Elderberry tincture is considered one of the best home preventative remedies for immune support seasonal illnesses. Learn to make elderberry tincture using just two simple ingredients!
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The old Latin proverb dating from the 1600’s, “forewarned is forearmed”, is never more applicable than when looking to give the immune system extra support & prepare for seasonal health issues.
The immune-boosting benefits of elderberries is something I take full advantage of when building my arsenal of cold, sinus, & general seasonal illness prevention methods.
Fortunately, making elderberry tincture takes minimal equipment, only 2 ingredients, and bit of time.
Read on to not only learn how to make elderberry tincture, but also how to use it, elderberry tincture dosage suggestions, and so much more!
Black Elderberries are the fruit from a flowering shrub known as Sambucus canadensis and is part of the the Adoxaceae family. Here in the Northeast, they can be readily found growing near wet, boggy areas.
The shrub itself can grow upwards of 12+ feet tall.
The shrub produces beautiful tiny, star-shaped flower clusters which bloom late spring into early summer here in zone 5b. Elderberry flowers quickly transition into berries which ripen eventually into dark purple, almost black berries.
The fruit is ripe for the picking between mid-July and early August, weather depending.
Elderberries are nature’s immune-boosting nuggets.
The berries are nutritious, rich in flavonoids, and high in vitamin C, vitamins A, B6, bioflavonoids, beta-carotene, iron, and potassium. (Gladstar, 2012).
Elderberry fruits are an excellent source of anthocyanins, vitamins A and C and a good source of calcium,
iron and vitamin B6 (Table 1). They also contain sterols, tannins, and essential oils (Anon. 2005) and can readily be considered a healthy food.
Sambucus is a medicinal plant steeped in rich folklore. Today, the berries are mainly harvested for creating seasonal remedies as well as prevention.
Interest in the benefits of this plant has increased in the last few years. Research is now being conducted. One such study led by a group of Australian scientists utilized 312 airline passengers on an extended flight. The results showed that those passengers taking the elderberry supplement experienced greatly reduced intensity and length of colds as opposed to those who took the placebo.
Elderberries are commonly known present day for their anti-viral & anti-inflammatory properties, all resulting in immune-boosting goodness.
Research is now being conducted on the effects of black elderberries on the inflammatory process of the body.
“Sambucol might therefore be beneficial to the immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases.”NCBI
In addition, these powerful berries are also being looked at closely for their potential assistance with congestive issues & more!
My personal experience as someone dealing with an auto-immune issue, when taking this tincture, I am able to ward off seasonal illnesses even when my family is experiencing the viruses. When I do contract a virus, it is indeed shorter and less intense.
As stated, the berries are ready for harvest mid-summer when they turn a deep purple/black.
They will become heavy and appear to hang upside down on the bush. Only harvest the ripe, dark berries as green berries, like the ones shown below, can be toxic.
Elderberries will ripen in stages, usually within a few days of each other.
When they begin to ripen you may need to harvest every day or so.
To pick, simply cut at the stem base of the berry head, where the stem meets the leaflets. Watch the video below for harvesting tips and images.
Plan on processing the berries the day they are picked as they will begin to ferment within 12 hours or so.
HOW TO REMOVE BERRIES FROM STEMS
Preparing the harvested or foraged elderberries is a quick & simple process.
Give the berry heads a quick swirl in water to release any debris, insects or dirt. Let dry for 15-20 minutes before removing from stems.
To remove the berries, I like to use the “fork method”.
Simply hang the berry head over a large bowl and use the tines of the fork to release the berries from the stems. You can then remove any stems remaining from the bowl.
Patience is a virtue here, as the removing the tiny stems can be a bit tedious. I find using a pair of tweezers somewhat helpful 😳
I was able to harvest about one gallon of berries this year and chose to freeze for future use as I already had enough tincture made for this winter.
It’s important to note to look for Sambucus nigra when ordering or sourcing elderberries for either making elderberry syrup or elderberry tincture.
Once your berries are harvested and you have determined their use, time to process. As stated, they can easily be frozen for future use or processed immediately.
I personally prefer to make the elderberry tincture as it lasts the longest and is what we use the most of.
WHY ELDERBERRY TINCTURES
Tinctures, an herbal extract that is concentrated to say the least, is an amazing way to capture all the benefits of herbs and elderberries alike.
The reasons for making elderberry tinctures are many. Here are a few of the reasons why I do so …
- As stated, it lasts. It lasts a long time without worry.
