Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Echinacea for the E!



We are back to Herbs today and this is probably one you have heard of. Again I'm going for the double duty plants. This one works as well in your flower bed as well as your garden. Echinacea is even a Biennial which means it regrows for a second year and is a favorite of butterflies, bees, cottage gardeners and medicinal gardeners.

Echinacea or Coneflowers are started from seed and if you are in Northern Climates it's the time to get them started. They can be started in doors or outdoors while it's still cool. They need at least 4 weeks of cool wet weather to help them germinate. Fall planting is best but it they are planted later in the spring, they might not flower the first year.

They do well in full to moderate sun and are often paired with other butterfly attracting plants such as Bee Balms, Phlox and Yarrows. They are drought tolerant,and can be grown in large deep pots, due to their long tap roots. Size and colors vary by variety, they range from purple to yellow and from 1 to 3 feet tall. Their blooms last most of the summer and then in Fall the seed heads add interest to your garden.
Coneflower (Echinacea)
Image from sunset.com
Butterflies and Bees swarm the flowers and birds enjoy the fall seed heads but Echinacea has many uses for people too! Native Americans recognized these plants as a treatment for wounds, but over the years it seemed to fall off the radar for most Americans. But in the 90's it saw a big come back.

Using Cranberry juice for a bladder infection, have a slow healing wound, or hay fever problems, Echinacea is a good alternative for treating these problems. The leaves can be brewed for tea, made into creams or steeped to make tinctures. We as a society are quick to run towards antibiotics for quick relief but every year we hear about the new super bacteria. Maybe we should go back to more natural remedies, being created in a lab to fight one type of bacteria can't compete with something is that is naturally complex.

Interested in making a tincture but the information wasn't passed down from your grandmother and you'd rather have the real thing, rather than buying it from Walmart?
Here's some quick information on making one with Echinacea.

  • You'll need to harvest the flowerheads when they are first starting to flower,
  • Put these fresh clippings in a bowl in the ratio of 1 part plant to 2 parts high proof alcohol.
  • Blend well with a immersion blender
  • Place the mixture a jar or bottle than can be strained easily, in a sunny place for two weeks.
  • After the two weeks strain out the plant material and store the sealed jar or bottle in a cool dark place.
As most herbalists and their sites say be sure of what you are using and make sure to check with a doctor before trying anything new. As with any kind of medical treatment there could be unknown reactions. 

I hope you are enjoying our trek into the world of plants, and I hope you'll stop back by to see what else might be on the list for the A to Z Challenge!

See you in the Garden!!