Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Herb of the Week: Echinacea

A welcoming and brilliant pink plant to bees, butterflies and gold finches, Echinacea is a fantastic herb for an immunity boost during those winter months and it can be a great addition to your garden.

Echinacea is commonly the first tincture new herbies make. Often used to stimulate the immune system, this herb can be fantastic during cold and flu seasons. Used as a tincture, tea, and mixed with elderberry it can help with a dry scratchy cough or an achy body. Echinacea should be taken to stimulate the immune system, not as a tonic taken everyday as my mother says, “When people learn about Echinacea's immune boosting properties, they often decide to take it every day in an effort to avoid every becoming ill.  This is much like continually sounding the alarm bell at the fire station, and eventually the fire fighters become exhausted and fail to respond to the call.  Some people "pulse" Echinacea by taking it 3 days on, and then, a day or two off.  I don't.  I just keep Echinacea at the ready and use it before the bug gets a good hold.  If you miss that window of opportunity and a virus or flu gets a grip, reach for elderberry.”

While many use Echinacea for it’s medicinal uses, it is also popular among those who landscape. The plant has tall, vibrant pink flowers and a unique cone shape, which catches the eye. Because of its height, many use it as a way to line gardens or property boundaries. It can look much more appealing than a fence. The plant needs to be divided into clumps about every four years according to Missouri Botanical Herb Garden to avoid over crowding.

To make a tincture Sue Hess suggests quartering the heads of the flower before putting them into a food processor. After that you can pour grain alcohol and water over the mashed herb and let it sit for several weeks. While Echinacea can be made into other forms, I enjoy the tincture so it can be mixed into tea or soup, that way you can take your medicine but in a more comforting way.

So as the school days drag on and the children begin to catch things here and there you will have something ready to keep them going until the holidays.


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