Making Elderberry Tincture

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.

The flowers before the berries.

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 berries should be the ripest and almost black.

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 eating too many raw elderberries as they can cause nausea and vomiting. You must cook them first or make a tincture. They will essentially be raw in the tincture, but you are not eating them by the handful.)

Fresh Elderberry Tincture:

1.) Locate: Find a site with wild elderberries (sambucus ssp.) or grown your own. I purchased my 2 plants from Edible (1 Adams and 1 Johns). You can also purchase dried elderberries online at The Bulk Herb Store, 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.

You can freeze the rest to make syrup for pancakes another day.

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.

A dear friend saved me her old bottles. I’ve recycled them using the DW.


If you decide to make it, mix 1/4 tsp. (or 20 drops from a dropper) 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.

Pliny the ‘Elder’ (berry)

“And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” Genesis 1 :29

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Thank You so much  :)

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~ Jacqueline

This entry was posted in Berry Growing, Health, Herbal Remedies, Tinctures. Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Making Elderberry Tincture

  1. Barb S. says:

    I completely understand Jacque. I too, have a desire for more self-sufficiency, but I have so much to learn and feel I am so far away from getting there. The garden is not doing well. Tomato plants seem to be done yielding. Most of the herbs didn’t grow at all. Still hoping to get a late harvest on some of the others. After all the work we put into this square foot garden, I admit to being very disappointed. [sigh] Great post, dear. Would LOVE to do this! Good for colds and flu, yes? I might have to find me some berries! Any idea where to get fresh ones?

    • bev says:

      they are usually by a stream or lake is where they grow here in the foothills. I live in the Sierras on the eastern side they are so good

  2. Thanks for this post!
    Elderberries grown pretty abundantly here in the mountains and last year (besides chokecherries) it was one of the first ‘self-sufficient’ things I stepped out in ‘the wild’.
    We made a syrup from packages of 1 cup frozen berries when we needed it throughout the winter, but I really like the idea of a tincture. I’ve never made one and, as always, appreciate your precise instructions :)

  3. amanda says:

    Do you think this must be made in an alcohol base or do you think you can use a glycerin base instead?

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hello, dear Amanda,
      To the best of my knowledge, a glycerin base would not ‘keep’ very long at all w/o a preservative. I will look into this, and if you find anything (recipe idea), let me know, too. The underlying reason for vodka is because it takes the elderberry directly to the liver, but it is so little in a tincture (alcoholics have liver damaged from EXCESS alcohol). The immune systems center is (after the GI tract) the liver. Getting the elderberry there is the idea. I don’t know where I read that…
      TTYL, J

  4. Luisa says:

    I was just thinking about that a while ago. I mean, my mother used to sew; I can’t even seem to mend my own. She cooks as no one else and I can’t cook – I’m to telling people I “manage to survive” on the kitchen, but that’s about it.
    Loved the post. Maybe you could come visit me too, if you got the time. Have a nice day :P

  5. Liz says:

    Thank you for sharing this. When I lived in the mountains this was a staple for me to make. Now I have a hard time finding elderberries. Your post has inspired me to start looking again, or buy some online. It really does help keep flu and colds at bay.
    I found you through Raising Homemakers link up.

  6. What a wonderful post!! Thanks for sharing. We have always taken Sambucol but would love to make it!

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  10. Mary says:

    You mention that the elderberries should not be used raw. The instructions for the tincture mention gathering, freezing, then going straight into jars. When and how do you convert them from “raw”?
    I am a fan of elderberry. Last winter I had a bad case of laryngitis. A friend suggested that elderberry might help. I had juice canned so I opened a quart, diluted it with a little water and sweetened with stevia. My husband noticed an improvement in my voice after the first glass. I finished the quart and my laryngitis was gone and hasn’t returned.
    Thanks for your post, Mary

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi, Mary,
      I hope I haven’t muddied the waters unintentionally. By don’t ‘use raw’ I mean to not just pop them into your mouth raw, but taking them straight into the vodka is the very best way to extract the phyto-chemicals God put into them. Freezing is just a simple way of getting the berries off the stems w/o too much fuss. I will go to the post and see if I can re-word it better. Thanks for your question…and Yes, we found the tincture to be invaluable this winter. Over and over, it did the job for all of us at one time or another :) I hope that helps.

