How to make echinacea tincture

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How to make echinacea tincture

 

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.

It’s one of my favorite winter remedies along with elderberry cordial and hot honey, lemon & ginger.

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:

You need:

  • 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)

How to:

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.

(If you’re curious about the other bottles in here, we’ve got St. Johns Wort oil, and Queen of Hungary water along with a few other tinctures I’ve made.)

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?

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  1. This is a nice post, I liked that you included that the earlier you catch a cold the quicker the recovery. The belief that Echinacea can’t be used for longer duration came from an incorrectly translated German study from the 80’s. A couple of recent studies have shown it works well long term (a 4 month and 10 week study) to prevent colds and the 4 month study showed it to have an even stronger affect on the body over time. Rosemary Gladstar is wonderful, but not always right 🙂

    Most working herbalist as well as naturopaths will recommend between 1/2 to 1 tsp every 2 hours for a cold/flu, which is much more than a dropperful (if you firmly squeeze a 1 once bottle dropper you will get about .75 ml, and a tsp is 5 ml).

    Also when buying the root look for cut and sifted instead of powder so you get a stronger tincture. Angustifolia is generally considered a stronger plant for immune complaints or inflammation from injuries, purpurea is used much more commonly because it is really easy to grow so that’s what the farmers grow. A good farm will let the plant mature for 3 years before harvesting. So like Amanda said, get it from a reliable source, or even better — grow it!

    Happy tincture making!

  2. Do you have a resource you can point me to for harvesting your own echinacea root? I have the flowers in my garden, and would love to try this. Also, does it work with just the petals, or are the roots definitely the way to go?

    1. Harvesting the root is easy. Make sure you dig deep to get all of the larger root parts. Wash well removing all the dirt. I use a kitchen scrubby to help with that. You can then either dry whole or chop into small pieces. …lay flat to dry. The flower is also very good to use…strong medicine in the cone flowers.I just harvested enough and will chop into smaller pieces in order to fit into my mason jar.
      Happy tincture making!

      1. It is important to note that it takes 3 years for Echinacea roots to have reasonable concentrations of the constituents you would want. It is also important to mention that only 3 of the species (purp, ang, and pal) are used medicinally (preferably ang.) so if what you have growing in your garden isn’t this than do not use it.

  3. I can’t wait to make this. I make elderberry syrup every fall for winter and I always buy echinacea tincture, but now I cam make it myself. I’ve always wanted to so this. I really do believe it works.Thanks!!

    1. Hi Regina, if you can make elderberry syrup, you’re going to find this tincture SO easy. Let me know how it turns out.

  4. Hi Saniel, if you have access to elderberries, you should make some elderberry cordial (search on my site for the recipe), it’s SO tasty and is great for the immune system. This tincture definitely doesn’t taste as nice!

    You’re right that a tincture is alcohol based, so it’s a personal choice whether to give it to children. I’ve also heard of making glycerine tinctures for children, but I’ve never tried it myself. I recommend Rosemary Gladstar’s book for more information on herbs for kids (see my resources page).

  5. i found something similar in Whole foods and i give it my son with elderberry, echinacea, vitamin c. he really likes it. wish i had seen this post before buying it however i dont think i could give him this tincture with alcohol? right? he is only 2.

    1. You can give it to your 2yr old. Boil water and add it to 1/2 tsp of the tincture, let it cool. The heat will dissipate the alcohol the samw as cooking with it, I gave it to my daughter this way.

  6. This makes me think of Nicole. She got me started on it and I also use the pill form. I believe it works and I’ll definitely use your recipe to make my own…and save money this winter! Thanks for the post!

    1. Definitely give it a try, I think the tincture works much better than pills – my theory is because it’s absorbed faster and has a higher concentration? Let me know how it works out!

  7. Now this is something I have never tried before. Thank you for such a great post breaking down how to do this!

  8. love making tinctures. glad to know that there are more folks out there mixing it up a bit with herbs at home. i usually go for a 100 proof vodka. is there much difference? also, how does the st. john in olive oil work – more specifically – how long does that last in the olive oil? do you make your own wines?

    1. Hi Laura, 100 proof vodka is even better because of the higher alcohol content! But I can never find it at my grocery store, so I just use the 80 proof. What are your favorite tinctures to make & use?

      The St. Johns Wort oil should last for a year, maybe a bit more, if you keep it out of the sunlight. The main risk is that the oil will go rancid. It’s also important to strain out all of the plant material so it doesn’t grow mold.

      I haven’t made my own wine… yet! 🙂

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