- It’s easy! Making tinctures is one of the easiest processes for herbal remedies that I do.
- I find that tinctures also seem to be more efficacious for me. As the tincture is taken under the tongue, it’s medicine enters the bloodstream quicker than having to digest it. If taking it under the tongue is too intense, it can be diluted with a bit of water and ingested.
- It’s economical to make! Typically using only 2 ingredients, you can make an extremely efficacious home remedy for pennies on the dollar
- The tincture (about 1 Tbl) along with local honey (about 1 Tbl) makes a wonderfully powerful prevention and soothes the throat. Simply mix together and take a teaspoon as needed throughout your day.
Requiring few ingredients, only 2 here, and little to no special equipment, the only consideration when making a tincture is to factor in time.
Tinctures typically require at a minimum, 6 weeks time but up to 6 months time, to fully mature if you will.
Recommendations and or suggestions made by this blog regarding husbandry and or herbal remedies etc. are not meant to replace solid advice from qualified professionals. None of the information on this blog has been evaluated by the FDA. Products or remedies mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Please do your due diligence. Research, talk to qualified professionals and proceed at your own risk.
As with any new herbal regimen, consulting with your primary care or clinical herbalist is recommended. Should you be foraging your elderberries, make sure you are 100% confident in your identification process before doing so. Harvest only what you need and always leave a fair amount for the wildlife.
HOW TO MAKE ELDERBERRY TINCTURE
When I make the elderberry tincture, I make a quart at a time, and always follow a few guidelines.
- Alcohol – Choose your alcohol base wisely. You want 80 proof alcohol or higher. For a complete look at tincturing methods, be sure visit an in-depth breakdown of Herbal Tinctures Folkloric And Measurement Methods
- Raw Berries – Use the berries raw & uncooked. You will not be ingesting the berry seeds, so there is no concern for toxicity issues. When fresh berries are not available, substitute dried or frozen
- Ripe Berries Only – Avoid any green berries or berries which are not fully ripe & black in color
GATHER SUPPLIES FOR MAKING HOMEMADE ELDERBERRY TINCTURE
As with all projects, you got it, you need a few items. You will need the following for making yours …
- Jar – You will need a jar with a tight-fitting lid. I usually use my mason jars for this as this is what I have on hand & they are convenient. I also use these mason jar covers as they are reusable, are non-reactive to the alcohol and are inexpensive to purchase.
- Solvent – 80 proof vodka or alcohol of choice. Alternatively, you can create your tincture using glycerin (helpful for those with sensitivities or small children). This organic glycerin is derived from coconut and is vegan, non-gmo, and cold pressed & would make a great choice for a non-alcoholic version. It should be noted when using glycerin as your solvent, the shelf life of the final product will be greatly reduced, lasting only approximately 1 year
- Strainer – To decant the finished tincture, you will need to strain the plant material from the liquid using a fine mesh strainer (like these) or a few layers of cheesecloth or muslin (like these)
- Funnel – A funnel (like these) will make quick work out of bottling your tincture in those small dropper bottles
- Label – You can use small sticky, decorative labels (like these) if you like or simply take a small piece of painters tape (this type of tape is easily removable) on the cover to write the contents and date of bottling
MAKING ELDERBERRY TINCTURE STEP-BY-STEP
Follow these easy steps for making your own, always starting with clean supplies. Instructions for both solvent methods (alcohol base or glycerite) are given below.
ELDERBERRY TINCTURE – ALCOHOL BASE
Fill the quart mason (or any size jar you choose) jar 1/3 to 1/2 of the way with dried or 1/2 of the way with fresh berries. Optionally, you may want to give the berries a slight smoosh with the back of a large kitchen knife to expose more of the berry to the solvent.
Pour 80 proof (40%) vodka into the jar until almost to the top. Vodka imparts no flavor and you can use the cheapest you can find. Only edible spirits should be used, see note below. Leave at least a 1 inch headspace.
NOTE: Rubbing alcohol, aka isopropyl alcohol, should never be used for tinctures. This form of alcohol should never be ingested & is potentially harmful.
Cover with a lid using a plastic mason jar cover (like these) or use waxed paper between any metal lid you may use, give a good gentle shake and place in a dark cupboard for at least 6 weeks at a minimum, and up to 6 months
I like to let mine marinate much longer if possible, and typically go for the 6 month mark. Give the jar a gentle shake every now and then while infusing.
NOTE: Should you notice the berries have absorbed the majority of the liquid, remove the lid and simply pour additional solvent to the jar, covering the berries.
