The Milkweed Diaries

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Medicine Made From Flowers

Echinacea purpurea harvested from last summer's garden
This time of year, it's nice to have some herbal potions around to help fend off germs and stay healthy.  I was inspired in August to make a quick batch of Echinacea tincture from flowers and leaves for future use during cold season.

For years I stayed away from tincture-making because I thought I needed to have a tincture press, precisely measure everything, and probably possess some special knowledge that I did not have.  Fortunately in recent years knowing lots of herbalists in the "wise woman" folk tradition has given me confidence to try making simple concoctions like Echinacea tincture on my own.

Because this herb is tinctured in vodka rather than grain alcohol, it is going to be less potent.  Also, I only used leaf, stem, and flower, rather than root, which will make for a milder medicine.  The medicinal properties of Echinacea root are stronger than those of the above-ground parts of the plant.

My plan was to dig up some Echinacea roots after the plants died back in the fall and tincture those too and mix the two tinctures together for a whole-plant medicine, but I haven't gotten around to it, and I've just been using the milder leaf, flower, and stem tincture.

Here's the (very simple) process I used to tincture my Echinacea:

Harvest flowers, leaves, and stems in the summer when flowers are in full bloom

Rinse off bugs and debris

Fill a quart jar with chopped leaves and flowers

Pack everything tightly down into the jar

Cover the chopped up flowers, leaves, and stems with organic vodka
It was quick and easy to make a quart.  Six weeks later, I strained the contents of the jar through cheesecloth and bottled it up in empty tincture bottles.

Rosemary Gladstar has a great little video on tincturing Echinacea - she's using dried root, but the process is pretty much exactly what I did:

Here's how my tincture turned out:

I love thinking about Echinacea in full bloom in the summertime when I dose myself up with a shot of tincture.

Echinacea purpurea blooming in my garden last summer
Sifting through summer photos, I also came across this accidental little 3-second video, which I love because it includes an audio snapshot of the sounds of summer.  I love thinking of Echinacea tincture as the essence of summer, captured in a bottle, perfect for fending off winter ailments.


Dana said...

Gorgeous flowers, Bethy. And it looks like your tincture assumed a surprisingly dark, lovely hue, certainly indicative of some "active constituents." (I'll have to consult my mug to find out more. I dig the blogging roll you're on. I'm hoping for some inspiration soon for mine.

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