An elderberry tincture is a great way to boost your immune system and help fight off a cold or flu quickly. Making a tincture is simple and requires just two ingredients: elderberries and alcohol.
Whether you're warding off a cold or flu or just looking for a great immune-boosting aid, an elderberry tincture is a great solution!
Unlike elderberry syrup, this elderberry tincture has a much longer shelf life and is a great way to use up any extra elderberries before they expire.
Since this elderberry tincture takes up to 6 weeks before it's ready to use, you might want to check out our elderberry gummies recipe to help boost your immune system right away.
Benefits Of Elderberries
Elderberries fight the influenza virus and H1N1 while strengthening the immune system. They contain high amounts of Vitamin C and moderate amounts of vitamins A, B6, and iron.
They are also mildly anti-inflammatory.
The nation of Israel has completed several studies on elderberries. The findings are surprising!
Mumcuoglu, who is president of Razei Bar, first tested her research on patients in the Southern Israel flu epidemic of 1992/3. The results were extremely encouraging.
Within 24 hours, 20% of those patients taking Sambucol had dramatic improvements in symptoms like fever, muscle aches and pains and coughing. By the second day, 73% were improved and by day three, 90%. In the untreated group, only 16% felt better after two days. The majority of that group took almost a week to begin feeling better.
In 1995, laboratory studies were carried out at Hadassah, which showed that Sambucol was effective against human, swine and avian influenza strains. (Source.)
The Best Elderberries For Tinctures
Of all the types of elderberries, Sambucus nigra is the variety you'll want to buy for a tincture. These are edible when fully ripe.
Most elderberries are toxic and should not be eaten raw. However, once cooked, elderberries can be made into jams, jellies, or even drinkable juice!
Sambucus nigra is an exception to the all-raw-elderberries-are-toxic rule. Although, even Sambucus nigra must be fully ripe.
Tips For Making An Elderberry Tincture
When making a tincture, you'll want to abide by the following rules:
- Use alcohol that is 80 proof, or above.
- Don't cook your berries.
- Discard elderberries once strained.
- Always avoid red elderberries. These are toxic, cooked or not.
- Store tincture in a cool, dark cupboard (and a dark glass bottle).
Where To Buy Elderberries
There are a few options when it comes to buying dried elderberries or foraging for fresh berries.
Elderberries grow in many places, especially across the Pacific Northwest, but it's important you know which type of elderberry you're picking. Be sure to check with your local extension office if you're unsure.
You can also purchase elderberries online from Amazon.
Or, check your local health food store!
My tip? Buy them well before cold and flu season as many places tend to sell out.
In fact, if you haven't tried to source any this year, you may want to start looking as I've been told by our local health store owner that many of the elderberry suppliers are selling out.
How To Make An Elderberry Tincture
Finally, making an elderberry tincture is simple! Here's the step-by-step process of how to make it.
1. Fill a pint or a quart jar half full with fresh or dried berries.
2. Next fill the jar with vodka (at least 80 proof), leaving 1 inch of headspace.
3. Place a tight-fitting lid onto the jar and give it a few good shakes. (If your lid isn't leak-proof, you'll likely have a mess on your hands! I recommend using a canning lid and band.)
4. Label and date your jar, then place the elderberry tincture into a brown paper bag, fold the bag over and place it in a cool dark place for 4 to 6 weeks. You can give it a good shake whenever you think about it. I like to set it by something in the pantry I use often and shake the jar every time I see it.
5. Strain your tincture through a fine-mesh strainer. Alternatively, you can use a tea towel or an old clean t-shirt (though they will stain!).
6. Once your elderberry tincture is complete, you can store it in an air-tight jar or bottle. We recommend using a dark amber glass bottle, or these 1-ounce tincture bottles for easy dosing.
How To Store Elderberry Tincture
As with all tinctures, it's best to store them in a cool, dark place.
We prefer storing our elderberry tincture in amber glass bottles. We love using these dropper bottles for elderberry tincture as well.
Your tincture will stay most potent if stored in a cool, dark cabinet. Room temperature will be fine, you just don't want your temperature to fluctuate too much.
How Long Does An Elderberry Tincture Last
An elderberry tincture will last up to 5 years when stored properly.
Unlike elderberry syrup, which lasts about 2 to 3 months in the refrigerator (about 2 weeks at room temperature), this is a great way to use up any extra elderberries at the end of the cold & flu season and know you're getting the most potency out of those berries. After all, they're not cheap!
Elderberry Tincture Dosages
As always, we recommend getting the advice of your family health practitioner, but here are some commonly accepted dosing instructions.
Note: 1 teaspoon is typically about 2 droppers full (if using the bottles linked above). If you're unsure, use a measuring spoon until you get the hang of your dropper.
Adult & Young Adult Dosages
(This dosage is for adults and children over the age of 12.)
- To boost the immune system when a family member is sick (or if you've come into contact with someone who is ill), take 1 teaspoon once daily.
- When ill, or at the first signs of illness, take 1 teaspoon three times daily.
(For children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old.)
- To boost the immune system when a family member is sick (or if you've come into contact with someone who is ill), take 1/2 teaspoon once daily.
- When ill, or at the first signs of illness, take 1/2 teaspoon three times daily.
(For children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old.)
- To boost the immune system when a family member is sick (or if you've come into contact with someone who is ill), take 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon once daily.
- When ill, or at the first signs of illness, take 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon three times daily.
Tips For Taking Elderberry Tincture
Not everyone loves the taste of a tincture, they can tend to be bitter or “spicy” to some. If you (or your children) don't like the taste, you can either dilute it with a little bit of water to make the flavor milder, or you can add it to a bit of juice.
- 1 cup elderberries dehydrated or fresh
- 10 ounces vodka 80 proof minimum
Fill the jar half full with elderberries (about 1 cup).
Next, fill with vodka, leaving 1 inch of headspace (approximately 10 ounces).
Cover jar with lid and give it a good shake.
Label jar with contents and date, place in a brown paper bag, and set in a dark cool area for 4 to 6 weeks.
Once infusion time is up, strain through a fine mesh strainer, tea towel, or old clean t-shirt.
Discard the berries.
Pour into clean, sterile, dark-colored bottles. No dark bottles? Don’t fret, use a clean, sterile pint jar. Just place the jar back into a paper bag to shield the tincture from light.
Dosage (see post for more detailed dosing instructions):
- When your immune system is compromised or you’re coming down with the flu or a cold, take 1 teaspoon of elderberry tincture 1 to 3 times a day.
- Since tinctures can be rough to take straight, if needed, dilute in 8 ounces of water for easy drinking.
- Giving tincture to children? Place tincture in hot water (think hot like for herbal tea). This will evaporate the alcohol. Once cool, give to the child to drink.
More Natural Remedies
- Digestive Bitters
- Elderberry Gummies
- 7 Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System + Home Remedies for Cold & Flu
- Natural Teething Remedies
- Alcohol-Free Tinctures
- Homemade Cough Syrup
- Immune-Boosting Herbs
- Sore Throat Tonic
- Pepper Juice: Immune Boosting Tincture
- Black Walnut Tincture
Do you know how to make an elderberry tincture? What tips or advice would you add?
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You are responsible for your own health and for the use of any remedies, treatments, or medications you use at home.
This post was originally published and written by Katie Baldridge on 12/2/13. It was updated and republished on 5/8/20.
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