      • Mary says:

        Thanks for the clarification. I will try the “freeze then remove the berries” trick this season. It is always a chore to separate the berry from the stem.

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  13. marjo says:

    thank you for this wonderful site, i was wondering if i could use apple cider vinegar instead of alcohol, thank you :)

  14. I have included a photo and link to this in my list “What to do with Elderberries”.
    Hope that’s ok with you?
    Great post, thanks for sharing.

    • Jacqueline says:

      I am so glad you found it helpful! I’m fine with sharing anything with a link-back. Thanks for the visit and comment :)

  15. richard says:

    Have been told to make your tincure on a full moon then after 21 days, strain out any bulk pieces. After time you can add more ( whatever you use – seed/ root) to make it stronger if needed.

  16. JEdwards says:

    can you use gin as opposed to vodka?

  17. Mary Brown says:

    Can you make Tincture from dried elderberries?
    I enjoyed meeting you briefly at Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest a couple of weeks ago.
    Mary Brown

  18. Mary Brown says:

    Can you make tincture from dried elderberries?
    Mary Brown

  19. Peggy says:

    I too have a great desire to learn more about nature’s medicines and how to make them. I have made the tinture you describe and I just take a teaspoon every day for overall good health. Didn’t catch any kind of “bug” until I ran out of tinture. I am now making a new batch. I am lucky to be able to harvest the berries in the wild in New Mexico, but I know Natural Grocery Store also has the dried berries.

  20. Tammy says:

    Thanks, this is great, I have a bush growing in my yard that was a “donation”, I did not plant it. I found a cute plant growing in my flowers and decided to let it grow and waaaalaaa, I have an Elderberry bush ( I think the birds planted it) I remember my baby sitter making things from them. I will make some of this and the syrup that you have up also… I do eat them from the bush, but never more than 2 or 3 at a time.

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  22. Thank you for your wonderful blog post a beautiful pictures!

    I followed your directions and made Elderberry Syrup today and it turned out great, my husband said he’s looking forward to cold and flu season because it tastes good =)

    I’m also learning how to become more self sufficient and loving it!

  23. Pingback: 3 ways to use elderberries to beat the flu this winter

  24. davi says:

    Thanks for the reply, very thankful what you are doing
    we are in the flue season here just about all my kids got it !!!
    I was wondering can I make tincture with dry Elderberries?
    And is there a certain amount we have to use on dry berries?
    Thanks again keep up the good work

  25. Brenda says:

    Thank you so much for giving step by step instructions on how to the tintures..I bought 3- Elderberry plants last few months and they are already loaded with what will be a bountiful harvest.I bought them for their medicinal uses.

    • Jacqueline says:

      Yay! Brenda, I am excited for you, and now you have some options: you can let the birds finish off what you don’t use, you can give away or sell the berries at a farmer’s market (we sell them by the gallon bag-still on stems), or you can even dig up the suckers with roots and sell plants if you’ve a mind to! Blessings~ and have fun!!

  26. Isara says:

    Have you found any uses for the elderberries once they have been strained from the Vodka? I keep thinking that I should not waste them … or that they can be soaked again? Any recipes, any ideas?! Waste not, want not! Thanks, in advance, for your time and answer.

    • Jacqueline says:

      Good morning, Isara!
      I wouold compost them, but they are vodka soaked and would be harmful to the microbiology of my soil. I can’t think of anything else :( If you would, let me know if you hear of a good use :) Blessings to you and yours!

    • Robin says:

      I’m going to make this tincture with the dried berries I have sitting beside me. When it is finished, I will strain out the berries and give a little to each of my dairy goats. There isn’t many unspoiled fruits or veggies that they don’t love to clean up for me;)

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