Wildcraft Wednesday: Cold-curing Echinacea
Well, it's the beginning of a new year, but a lot of people are starting things off with a cold and a cough that they haven't been able to kick since Christmas! So for our first Wildcraft Wednesday, let's talk about the wonderful healing herb Echinacea purpurea, which can be readily found at the healthfood store for now, and easily harvested in the wild or grown in your backyard once the world thaws!
Echinacea is one of the most commonly used herbal treatments for colds, and for good reason! This beautiful purple flower has powerful healing properties that ease many symptoms of cold and flu and can even be used to strengthen the urinary tract. The plant's immune system-boosting properties lie in its special blend of alkamides and glycoproteins, as well as additional support from antioxidants. Many health food stores and even grocery stores carry echinacea teas, and some carry tinctures and extracts, as well. For effectiveness, check the label to ensure that the remedy you are purchasing comes from the flower head or leaves for optimal results.
The flowers are best harvested when they are just beginning to open. However, the leaves can be harvested any time, as long as they are green!
To avoid damaging the plant, gather the leaves just above the lowest set, trimming with sharp shears. No special care needs to be made when only harvesting flower buds. Simply cut off the flower buds just behind the flower head and toss the stems. The leaves and the flowerheads dry easily within a week when left in the sun on a drying sheet or tray, as long as they are kept away from the damp. They should turn papery when fully dry. You can store them in a mason jar when they've dried completely and keep the jar in your pantry.
Fill a tea strainer or fusible tea bag with 2 tsp of dried echinacea flowers or leaves. Let your tea steep covered for 15 minutes, and drink with lemon. It's delicious with honey and can be enjoyed 3 times a day for a week for optimal results.
Now raise up your cup of echinacea tea: Here's to happy and healthy New Year!