Elderberry Tincture {How To Make And Use}

by Suzan Ferreira

Making & using elderberry tincture is easy to do and is considered one of the best home preventative & remedies for seasonal illnesses.

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The old Latin proverb dating from the 1600’s, “forewarned is forearmed”, is never more applicable than when preparing for the cold and flu season.   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.


Black Elderberries are the fruit from a flowering shrub known as Sambucus and is part of the the Adoxaceae family.  Here in the Northeast, they can be readily found growing near wet, boggy areas.  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, vitamin A, 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.

D. Charlebois

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.

My personal experience as someone dealing with an auto-immune issue, when taking this tincture, I am able to ward off cold and flu’s 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.

Plan on processing your berries the day they are picked as they will begin to ferment within 12 hours or so. 

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.

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.

Don’t have access to elderberries for harvesting?  You can order dried berries here or here.


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. 

They can be made into jams, jellies, pies, wine, or syrup and tinctures.  I have my grandmother’s handwritten recipe for wine from the early 1900s that I want to try making, maybe next season!  I personally prefer to tincture mine as the tincture makes a great base and lasts the longest.


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.

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.


When I make the elderberry tincture, I make a quart at a time.  Simply fill the quart mason jar 1/4 of the way with dried or 1/2 of the way with fresh berries.  Pour 80 proof vodka into the jar until almost to the top. 

Cover with a lid, give a good gentle shake and place in a dark cupboard for at least 4-6 weeks at a minimum.  I like to let mine marinate much longer if possible.  Give the jar a gentle shake every now and then while infusing.

Once completed, strain into another jar.  Squeeze all the goodness you can from the berries, removing and discarding them once completed.  Your tincture is now ready for use.

For some, using alcohol to tincture is not an option.  This can also be made using glycerin.  I personally have not used this method before, but the process is very similar.  Simply substitute the alcohol with a 1:1 ratio of glycerin and water (I would recommend distilled water), cover your berries as described previously and place in a dark cabinet as stated prior.


Whichever method you prefer, you can be sure of having a steady supply of elderberry tincture that lasts throughout the winter with this recipe.  When you feel a bit off, begin taking this tincture 1-3 times per day, one full dropper-full or one teaspoon under the tongue if tolerated or dilute in a bit of water or juice.


When elderberry tincture is made using alcohol as it’s 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 the viability quite honestly 🙂

When making your tincture with a glycerin base, the shelf life is greatly reduced to approximately one year as opposed to the alcohol base method.

No interest in making your own?  Click the button below for a full listing of organic products & preventatives grown, harvested, & made here on the hill and available to you.

Love to hear about your tincture process!  Be sure to join the conversation below and follow us on all social media channels!

Love, Light, & Laughter ~

Signature of Suzan from It's My Sustainable Life

FDA Disclaimer

*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.  **Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

This article was featured at the Homestead Hop!

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Harold Thornbro July 19, 2021 - 2:02 am

Great Article! I planted several Adams and St. Johns Elderberry around my homestead the last couple of years so I’m excited for all the things we have been and will be making with them.

Ann @ Live The Old Way September 21, 2020 - 3:54 pm

Elderberry is a true gem! Thanks for sharing with us at the Homestead Blog Hop, your post was selected as one of our features this week!

Suzan Ferreira September 22, 2020 - 8:57 am

Thank you Ann!

Marilyn Lesniak August 31, 2019 - 7:32 pm

Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too!

T.M. August 28, 2019 - 3:56 pm

Well, this was educational! I had no idea elderberry had so many health benefits! I don’t even know if I’ve tried elderberry syrup! Good things to keep in mind as winter approaches. Thanks!

Suzan Ferreira August 28, 2019 - 4:42 pm

You are most welcome, Tina!

Catherine August 21, 2019 - 1:50 pm

I love making elderberry jam! Maybe this will be on my list for making next for the winter! Thank you for sharing!

Suzan Ferreira August 21, 2019 - 2:39 pm

YUM! Elderberry jam is delish. Hope you give the tincture a try…so efficacious!

Cindy August 21, 2019 - 12:38 am

I love using elderberry during cold and flu season. I’ve been wanting to make my own tincture. Thanks for the instructions.

Suzan Ferreira August 21, 2019 - 12:16 pm

You’re welcome Cindy! Thanks for reading.