Strain all plant material from the liquid using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Give the berries a good squeeze or using the back of a large spoon, press to remove as much of the beneficial properties from the berries as possible.
Compost or discard the berry material.
Pour into dark amber colored dropper bottles (like these) for storage.
Label the bottle with the content and date the bottled tincture. Store in a dark cupboard indefinitely for use.
ELDERBERRY TINCTURE – GLYCERITE
Tincture’s made using glycerin are known as glycerite tinctures.
To make this alcohol-free tincture, remember this version will last only about 1 year, simply follow these steps.
Make the glycerin solvent mixture using 3 parts glycerin to 1 part water.
Follow the same process listed above, substituting the alcohol for the glycerin solvent mixture.
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HOW TO USE ELDERBERRY TINCTURE
Whichever method you prefer, you can be sure of having a steady supply of elderberry tincture that lasts throughout the winter with this recipe.
Again, I am no doctor and can only offer suggestions for what has worked for our family. Always refer to your primary care or herbalist for dosage instructions should you have questions.
No matter the age, taking elderberry tincture you have 2 options; sublingually under the tongue directly, or diluted in a bit of juice or water.
ELDERBERRY TINCTURE DOSAGE SUGGESTIONS
- ADULTS – Anyone over the age of 12 , take 1 to 2 dropper fulls once per day when exposed to viruses, and up the dose to 2 dropper fulls taken 3 times per day when feeling ill
- CHILDREN – Those between the ages of 5 to 12 who have potentially been exposed to viruses should take 1 dropper full once per day, and up the dose to 1 dropper 3 times per day when feeling ill
- YOUNG CHILDREN – For those falling below 5 years of age, please consult the powers that be, your primary care physician for recommendations before giving any treatment
ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR TAKING ELDERBERRY TINCTURE
Tinctures of any kind should be taken on an empty stomach. If that’s not feasible, take between meals after at least a 2 hour rest period.
HOW TO STORE ELDERBERRY TINCTURE
Tinctures should be stored in a cool, dark place, and always decanted into amber colored glass bottles to help the product maintain its medicinal properties longer.
Extreme fluctuations of temperatures can potentially alter the potency of the tincture.
SHELF LIFE OF ELDERBERRY TINCTURE
When elderberry tincture is made using alcohol as its base, the shelf life of elderberry tincture is pretty much indefinite. Many claim alcohol based tinctures remain viable for 5 years. We’ve never had any last that long to test that theory quite honestly 🤗
When making your tincture with a glycerin base, the shelf life is greatly reduced to approximately one year (or under) as opposed to the alcohol base method.
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- 1 Jar with lid
- 1+ Cup Elderberries (fresh, dried, or frozen)
- 10+ ounces Vodka (80 proof) or other solvent
- ~ Fill the quart mason (or any size jar you choose) jar 1/3 to 1/2 of the way with dried or 1/2 of the way with fresh berries. Optionally, you may want to give the berries a slight smoosh with the back of a large kitchen knife to expose more of the berry to the solvent.
- ~ Pour 80 proof (40%) vodka into the jar until almost to the top. Vodka imparts no flavor and you can use the cheapest you can find. Only edible spirits should be used, see note below. Leave at least a 1 inch headspace.
- ~ Cover with a lid using a plastic mason jar cover (like these) or use waxed paper between any metal lid you may use, give a good gentle shake and place in a dark cupboard for at least 6 weeks at a minimum, and up to 6 months
- ~ Strain all plant material from the liquid using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Give the berries a good squeeze or using the back of a large spoon, press to remove as much of the beneficial properties from the berries as possible. Compost or discard the berry material.
- ~ Pour into dark amber colored dropper bottles (like these) for storage.
- ~ Label the bottle with the content and date the bottled tincture. Store in a dark cupboard indefinitely for use.
Learning how to make elderberry tincture adds another “tool” in your apothecary shed, allowing us to strengthen our immune system and combat seasonal viruses. Hopefully you can make your own elderberry tincture to have at the ready!
Love, Light, & Laughter ~
*Recommendations and or suggestions made by this blog regarding husbandry and or herbal remedies etc. are not meant to replace solid advice from qualified professionals. None of the information on this blog has been evaluated by the FDA. Products or remedies mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Please do your due diligence. Research, talk to qualified professionals and proceed at your own risk. See my full disclosure for further information.
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This post was originally published and written on October 28, 2018 by Suzan Ferreira. It has been updated on March 12, 2023 since.