It’s fall here in Northern Michigan. The flowers in our garden are fading, the squash is ready to harvest and the Echinacea is ready to be dug up and preserved.
As many of you know, Echinacea is an immune supporter. It can assist your body in warding off colds and flus and can help in recovery if you do come down with an illness.
We have Echinacea all over our little stretch of the woods and this is the time of year we harvest the roots for tincture.
It is best to harvest the plants when the flowers begin to die off and the stems begin to brown. The nutrients of the plant begin to receded back down into the roots, making them more potent.
To harvest, you only need a few sections of the plant. A little goes a long way. Echinacea spreads wonderfully, so using a few plants for their roots shouldn’t deplete your supply, as long as you leave some plants in the ground. Our garden started out with only 2 plants and now we have close to 50. Each fall I will gently dig up 3 or 4 for their roots.
- After you dig up the plants, you can cut off the stem. You will only use the roots.
- Gently wash the roots. I run them under warm water and use a toothbrush to remove the dirt. Be sure to take the time to remove all of the dirt from the roots.
- Once all of the dirt is removed and the roots are clean, use a sharp knife to cut the root into small pieces.
- Fill an amber glass dropper bottle (I use a 4 oz. bottle) 1/4 to 1/2 full with the root.
- Pour 100 proof vodka into the dropper bottle until full.
- Let the tincture sit for at least one month in a cool, dry place before using. Shake the bottle daily during this time.
- If you choose, you can strain the root out using a funnel and cheesecloth, putting the liquid into a new, clean dropper bottle.
- To use, put a few drops directly under your tongue daily during cold and flu season. You can use up to 3 times a day when sick. You can also add a couple of drops to a cup of hot tea or juice.
If you are opposed to the alcohol content within the tincture you can also dry the roots instead of steeping them in alcohol. Use a standard or solar dehydrator to dry them. (We got our dehydrator from www.dryit.com and we love it. You can also build your own.) Store the roots, once dried, in an air tight container, such as a mason jar. To use, steep a few small pieces of the root into some hot tea. I usually crush them a little too. I do this for our kids when they have a cold and usually add a little fresh ginger and honey.
Most of what we grow in our garden is either edible or medicinal and out of all of the plants we grow, Echinacea is one of our favorites.
Every year we try new things with the lavender we harvest. We use it for baking, decoration, sachets, soaps, medicine and more.
Recently we took a stab at making lavender oil, which can be used as a bug repellant, to aid in restful sleep and for perfume. It’s also wonderful in removing the itch from mosquito bites and taming dandruff.
How to make lavender Oil:
1. Harvest the lavender.
2. Remove the flowers and put into a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
3. Add Organic Olive Oil or Grapeseed Oil to the jar.
4. Let the oil and lavender sit for one month in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar daily.
5. After one month, using a funnel and cheesecloth, strain the oil from the flowers into a new, clean jar. Many people will discard the olive oil but we did not. It smells too nice and is great for adding to shampoo/conditioner or using directly on your scalp for healthy hair. You can also use the olive oil as a bug repellant by dabbing some on your neck and behind your ears.
6. Once the olive oil is drained, express the lavender oil from the flowers using two spoons. Put some flowers onto one spoon. Use the other spoon to press down and expel the oil. Store the oil in amber glass bottles/jars. Enjoy.
There are times when people tell me they are surprised if I take an Ibuprofen for a headache or that I have, on occasion, popped an antihistamine. More recently I had a severe allergic reaction to something and had to be on prednisone for a few days to get over the worst of it. I didn’t like it, but I accepted it.
Yes, as much as possible, I believe in natural healing, natural medicine and health through means other than the allopathic path and use of harsh medicine. However, I also realize that every form of healing has its place. If one of my girls breaks an arm, a homeopathic remedy alone is not going to put it back into place, relieve the pain and allow it to heal. Initially we may need allopathic care. Or a severe allergic reaction, like the one I had a couple of weeks ago, could not be helped with herbs alone. The predinose got me through the worst of it, and possibly saved my life. Now, I can use the natural medicine I prefer to heal (from both the allergic reaction and the predinsone) and to prevent a future occurrence. Every modality has its place.
Healing can also come from places other than the remedies or medicine we take. It can come from meditation, stress relief, excercise, spending time with people we love and from simple actions we take. This past weekend, I harvested and dried oregano, one of my favorite tasks. For me, this process is meditative and relaxing; carefully cutting the stems, gently removing the leaves, smelling the sweet, yet spicy aroma of the plant fill my kitchen. To me, this is healing, just as much as the homeopathic remedy I took this morning. My mind cleared and I was completely swept up into the simple act of drying this herb. Everything else fell away. Everything we do has the potential to be a healing task if we allow it to be; typing on the computer, drying herbs, driving to work, all of it. If we choose, in every moment, to let go into the task before us it can be a healing moment. Let go into the doing. Let go into just being. Let go into the moment and make your whole day a time for healing. If there is a task you just can’t let go into, one that continues to cause stress instead of healing, perhaps it’s time to examine that task and change course. Maybe the healing is to come by showing you it’s time to do something new?