How to Make Elderberry Tincture.

As a society we have externalized so much of what we need and want in our lives. Music, clothing, food, entertainment, health care. It's all purchased from outside of our family and our community. So what happens when we jam on the mandolin in the evening, sew some of our own clothes, bake our own bread, and make our own medicine? We come to life. On so many levels. Sure, I sometimes buy bread, most of our clothing come from the thrift store, and I have an Ipod, but to mix homemade and homegrown into every fold of our lives – even the smallest bits – can change everything.

That being said, making medicine is likely a daunting task to most. I broke down a simple fresh elderberry tincture into seven simple steps below. (Aside from chewing up a plantain leaf and placing it on a bee sting, this is almost as easy as medicine gets.)


I was very much "in the now" when I made this tincture, so there are no
photos walking you step-by-step, but it is so easy I think you'll get
it without the pics.

I chose elderberry because the elderberries are coming ripe, and because we use a great deal of
elderberry tincture every winter. 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 golden. (Also avoid raw elderberries as they can cause nausea and vomiting. Don't ask me how I know this.)


Fresh Elderberry Tincture

1. Locate: Find a site with abundant wild elderberries (sambucus ssp.). We honor the wildcrafting rule of 10/1. For every ten plants (or flowers, or fruits, or mushrooms) in the immediate area, you may take one home. If there are fewer than ten leave them to propagate the area and check back another year. You can also purchase dried elderberries online or at your coop, but I prefer fresh.

2. Harvest: Pick your elderberries right on the umbels (umbrella-shaped berry clusters). The stems are hollow and the fresh clusters snap off with ease. Don't fuss with picking off the individual berries. We'll get to that at home. Gather the ripest, almost black berries.

3. Freeze: When you have a bag-full take the berries home and pop them in the freezer. When frozen the berries will crumble with ease off of the stem.

4. Separate: Crumble the berries off of the stem into a bowl and transfer to a quart jar. Fill the jar with berries to just below the shoulders. Allow to thaw.

5. Muddle: With a wooden spoon or kraut pounder break the berries open a bit. You don't need to pulverze them, but muddle them up a bit. Some seeds will become exposed, and they look a little like bugs – so don't freak (see photo above).

6. Steep: Cover to in inch or two above the berries with good brandy (in Wisconsin a basic decent brandy is Korbel, so that's what we use). Lid, label, and tuck away in a dark quiet corner for 4 to 6 weeks. Tip the jar over and gently shake every time you think of it.

7. Bottle: Strain through a stainless steel colander lined with a thin cloth. Store in amber dropper bottles or glass jars in your medicine cabinet.

You can take a few drops of elderberry tincture often throughout the winter months. Dosage is as follows when feeling under the weather:

Adults 20 drops 2 – 3 times/day in water

Children 10 drops 2 – 3 times/day in water

41 thoughts on “How to Make Elderberry Tincture.

  1. Rachel Wolf says:

    OF COURSE! What a silly thing that I left that out. Elderberry helps activate your immune system. Anytime we feel under the weather we take elderberry tincture – cold, flu, etc. It is remarkable in how fast it helps a body heal. Thanks for the reminder to mention this!

    ~ Rachel

  2. Casey says:

    What a great use of herbalism. I grabbed a few books on herbalism myself a couple months ago from paperbackswap — it’s so fascinating!

  3. Cassandra says:

    I just love your opening paragraph….my husband and I are reading the entire Little House series right now and what you said really hit home. You put words to what I was admiring about pioneer life. Thanks 🙂

  4. katie steege says:

    looks like the steeges will be going elderberry hunting this week! 🙂 is there an expiration date on the tincture?

  5. denise says:

    Awesome! I love making our own tinctures, balms, salves, syrups and all that. So much love and care goes into it, so much better than the pharmacrap. We have started elderberry for the season, with a little guy whose immune system always needs a little boost in the fall & winter. 🙂

  6. Rachel Wolf says:

    You can use vodka, brandy, or glycerin. Glycerin is good for people who can not tolerate any alcohol what so ever, but the tincture is not as effective. Brandy makes a less sharp-tasting tincture. It is more mellow and easier to take than a vodka tincture. Really you can use either.


  7. Casey M. says:

    Thank you for this. I tried a pre-made elderberry syrup last year but it made me terribly bloated. I think a tincture would be more agreeable! We make marshmallow/elder flower tea all through winter and it helps so much with various sniffles.

  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    Let me know how this one goes. The standard is that a tincture is stronger than a tea, so any that you can make ahead (even with dried herbs) will be more potent when the cold season arrives.

  9. Funky Mommy says:

    I live on this in the Winter, but always buy the one at Whole Foods. I would love to make my own and already have some jars to put it in, but not sure where to find the berries. Are there any online places?

