Instructions for Elderberry Tincture

  • 01 of 08

    Gather Your Supplies

    Elderberry tincture steeping.
    Elderberry tincture steeping. Photo © Lauren Ware

    You'll need a few things to make elderberry tincture. Grab your supplies, including:

    • Clean mason jars. Wide-mouth jars work best because it's easier to get the berries into them, but you can use whatever jar you have. They don't even have to be proper mason/canning jars - anything with a tight-fitting lid will work. Use glass, not metal.
    • A source of elderberries. Fresh, local berries are best, but you can also order dried berries in bulk. If your berries are frozen, let them thaw and then...MORE continue with the instructions.
    • A fork. For removing the elderberries from the stems.
    • A bowl and a colander. To store and wash the elderberries.
    • 100-proof vodka. 100-proof vodka is typically used in tincture-making because it is 50 percent water and 50 percent alcohol, comprising a standard solution. You can use regular vodka or even brandy in a pinch, though.
    Continue to 2 of 8 below.
  • 02 of 08

    Pick the Elderberries

    Elderberry shrub with ripe berries.
    Elderberry shrub with ripe berries. Photo © Lauren Ware

    Elderberry, specifically the subspecies Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis, is very useful for fighting colds, flu, and viral infections.

    You can make elderberry syrup, jelly and other goodies with the elderberry, but this tutorial focuses on making elderberry tincture - an alcohol-based extract of elderberry that has medicinal properties.

    First, find the right kind of elderberry shrub! If you have one that you've planted, that's great. Otherwise, identify the elderberry bush before...MORE picking anything. Remember that raw elderberry can cause nausea, so resist the urge to sample the berries. Also, don't confuse elderberry with the toxic water hemlock, Cicuta mexicana. You can tell the difference because water hemlock's stems are hollow with purple stripes. All parts of water hemlock are toxic, so don't touch the plant.

    The berries are ripe when they are a deep purple-black color and slightly soft to the touch. Use scissors to snip off the purple berry clusters with stems intact. This makes it easier to strip the berries from the "umbrells," the umbrella-like, delicate stems that they grow on. Use the large central stem as a handle while cleaning off the berries.

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  • 03 of 08

    Remove Elderberry Berries From Stems

    Removing the berries from the elderberry stem.
    Removing the berries from the elderberry stem. Photo © Lauren Ware

    Use a fork to gently pull the berries off the umbrells. Start at the bottom of the cluster and work your way up toward the main stem.

    Continue to 4 of 8 below.
  • 04 of 08

    Wash the Elderberry Berries

    Washed elderberries.
    Washed elderberries. Photo © Lauren Ware

    Take the berries, remove any bits of stem that got into the bowl (within reason), and place them in a large colander. Rinse well with plenty of cold running water and drain. Place them into a container that you can tip into your tincture jar easily.

    Optional: Take a potato masher or put the berries in your blender and mash them a bit. This applies only for fresh berries, not if you're using dried.

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  • 05 of 08

    Pack the Jar With Elderberries

    Put elderberries into jar.
    Put elderberries into jar. Photo © Lauren Ware

    Take the washed elderberries and put them into a clean, dry mason jar. Fill the jar loosely with the berries up to about one inch from the neck of the jar.

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  • 06 of 08

    Pour Vodka Over the Berries

    Pour vodka over berries.
    Pour vodka over berries. Photo © Lauren Ware

    Take your 100-proof vodka or spirit of choice and pour it over the berries, covering them and adding about an inch of vodka over the top of the berries. Fill the jar almost to the brim with vodka.

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  • 07 of 08

    Label Your Tincture

    Nicely labeled elderberry tincture.
    Nicely labeled elderberry tincture. Photo © Lauren Ware

    Close the jar with a tight-fitting lid such as  a fresh canning lid and ring. Use a permanent marker to label the jar with:

    • The date you made the tincture
    • The herb used
    • The type of alcohol used
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  • 08 of 08

    Steep and Strain the Tincture

    Elderberry tincture.
    Elderberry tincture. Photo © Lauren Ware

    Allow the tincture to steep for two to six weeks. Shake the jar each day. For the first week or so, unscrew the lid and check to be sure the berries are covered with vodka. Top off with additional vodka as needed.

    After six weeks, strain the tincture through a colander, pressing as much tincture out of the berries as you can. Rebottle it in a clean jar, label it and store it in a dark place.

    Herbal tinctures will stay good for one to two years; they will slowly lose potency after this time. If you...MORE ever see mold or smell an "off" smell, don't use the tincture.