Elderberry, more specifically the subspecies Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis, has been used for centuries against colds, flu, and viral infections. Lately, a new interest in the plant has prompted numerous large studies to determine its efficacy, and impressive enough, it turns out that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system, is a great antioxidant, and is able to shorten and decrease symptoms of colds and flu.
You can make syrup, jelly, and other various goodies with the plant, but our guide here focuses on making elderberry tincture, an alcohol-based extract of elderberry that has numerous medicinal properties.
How to Make Elderberry Tincture
To make the elderberry tincture, you’ll need the following supplies:
- Clean canning jars – Use some with a tight-fitting lid, and of glass, not metal.
- Elderberries – Fresh, local berries are the best, but you can also use dried fruits in bulk.
- A fork – You’ll need to remove the elderberries from the stems.
- A bowl and a colander – Use them to store and wash the elderberries.
- 100-proof vodka – 100-proof vodka is normally used in tincture-making because it is 50 percent water and 50 percent alcohol. However, you can also use regular vodka or even brandy.
Now to the making of elderberry tincture.
If you have an elderberry bush in your garden, that’s great. However, when picking them from someplace else, make sure you differentiate elderberries from the toxic water hemlock Cicuta mexicana.
You can tell the difference because the hemlock’s stems are hollow with purple stripes. Also, remember that raw elderberry can cause nausea, so do not taste them when picking the fruits, and gather only the ripe ones.
Remove Berries From Stems
Use a fork to pull the elderberries off the umbels by starting at the bottom of the fruit and working your way up towards the main stem.
Wash the Elderberries
Remove any parts of the stem and put the berries in a colander. Rinse them well with cold water and drain the bowl.
Pack the Jar
Spoon or pour the elderberries into a clean canning jar, and fill it loosely up to about one inch from the neck.
Add the 100-proof vodka over the elderberries and cover them completely. Fill the jar all the way up with alcohol.
Label the Tincture
Close the jar and use a label for it. Make sure to note the date you made the tincture, the plant, and the type of alcohol you used.
Soak and Strain the Tincture
Allow the composition to steep for two to six weeks, and remember to shake the jar every day. For the first week, unscrew the lid daily to make sure the elderberries are covered with alcohol and top off additional vodka as needed.
After six weeks, strain the tincture using a colander, and press as much liquid out of the berries as possible. Rebottle the resulting tincture in a clean jar, label it and store it somewhere dark.
Herbal tinctures are good to use for one to two years, and they will gradually lose potency after this time.