Making Elderberry Tinctures

This started out as a difficult post to write for some reason. I want to communicate what I am thinking about self-sufficiency, but know I am a long way away myself. This is to encourage us all in doing anything we can to be more homegrown in our outlook.

As a society we have gone outside the home for most of what we need and want in our lives. Food, music, health care, clothing. It’s all acquired from outside of our family and our community. So what happens when we jam on the dulcimer in the evening, sew some of our own clothes,  and make our own medicine? On so many levels, it awakens us.  Sure, most of our clothing comes from the thrift store, but we also use iTouch/iPhone technology. To mix homemade and homegrown into as much of our lives as possible – even in the littlest things – can change so much.

After saying all that, ever since I heard the Israelis had been researching elderberries and found that these berries can prevent or shorten the duration of Influenza A and B, I have had a passion to grow and make a simple tincture~ to make my own medicine. Next to chewing up a plantain leaf and using it on a bug bite or bee sting, this is as simple as it gets.

The elderberries are coming ripe at this time, and the procedure is as basic as can be. You really only need to be certain of your plant identification before you proceed, and you’re good. (Also avoid raw elderberries as they can cause nausea and vomiting. You must cook them first or make a tincture.)

Fresh Elderberry Tincture:
1.) Locate: Find a site with wild elderberries (sambucus ssp.) or grow your own. You can also purchase dried elderberries online, but fresh are best.

2.) Harvest: Pick your elderberries just below the umbrels (umbrella-shaped berry clusters). The fresh clusters snap off with ease. Gather the ripest, almost black berry clusters. Take a zip-lock freezer bag and gather them in that.

3.) Freeze: When you have a bag-full, take the berries home and pop them into the freezer. When solidly frozen, the berries will drop off easily from the stem.

4.) Separate: Crumble the berries off of the stems into a bowl, wash, rinse, and transfer to a quart jar. Fill the jar with berries to half way or over. Allow to thaw. You can mash them a bit if you wish.

5.) Steep: Cover to an inch or two from the top of the jar with brandy or vodka. It must be 80 proof or above to extract the medicinal qualities and preserve it. Use a tight-fitting lid, label, and tuck away in a dark corner for 4-6 weeks. Tip the jar over and gently shake every time you think of it.

6.) Bottle: Strain through a stainless colander lined with thin cloth. Store in amber dropper bottles or glass jars in your pantry. It will keep for many years.

If you decide to make it, mix 1 tsp. (or 20 drops) of the finished tincture into an 8 oz. glass of water, and take it three times a day at the first sign of flu or a cold.  It’s got sort of a tangy berry flavor…like raspberries, but more tangy.
The water can be hot or cold, but we really like it mixed into a steaming mug of hot water (much of the alcohol will evaporate off when hot)…besides, if you’re getting sick, or think you are, there’s nothing like a steaming mug of anything!

I am not a doctor, and do not share this as medical advice, but it is something that has been practiced for hundreds of years. Both Pliny the Elder and Hippocrates mentioned and recommended elderberry as a medicinal herb in their writings.

10 thoughts on “Making Elderberry Tinctures

  1. Pingback: Making Elderberry Tinctures

  2. Great stuff! I make my own elderberry tinctures, too. Add some yarrow and you will get a great tinctures for flues and colds. :) Add some Goldenseal or purple cone flower (Echinacea) for infections, and give your body a boost. There are so many ways you can make a tincture. Thanks for posting this. I am an advocate and am always pleased when others share herbal wisdom. :)

  3. I love elderberry syrups as well. I didn’t get any this year – I need to travel about an hour south to get them.

  4. Thanks for the great post– I am still looking for a local stand of elder to forage, but I just fought off a cold in a day with the elderberry/echinacea syrup. Looking forward to making a tincture next year.

  5. It’s been many yrs that elderberries grew in our yard, this year had a good harvest. I froze several quarts. Wouldn’t eating them, versus making a tincture work just as well? I know they are high in antioxidants, I eat them on my greek yogurt.

  6. i wish i had read this last month! the elderberries here in central new york are already gone.

  7. @Lehman’s…we have always eaten them raw in our Greek yogurt drizzled with raw honey, added in our salad, etc.. they have large amounts of Vit.C, potassium, a great source of antioxidants and anthocyanins.. I eat them to boost my immune system, as I was struck by lightning 6 years ago.. whenever we find them we try to gather and freeze them to use throughout the year…

  8. @Lehman’s …thanks I will keep that in mind.. we eat only small amounts at a time, less then 1/4 cup…we don’t harvest them until they are very ripe…I have noted entries of tinctures, we will try our hand at some next growing season.. :) thank you..