Ooooh a tincture. Stay with me here – don’t freak out and click away.
Yes, I know tincture sounds like a scary word. It seems to come from the same medical era as bloodletting and leeches. But trust me on this one. Echinacea tincture just might change your life this winter.
So since you’re freaking out, let’s talk about the benefits right up front. WHY would you want to do this project?
Because echinacea is traditionally used as a cold and flu herb, and through stimulating the immune system, it decreases the chance of coming down with a cold.
I also love this project because it’s super easy AND saves you money. Here in the UK, you can buy a teensy bottle of echinacea tincture for about £10 (that’s about $15 US). Or you could make a massive amount of your own echinacea tincture for a fraction of the cost.
Plus, making a tincture just sounds so… vintage.
What is a tincture?
A tincture is just an herbal extract in alcohol. When we’re using herbs for health, the two most common uses are to extract the herb in water (aka, herbal tea), or in alcohol as a tincture. That’s all a tincture is – herbs and vodka.
What is echinacea?
Echinacea is a gorgeous purple coneflower. But for tincture making we usually use the root (like in the above photo). According to Bartram, echinacea “exerts an antiviral effect by stimulating an immune response. [It] raises white blood cell count and increases the body’s inherent powers of resistance.”
Echinacea is used for all sorts of wintery ailments and symptoms but especially colds, flus and sore throats. But the key is that you have to start early. You need to take echinacea at the very first sign of a cold, and take it frequently. This isn’t a remedy you can take one time in the morning. You need to carry the little bottle of echinacea tincture with you and take it regularly.
Does echinacea really work?
As with all herbal remedies, there are conflicting reports about whether echinacea works or not. My personal belief is that if something is a traditional remedy and still widely used today, it is at least worth considering that it might work. And in my personal experience, I have found echinacea really does work to stop a cold in it’s tracks … if you start taking it at that very first little scratchy throat (or whatever your ‘cold sign’ is). I’ve found it works at least as well or better than all of the herbal/homeopathic cold remedies in the drugstore!
How much echinacea tincture do I take?
Tinctures are much stronger than herbal tea, so just a little will be effective! In general with herbal remedies, it’s better to take small amounts frequently.
Listen to your body, but a good guideline is 1/2 tsp or 1 dropper full every hour for the first day of a cold. After the first day, you can take it every 2 hours.
Rosemary Gladstar also mentions that the effectiveness will decrease with continued use, so she recommends taking it for 5 days, then take 2 days off, and start again if needed. (Although if you still have a cold after 7 days it’s probably best to visit your doctor!)
How do I take echinacea tincture?
I’ll be the first to admit, this stuff does not taste good. The typical way to take a tincture is to put the dose it in a small glass of water and drink it down like a shot!
Ok let’s make some echinacea tincture!
As with all herbal remedy projects, use your common sense. If you have any underlying medical conditions or allergies, you should talk to your doctor or a qualified herbalist first. Always start with a very tiny dose first and see how your body responds. Echinacea is widely known as a safe herb to use, but everyone’s situation is different and I’m not a professional!
Here’s how to make echinacea tincture:
- A clean jar with lid
- dried echinacea root – (Don’t know where to buy it? In the UK I recommend Baldwins or Neals Yard Remedies and in the US try Mountain Rose Herbs. Buy the dried root of echinacea purpurea.)
- vodka (80 proof / 40% alcohol)
Put the dried echinacea root in the jar. Ideally fill the jar about 3/4 full with dried root. Pour in vodka until the echinaca is covered by 2-3 inches. Put on the lid. LABEL THE JAR with the contents & date.
Now put it in a cupboard for 4 to 6 weeks. Shake it occasionally if you think about it. If not, don’t worry.
After 4 to 6 weeks the liquid will be really dark brown.
Strain out the herbs and save the liquid. This is your very potent echinacea tincture! Pour into clean, small bottles and LABEL them again. I like to use a few small dropper bottles because they’re easy to carry and use. You can usually buy these bottles at the same shop as the dried echinacea root. I also put the remainder into a bigger dark glass bottle, which I can use to refill the small ones throughout the winter.
Now the fun part – testing your echinacea tincture. Real echinacea tincture will cause a ‘tingling’ sensation if you put a drop on your tongue. All of my homemade tinctures tingle … some of the expensive ones from the store don’t! 😉
The tincture should keep almost indefinitely, at least 2 years.
Have you ever taken echinacea for a cold? How did it work for you?