Boost Your Body’s Natural Immune System With Echinacea

The dog days of summer are behind us. Shorter days, cooler temperatures, ah…, the blessed onset of fall. As a transplanted Southerner, I look forward to this time of year. As I am sitting here writing this post, a cool rain is falling and the trees are turning from green to gold and red. Bring on the sweatshirts, football, warm soups and inevitably, the holiday season. All reasons why we love fall but ironically, the very reasons why are bodies become immunocompromised. Parents ferrying children to and fro from after school sporting events, no time to eat a healthy meal, much less cook it, its no wonder the advent of fall correlates with the beginnings of cold and flu season.

As a retired emergency room nurse, I know the spread of cold and flu viruses ramps up steadily with seasonal changes. So what are you going to do about it? Many of you have and will recieve a flu vaccine, believing themselves protected from the ravages of the flu virus. I applaud your choice of prevention but want you to be aware of other lifestyle choices. An interesting article, I ran across might have you scratching your head and saying,”why bother.”

As you can see, most flu related deaths dramatically decreased since 1918 well before vaccines became a standardized practice. And the rate of flu- related deaths in seniors has not decreased despite vaccinations.

So, what’s a person to do. Well, there is no way to completely protect one self from the flu but, a number of  important and easy to institute steps can be taken to prevent and shorten the onset of symptoms. One of the things I do is to use echinacea as an immune booster at the onset of any cold or flu symptoms.

Echinacea or coneflower is a medicinal plant native to North America. It was used by Native Americans to treat wound infections and other topical and internal infections long before the advent of antibiotics.

With the discovery of antibiotics, echinacea has fallen out of favor only to rediscovered in the past 20 years as an immunce booster to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms.

The distinctive cone like shape and cheerful color of this flower is a favorite amongst pollinators and makes a useful addition to your garden. As summer wanes, I collect the leaves and dry them. At the end of the season, the roots, a nutty shaped bulb is chopped and added to the collection of dry leaves to make a echinacea tincture. Commercial preparations are available in oral forms as well, but the efficacy of these supplements vary amongst brands. The normal adult dose is 300-900 mg 3xs daily at the onset of symptoms. Please consult your medical professional or herbalist for dosing guides for children.



(color of tincture after 3 weeks)


How to Make an Echinacea Tincture

  1. Collect the outer leaves of your coneflowers throughout late summer and fall.
  2. Once the plant stems dry out and quit producing leaves, pull the roots and chopped up the nutty shaped parts. Make sure dirt and or potting soil is cleaned thoroughly.
  3. Add dried leaves and roots to a pint sized Mason jar with a lid
  4. Fill with vodka. Don’t use expensive brands but flavored varieties can make the tincture more palatable.
  5. Do not store in direct sunlight. Shake daily for 4 weeks.
  6. Strain leaves and roots with filter and store liqour in opague bottle.
  7. Take one tsp up to 3xs daily at the onset of cold or flu symptoms.(normal adult dose) Recomendations for children can be found elsewhere but no more than one dropperful for children under 50 pounds and NOT for use in children under 25 pounds. 

Of course, there is no cure for the common cold or flu but the goal is prevention and to shorten the duration of symptoms. Lifestyle choices to keep the immune system strong through the season is a must and include.

  • Stick to a Healthy diet- its easy eat poorly during the holiday season. Make smart choices, pick up the vegetable sticks and put down the cookie.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Skip the caffeine and stick to juices and water. Cold air is very drying and fever burns up our extra reserves. Soothing herbal teas with raw honey can alleviate sore throat and cough.
  • 8-10 hours of rest. Recharge and revitalize your system with sleep. There is a reason old-timers go to bed with the chickens.
  • Handwashing. Good old-fashioned soap and water goes along way in keeping the germs at bay.
  • If you are sick, stay home. Containment is the key to prevent the spread of viruses. The same goes for your children, trust me the school and other parents will appreciate it.
Above all, don’t take chances with your family’s health. Seek medical attention for worsening or persistent symptoms. In the case of upper respiratory symptoms, immediately seek medical attention in young children and the elderly whose immune systems might be already compromised. Your health is a priceless commodity, don’t take chances. Treat it well!

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Patricia Gordon says

Good timing for this article! Checking the cupboard for echinacea right now!

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