How to Prepare Echinacea Tea
Most of the echinacea plant is suitable for making tea. There are two ways to brew the tea, infusion and decoction, and the best method depends on the part of the plant being used. If buying dried echinacea for tea, you may choose from flowers, roots and leaves or a mixture of flowers and leaves.
The flowers of the plant make the best infusions and can be purchased from retailers specializing in herbs or they can be grown at home and dried. One to two teaspoons of the dried blooms are placed in a teapot and covered with about one cup of boiling water. The tea should steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain out the flowers and serve hot. Infusions have a mild, slightly floral taste and are preferred by most herbal tea drinkers. Some preparers may blend several herbs to make a tastier infusion.
Unlike infusions, decoctions have a strong flavor and may not appeal to some herbal tea enthusiasts. Decoctions are made from the root of the echinacea plant. Place one to two teaspoons of the root with one cup of water in a sauce pan. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes to an hour. Strain out the echinacea root and serve hot. Unlike some other herbal infusions and decoctions, echinacea tea is best served hot.
Growing and Harvesting Echinacea for Tea
Echinacea is a hardy perennial that grows to a height of three to four feet and produces showy blossoms of four to six inches in diameter. The plant does best in sunny areas with fertile soil. Soil should be kept moist but well drained until the roots are established. Seeds can be planted in early fall or early spring. The plant produces blooms from June until October. Flowers and roots should not be harvested for tea until the plants are at least three years old.
Flowers should be cut at the first joint where healthy leaves grow and laid on a screen in direct sunlight until the petals crumble when touched. For roots, cut a small portion from the root of the plant. Wash thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut pieces larger than one inch into smaller bits to prevent mold growth. Dry on screens away from direct sunlight. Dried flowers and roots should be stored in airtight containers and dated so users will know when they have lost their potency. Do not refrigerate or freeze dried echinacea.
Echinacea may be blended with other herbs or spices including ginger, ginko, kelp, dandelion, chaparral and St. John's Wort for more a more potent tea. When using a combination of roots and flowers or leaves, the methods of decoction and infusion can be combined. Decoct the plant roots according the directions provided above, then turn off the heat and add the leaves and flowers to the pot. Stir well and cover allowing the mixture to steep for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain out leaves and roots and serve.
Many cookbooks and websites provide recipes for teas which use echinacea alone or in combination with other herbs. Those with knowledge of herbal remedies may choose to develop their own preparation methods and herbal combinations for echinacea tea.