that taking it at the first sign of a cold or flu can decrease the duration and intensity of the symptoms. It contains natural chemicals which increase white blood cell activity.
It is also a beautiful perennial plant in the garden, attracting bees and butterflies all summer long. Autumn is the best time to harvest Echinacea roots. Wait until after the first frost and the tops have all gone to seed. Your plants should be at least three years old before you harvest any roots.
1. Carefully dig around the plant with a spade, gently prying it up to expose the roots. Some people harvest and use the whole root crown, ending the life of the plant. You can also harvest a few big roots and then replant it. According to Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Herbs, you can harvest the crown, cut all the roots off and replant it and it will come back.
2. What ever parts you decide to use, cut them off with a sharp knife or clippers.
3. Wash thoroughly and pat dry. If you took the whole crown, cut it up before washing to make sure all the soil wedged inside is flushed out. Cut into 1″ or smaller pieces. It is easier to cut fresh roots than dry. A tincture or decoction can be made now with the fresh roots or they can be dried for brewing as needed (decoctions are only potent for about 24 hours).
4. To dry lay the pieces out on a screen in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. They may take several weeks.
5. When completely dry, store in a tightly covered glass jar in a cool, dark place. Remember to label it, including the date. The dried roots lose most of their potency after about a year.
Decoction (from the Latin decoquer – to boil down) is the method for brewing most medicine from roots, barks and seeds.
1. Combine 1/2 ounce of fresh or dried root, cut into small pieces, and approx. 3 cups of cold water in a saucepan.
2. Cover, bring to a boil slowly, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
3. Press the herb to release all the water soluble materials from the marc (remaining pulp). Allow to cool.
4. Strain. Add enough water to bring it back to 3 cups of liquid. Makes 3 servings.
5. Sweeten if desired and drink within 24 hours for best effectiveness.
Making medicine from plants you grew yourself is an empowering process and Echinacea tea is a good place to start.
Some of this information came from The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook by James Green, Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Herbs, and GardenGuides.com