  10. jennifer wright says:

    hi rachel!
    i made some of this tincture, and i am wondering what you think: is this something to be taken regularly, or best used when one feels a cold/flue coming on? i’ll do some other reading to..

  11. Rachel Wolf says:

    Elder is quite gentle so you could use it during any likely cold/flu season. I personally find I reach for it only when were feeling something coming on.

  12. Fraulein says:

    do you know whether any toxicity is associated with seeds in tincture of elderberry? I have a batch going that I did not attempt to remove the seeds from and I am curious if there is any need for concern for toxicity associated with seeds in tincture of grain alcohol.

  13. Rachel Wolf says:

    My understanding is that the toxicity is only an issue when they are consumed raw. We have experienced this personally, but never had an issue with tincture. Im 99% sure that the tincture process neutralizes this chemical.

    All the best,

  14. katie steege says:

    hey rachel! bottled my tincture today! got 10 4oz bottles! 6 going out as Christmas gifts and the other 4 for our family! so pumped! thanks for the great post! have a happy and HEALTHY holiday season! 🙂

  15. Roy L. Varner says:

    I was instructed by the person that taught me about elderberry tincture to put it in with hot tea to remove the alcohol.

  16. Jen says:

    Elder is it an immune modulator; instead of stimulating the immune system to work- like echinacea does (and auto immune people should not use echinacea), it simply supports the immune system’s health and strengthens it. What elderberry does with a virus is blunt the spiky things that viruses use to puncture healthy cells to replicate itself. Scientists are not sure exactly how, but it’s a chemical in the elderberry that blunts the spiky things. If a virus cannot replicate, it will not overwhelm your system and you will not get sick or as sick. You can use it every day as a preventative, which we do. Or you can use it when feel something coming on, but double up on the dose, if a syrup, adults take 2 tsps every 2 hours. If a tincture, take 5-10 drops every 2 hours for at least 1 waking day, then go back to maintenance doses. I have had the syrup from dried berries knock a potent flu down in less than 24 hours. Elderberry extract/tincture or syrup is the ONLY thing that is 99.99% effective against bird flu, even better than Tamiflu.
    Elderberry juice is also great for brightening the copper bottoms of your pots & pans 😉

  17. Jen says:

    For east coast residents I believe Blessed Maine Herbs sells them dried as well. Organic and locally (Maine) harvested.

  18. Jen says:

    If you can’t makeyour own, there is one brand of syrup that I would recommend, I used it for years before I started making my own: Nature’s Way, just the regular syrup, not the “Immune Booster”. They were the only company licensed to use Dr. Momcuoglu’s recipe for extraction that was potent and yummy and no bloating! Some companies use other things that may affect your body if there’s a chance of allergy, some use preservatives or artificial flavorings. Others just taste nasty. has it at a wholesale price, otherwise it’s pricey.

  19. Dana says:

    Hi there,

    I wish I had read this before I harvested a bunch of elderberries (black or purple) and ate them! Someone forwarded this link to me since I picked some berries, washed them, blended them up with some water and made ice cubes with them. I consumed a lot of them over a week or so and got nausea, stomach pain and kidney pain.

    I had acupuncture and then finally went to a doctor (naturopath) who suspected the berries. I had stopped eating them and about 4 days later the kidney pain stopped. She said they probably were not ripe -and they were very tart for sure. Some were plump and some were more small and hard – I used them all. Oops.

    I learned a lesson here – it sounds like you did too one time! Thanks for the tips; I will be more careful next time.

  20. Rachel Wolf says:

    Oh, thats no fun! Glad you got to the bottom of it. My kids were visiting some friends who had (evidently) slowly built up a tolerance. They snacked like mad and by the time I brought them home they were vomiting and feeling crummy. It passed quickly but was a great reminder of the power of plant medicine.

  21. caroline says:

    thanks for this recipe! i made it summer 2011, and still have plenty left over. since it’s an alcohol base, i assume that it would still be okay to use now? just checking as my almost-3 year old has come down with a cold and i want to give him some, just wanted to be extra sure. thanks. 🙂

  22. Sandee says:

    I just spoke with a gentleman at our local university who is studying elderberries and he said that the alcohol actually draws the toxic component out of the seeds in the ripe berries and into the tincture. I will be juicing mine first.

  23. Megan says:

    Thanks for linking this in your recent flu season post. I have been making elderberry syrup with dried elderberries from Frontier but my kids hate the thick consistency of it and the sweetness and I hate forcing them to take it. It works incredibly well though so I wanted another alternative. I’ll give this a try.

  24. Rachel Wolf says:

    For me Im just not crazy about that much sugar on a daily basis and while we make elderberry syrup, we only use it to sweeten tea and the like. Do let me know how you like the tincture!

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