No homemade medicine cabinet would be complete without echinacea tincture. It’s easy to prepare, abundantly available, and one of the most reputable herbal remedies. I’m sharing the recipe I use to make our echinacea tincture.
The benefits of echinacea purperea tincture are primarily anecdotal and historical as science is giving us mixed reports, but echinacea is said to reduce the severity and duration of common cold symptoms (among other things) and that it may give your immune system that kick-in-the-pants boost it’s been needing.
“Research to date shows that echinacea probably modestly reduces cold symptoms, but it’s not clear whether it helps prevent colds from developing. “- Source
“The best research on echinacea comes from Germany, a country that is far ahead of the United States in the scientific study of over-the-counter herbal medicines. Echinacea has been studied in Germany using double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, the gold standard for scientific research on drugs. In this type of study, one group gets the real pill and the other group, the control group, gets a look-alike dummy pill. Neither the researcher nor the research subjects know who has gotten which pill until data collection is completed and the data are analyzed. This kind of research is especially necessary in studying herbal medicines to correct for the well-known placebo effect in which even a dummy pill can produce healing effects because of the power of suggestion. A double- blind, placebo-controlled study has shown that echinacea users experienced less frequent and less severe virus infections (colds and flus) by one-third to one-half compared to the group that took dummy pills (which interestingly also reported a decrease in severity of flu symptoms).” –Source
“Whether or not echinacea helps prevent or treat the common cold remains controversial. Some studies have shown that the herb can make you feel better faster. Others suggest that echinacea has no impact on a cold at all. Several clinical trials have shown that people who take echinacea as soon as they feel sick reduce the severity of their cold and have fewer symptoms than those who do not take the herb. One study of 95 people with early symptoms of cold and flu (such as runny nose, scratchy throat, and fever) found that those who drank several cups of echinacea tea every day for 5 days felt better sooner than those who drank tea without echinacea.
A review of 14 clinical trials found that echinacea reduced the odds of developing a cold by 58% and the duration of a cold by 1 to 4 days. However, some experts dispute these findings claiming there were several weaknesses in the analyses. Echinacea preparations tested in clinical trials differ greatly. It is important to choose a high-quality echinacea supplement, and to use echinacea as early as possible in the course of a cold, with multiple doses per day for the first few days. Talk to your health care provider for recommendations.”- Source
For me, there have been enough positive reports suggesting that echinacea is effective for reducing cold symptoms and duration that I believe it’s worth the few minutes to prepare an echinacea tincture for my family to get them feeling well sooner.
Since I already have echinacea growing in my backyard, it is readily available and incredibly economical. It gets quadruple bonus points for being beautiful, long-blooming, attracting pollinators, and for being easily self-sowing.
If you don’t have echinacea growing in your yard, there are other ways you can take it to get the benefits:
Either way you choose, you’re going to want to have echinacea on hand before you get that first cold of the season. And while you’re shopping, purchase a packet of seeds to sow in the spring so in a few years you can harvest your own!
The parts of Echinacea used in herbal medicines are the roots and aerial parts of three species: Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida. The main active compounds of Echinacea are caffeic acid derivatives (phenolic compounds), alkamides and polysaccharides. Among caffeic acid derivatives, several components, such as caftaric acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, echinacoside and chichoric acid, are identified from Echinacea extracts. Chicoric acid is the major phenolic compound in E. purpurea, but minor in E. angustifolia and E. pallida. Echinacoside is the main phenolic compound in E. angustifolia and E. pallida, but only trace is found in E. purpurea.
“Studies have shown that chichoric acid can help to support proper immune system responses, as well as free radical neutralizing properties. Recently, it has been found that it may support the body’s healthy response to immune system challenges. Echinacoside does not contribute its effects on the immune system, but it helps to scavenge free radicals and supports the body’s own natural healing activities.”- Source
Since all parts of echinacea plants contain the active properties, I love the idea of using the flower, leaves, and roots in the tincture that I read of in this book and that’s how I made our tincture this year instead of just with the root. The alcohol in the tincture extracts the beneficial components from the plant.
- Echinacea Leaves
- Echinacea Flowers
- Echinacea Roots
- 80 proof vodka
- This tincture is made throughout the growing season.
- Beginning in late spring/early summer, before the flowers blossom, place a handful of leaves in a mason jar and cover them completely with 80-proof vodka.
- Set it somewhere you'll remember to give it a shaking every day.
- During the peak of summer when the flowers are in their prime (no browning), gather several and add them to the jar with the leaves.
- Continue shaking daily.
- After your last frost, but before the ground is frozen, dug up the roots of a 3+ year-old plant. Take just a branch or two of the root and rebury the plant.
- Clean the soil from off the roots and chop them into pieces.
- Add the chopped roots to the tincture, adding more vodka if necessary.
- Allow the tincture to sit, shaking daily, for about another month or two.
- Strain the plant parts from the tincture, composting the plants and reserving the tincture to use when you're feeling ill.
- Dosage: 1/4-1/2 teaspoon every hour for adults during illness. Discontinue use when you're feeling better.
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: Now, I know you already know this, but I feel like I oughta remind you that I’m just Some Mama. I’ve got no special edumahcation that qualifies me to give you any medical advice and those that do have such training would consider me an imbecile for avoiding the doctor’s office as much as I do. Perhaps you’d be better off to consult your doctor if you’re not feeling well. Perhaps. Have fun picking up your next cold to take home with you on the way out the door.
May your winter season be a healthy one!