Lisa August 20, 2019 - 4:55 pm

Cold season is horrible. Definitely looking into this. Thank you for sharing.

Alexandra August 20, 2019 - 4:49 pm

Thank you for posting! Love this natural recipe. I have a 3yo to manage through cold season and your post is definitely handy

Suzan Ferreira August 21, 2019 - 12:18 pm

Oh boy…a 3 yr old and germs 🙂 Maybe more about managing your health through the season LOL!

Heather August 20, 2019 - 12:08 pm

I pinned this! I want to attempt to make it. Thanks for posting.

Suzan Ferreira August 20, 2019 - 3:53 pm

Thank you for pinning Heather! Let me know if you have any questions in regards to making your own!

Pauline August 20, 2019 - 3:57 am

Fabulous!! I was just thinking about all the elderberries at the end of my property that I need to do something with. My first thought is always Anne of Green Gables. 🙂 I always have syrup given to me but I just might try making a tincture this year.

Suzan Ferreira August 20, 2019 - 10:12 am

Give it a try Pauline! You won’t be sorry you did.

Maria August 20, 2019 - 12:00 am

I too would never make this on my own. But it certainly looks interesting, and I will look for it here as my mom could certainly use it to boost her immune system!

Suzan Ferreira August 20, 2019 - 10:13 am

Thank you for stopping by, Maria, and reading. If you have difficulty finding it in your area, let me know.

Tiffany August 19, 2019 - 11:12 pm

I’ve done syrup, but never tincture. I may have to try this next time! Thanks!

Suzan Ferreira August 20, 2019 - 10:13 am

Your welcome!

windsofjane August 19, 2019 - 10:47 pm

I wonder if we have these berries in Alberta. Elderberries are not as famous compared to other berries. I have a weak immune system and every winter I always get sick. And it seems that these berries have amazing benefits! I’m going to research if I can find it here. Thank you Suzan!

Suzan Ferreira August 20, 2019 - 10:15 am

If you can’t find them locally, you can source dried ones online or from IMSL 🙂

jen August 19, 2019 - 9:08 pm

I used to make elderberry syrup when these grew in my yard. Your blog makes me miss those days…

Suzan Ferreira August 20, 2019 - 10:17 am

It does make it effortless when you have a source in your backyard 🙂

Kendra August 19, 2019 - 8:15 pm

Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been wanting to learn how to bottle my own as we totally buy a ton each cold/flu season! Pinning!

Suzan Ferreira August 20, 2019 - 10:18 am

Thank you, Kendra, for reading and pinning!

Sian August 19, 2019 - 7:21 pm

Definitely going to look into this. It’s summer and I’m getting colds!

Suzan Ferreira August 20, 2019 - 10:18 am

The season has definitely not ended with the warmer months this year. Thank you for stopping by, Sian!

Brittany August 19, 2019 - 7:06 pm

My family started using elderberry syrup last year. It seemed to help A LOT! Great information. I’m definitely not looking forward to cold/flu season again…..its always a gamble!

Suzan Ferreira August 20, 2019 - 10:19 am

I know right? I’m glad you enjoyed the content Brittany!

Angela August 19, 2019 - 5:15 pm

I wonder if these berries are anywhere on my side of the country? I liked your explanation of how best to pick/harvest them.

Suzan Ferreira August 19, 2019 - 5:18 pm

Hi Angela ~
I believe they do grow on the west coast as well. Thank you for reading and keep your eye out this week for an additional post on elderberries benefits with video of harvesting 🙂

Melissa Parcel August 19, 2019 - 4:47 pm

Interesting information! Thank you for explaining so clearly.

Laura Lee August 19, 2019 - 4:20 pm

I’ve been hearing a lot of about elderberries and wolfberries in recent years and how good they are for our immune system!

Suzan Ferreira August 19, 2019 - 4:55 pm

They definitely are! Thanks for reading Laura!

Amy Irvin August 19, 2019 - 3:01 pm

I have heard of this before. Something I may want to try this year! The recipe I’m sure, is great but I will be looking for a ready made version. Thanks!

Suzan Ferreira August 19, 2019 - 3:39 pm

Hi Amy!
Thank you for stopping by and reading. As you are looking to purchase elderberry products, please know we have available, tincture, syrup, and elderberry kits for purchase. All made in small batches organically here on the farm. Let me know of your interest and thanks for stopping by!


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