For many people,"fall harvesting" means harvesting the fruit and vegetables from their gardens and preserving them for winter use. Myself, it means also harvesting my medicine and preparing for the winter viruses and bacterial invaders. Fall time is for strengthening our immunity and settling down for the colder months here in the Northern states.
Before I harvest my medicine, I write down the herbs I am looking for. Then, I decide where I will harvest them from. Every herbalist has their favorite spots to wild craft (or harvest wild medicine) from. Some have their own herbs growing in their gardens, or have them growing somewhere wild on their property, and have no need to venture elsewhere to get them. Some herbalists prefer to buy their herbs from others because of environmental differences, lack of time, they need it quickly, or simply for convenience. No matter how the herb is collected, it is a good idea to make your own medicine for yourself and your family. It saves money, helps with preventing sickness, and requires very little time to prepare. It is best to research any herb you plan to use thoroughly and learn how to properly identify it before harvesting yourself. This includes what parts to harvest, how they are used, what contraindications do they have, and how best to prepare them.
This time of year is for root and bark harvesting. You can also collect and harvest some fall fruit for medicine. Once the plant dies back for the winter, the energy falls back into the earth and into the roots to sustain the plant until next spring. Bark can be harvested either in the spring when the sap climbs into the branches, or the fall when it flows back down. Because I missed harvesting the bark from a few trees in the spring, I will include them on my list for the fall. It is best to follow sustainability practices when harvesting roots because you are essentially killing that particular plant. Please be sure to plant the seeds from the plant before taking the roots. Another practice is to only take the root when there are plenty of plants around. You don't want to take the only one, or decimate a grouping of plants. Also, be sure to only take what you need.
Once you have your list, know where you are harvesting your plants from, and have sustainability practices in mind, it is time to gather your medicine. Here are the herbs on my list: Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) root, Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) root, Marshmallow (Althaea thapsus) root, Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) root, Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) bark, Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root, Burdock (Arctium minor) root, Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) root, Sumac (Rhus glabra) bark, Rose hips (Rosa sp.), and Crampbark (Viburnum opulus). There is a picture of my harvested echinacea roots above. I first cleaned those roots and then chopped them to add to my tinctures, glycerites (with vegetable glycerine), or oxymels (with apple cider vinegar and honey). I then saved some for drying to be powdered for capsules for my family (I have one that would much rather take the medicine in this form).
Here is how I make my fresh echinacea root tincture at home:
First, have a mason jar cleaned and ready with a lid. Fill the jar with the freshly dug and chopped up echinacea root and make sure you pack it to the top. Then pour in your grain alcohol (190 proof) and fill 3/4 full. Add distilled water to top it off (fill to the top). This roughly equals 75% alcohol and 25% distilled water added as the extract. Or, you can use 100 proof vodka (which equals 50% alcohol and 50% water) and fill the jar to the top. Cap the jar, label the jar with the contents and date, and leave it sit on the counter to macerate for 3 weeks. Shake it daily. Strain after the three weeks and pour it into a dark bottle. Make sure you label this as well! I store mine in a cool dark area. I use drop doses as a preventative in 7-10 drops three times daily when an active virus/flu is near. If sickness has hit, I use 30 drops up to 5 times a day for a few days until the sickness abates.
Take the time to research each herb and make use of the plants around you to make medicine from your own "fall harvest". Enjoy your bounty and I wish you good health through the coming winter!