One of the beauties in the August border is echinacea, so called because of the way the seedhead resembles a hedgehog or sea urchin. I’m not a fan of the pink variety but I love the jewel-like red and orange hues and the zing of the lime green. Perfect for the end of summer, particularly this one with its uncertainty about the months ahead, as documented every day in the news. Folklore has it that carrying Echinacea will provide inner strength during trying times. Cut and placed in a vase it will draw prosperity into the home and protect the family from suffering in poverty. Ideal right now then. Plenty of people need echincea in their gardens and in their lives.
It’s a fabulous plant for pollinators too if gardening for wildlife is important to you – and why wouldn’t it be? Natural rainfall is usually sufficient for its needs but you’ll need to water in new plants in the current climate and it likes a nice mulch in the winter, but it usually doesn’t need much in the way of care. It will return year after year and if you don’t deadhead it, it will feed the finches and other small birds through the winter and what seeds are left will sprout new plants in the spring. What’s not to love?
You may have come across tinctures of echinacea in the pharmacy. Herbalists recommend it to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu, and reduce symptoms of sore throats, coughs and fevers. It is also said to help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections. Here’s the recipe for a homemade version. Bear in mind, I’m not a medical herbalist – but all of us have survived this far using this to boost our immune systems.
1. Harvest echinacea leaves and blossoms. Avoid picking any which have started to wilt ot die back. Fresh and vibrant is what you’re looking for. Rinse them well under cold, running water and allow to air dry.
2. Weigh your leaves and flowers and place in a mason jar, adding food grade alcohol (190 proof) at a ratio of 2:1 . You want twice as much alcohol as flowers and leaves.
3. Screw on the lid and give it a good shake. Then unscrew and push all the flowers and leaves down beneath the alcohol so everything is submerged. Put the lid back on the jar and let it sit at room temperature for two weeks.
4 . Every time you walk past your jar, give it a good shake!
5. After two weeks strain out the flowers and leaves through a fine mesh colander and bottle up the liquid into amber bottles, preferably the ones with a dropper lid. Store in a cool cupboard.
6. Use as required. In our house at the first signs of illness, we take 1.5 mls or one dropper full every hour until symptoms cease. Alternatively you could dilute in a small amount of water or tea three four times daily.