photos by Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox
Digging around the circumference of E. purpurea, insert the fork or shovel about 11/2 to 2 feet from the plant all around.
Two different-sized plants from the same clump of E. purpurea. By keeping the leaves intact when separating plants for replanting and tincturing, it makes it easier to keep track of roots and identify the echinacea from the other plants in the clump.
Harvest the Echinacea purpurea plant after it is at least three years old before digging it to make tincture. Here we take it after the frost, which has turned the stems, seed heads, and leaves black.
Gently lift the plant from underneath with the tines of the fork, taking care to get all of the root. The clump contains roots of echinacea and other plants that will have to be separated.
Appearance of vascular rings in roots of E. pallida help to identify the plant as echinacea. These rings also appear in E. purpurea—they are even in the tiny fibrous roots.
Largest root at the crown of E. purpurea ready to be separated from fibrous roots. Roots will be trimmed for tincturing and crown will be saved for replanting.
Washed roots draining in a colander.
Washing the fine roots of E. purpurea.
Separating plants and crowns for replanting: at bottom, trimmed crowns on damp paper towels; at top left, plants with tops wrapped in damp towel; at top right, root moisture is preserved by placing crowns in damp towels and plastic bags until ready to replant.
Good close-up of vascular rings of E. pallida, dividing the root for tincture from the crown to be replanted.
E. purpurea plants are separated for replanting and tincturing. At the top is whole tincturing root; at bottom, the plant is trimmed for replanting with the crown.
Chopping the larger, woody roots.
Transfer the pounded root to a clean glass jar with a plastic lid, and pour the menstruum over the root. The traditional ratio is to use 2 parts menstruum to 1 part root.
The finished tincture (aged for two to six weeks) is now ready for straining. When making a tincture from the leaves and/or flowers, it should only infuse for forty-eight hours. For the menstruum and root to work best, all tinctures should be shaken twice daily.
Use a yogurt cheese maker to strain the tincture—it’s fast and it strains the tincture well. Of course, a tincture press is great if you make a lot of tinctures, but a strainer lined with fine cheesecloth works just fine. Exert pressure with a pestle to extract every drop of essence from the roots.
While pounding the roots, splash in a little menstruum (90-proof vodka or 1 part pure grain alcohol to 1 part distilled water) to help the pounding process.
When ready, pour the finished tincture into a clean, brown glass bottle. We use a variety of recycled dark glass bottles and replace old droppers with new rubber droppers, since the rubber tends to disintegrate.