It's that time of year again! So I'm sharing how to make elderberry tincture with you once more. This is a favorite rememdy in our home, all through the year.
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
16 thoughts on “How to make elderberry tincture.”
I really like elderberry tincture for winter colds. Now to find a source for elderberries in Madison!
I made this earlier this year using dried elderberries. One batch made without brandy and a later batch with brandy. My son and I discovered that we like the batch without brandy. What purpose does the brandy serve and is one recommended over the other?
I made a similar version two falls ago and my husband and son didn’t like it at all! This reminds me that I need to find a different recipe for this winter. We’re back in the PNW so I am sure we will need it.
I made a version with vodka that I didn’t particularly like the taste of. I added a couple of whole cloves to the bottle and it’s much nicer. And of course, cloves themselves are anti bacterial, anti viral and anti inflammatory, so all good in a cold and flu tincture. Might be worth a try?
I’m not familiar with cloves. Are they sold in health food or grocery stores?
I think I’m confused here~you say not to eat the raw elderberries but these seem raw to me~is it because they are steeped in an alcohol that they “lose” their strength (vomiting properties?)
I just want to make sure before we give this a go! We did some fiber dyeing with elderberries this summer~I’ll have to source some for tincture making now!
I’m in the UK and cloves are sold in the supermarket or grocery shop or in health food shops. They may be cheaper (and in bigger packets) in ethnic shops.
The smell always reminds me of Christmas!
I will try this!
Tameka, What did you use in place of brandy? Glycerine and water can work, but the brandy extracts more medicinals. If you used water it is a decoction which is appropriate for some herbs and not for others. For elder I would use either glycerine and water or brandy.
Glycerine is sweeter but not as medicianlly potent as brandy. You could always make a syrup. We don’t often do them because of some tooth decay we’ve experienced over here, but they are much tastier. We mix this in warm water or tea and the flavor is very mild and pleasant.
Hazel, I find vodka infusions can be pretty harsh, thus the brandy. Clove might be a great foil to warm up the blend in vodka.
Anie, The chemical that causes the vomiting is in the raw seed only, so once the fruit is infused or the seeds are cooked the issue no longer exists. The property is not transferred to the tincture. Hope this helps!
Thank you! I’m hearing that we’re at the end of our season but may head north to find some berries as my littlest is recovering…from a little cold.
Thanks so much for the help!
Thanks for the ideas!
Thank you for putting this out there so simply and succinctly. We live on this stuff during the winter. I add a few extras–bilberry, blueberry and reishi…oh, and once it’s ready I warm it and mix in honey enough to make it taste yummy! Haven’t found anything quite so easy to foist on someone coming down with a cold or quite so effective. Good stuff!