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Elderberry Tincture You Can Easily Make

Disclaimer:  The instructions I offer here in this post (and in all my posts about herbs and home remedies) are what I use personally at home. Of course the standard disclaimer goes: I am not a doctor and don’t prescribe medicines or herbs, this is just what  we have done here for generations with great results.  

I grew up in a home where we used home-made everything.   From coughs and colds to ear infections and croup we treated it with homemade concoctions.  I did go to the Dr. my fair share I guess. I was a kind of sickly child. But if Mother could treat it at home, she did.  So I was handed down a lot of homemade remedies.

One of the remedies that I favor today is using Elderberries to treat viruses.  Its important to learn the difference between viruses and bacteria.  Bacteria respond favorably to antibiotics, viruses don’t and we commonly say that a virus just has to run its course. Although, there are some anti-viral medications available today and they have to be started just about the same time you notice you might have a virus.

A common bacterial infection is Streptococcus. There are several types of Step and I guess the one moms recognize most readily is the one that causes Strep Throat.  Most people use an antibiotic to treat Strep. I certainly would because it can lead to Scarlet Fever and Rheumatic Fever if untreated.

In my family we get viruses more often than bacterial infections.  I’ll make another post sometime and talk about bacterial infections like ear infections, and tell you what I do for those.  Today though lets talk about viruses and how to make and treat a respiratory virus with Elderberry Tincture.

Here is my disclaimer. I have to do this because I always have someone writing to me and saying things like, “I tried your remedy and it burned my baby’s feet”, or “I tried your remedy and it made me sick to my stomach….”    I am not a physician. I offer this information for your reading pleasure only. This is what I do for my family and you should read more and research very well before you start making and medicating your family with herbs including elderberries.  

That out of the way, this is how I make Elderberry Tincture and why I make it. Researchers have decided that elderberries have a substance in them that coats viruses and prevents the viruses from reproducing in our bodies.  The University of Maryland Medial Center writes “Elderberry may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties” and “one study suggested that elderberry could kill the H1N1 virus”. Grandma knew what she was talking about a long time ago.

The species of Elderberry you want is Sambuca nigra or the Black Elderberry. The White Elderberry also called Dwarf Elderberry is poisonous. So if you’re going to go out looking for Elderberry, take someone with you who knows the difference.


Black Elderberry
Sambucus Nigra
Berries hang down – this is the one you want.


Dwarf Elderberry
Sambucus ebulus
Berries point upward – this is NOT the one.


There is a very good instructional about how to choose the right Elderberry at this site.  Included in the post are pictures of the leaves and different types of berries.

If you prefer, you can purchase dried, organic elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs.

I do make Elderberry syrup, but since it is a syrup it is mostly sugar.  My husband who is a diabetic doesn’t need all that sugar so I decided to make tincture this time. Tinctures can be made with glycerin but I chose to make it with vodka.  When you take the syrup you end up taking 9 to 12 tablespoons of it every day.  With the tincture, you only need 1 teaspoon three or four times a day and there is no added sugar, though there is probably a miniscule amount of natural sugar in the berries themselves.

To make Elderberry Tincture you will need:

  • A clean, glass  jar
  • Enough dried elderberries to fill the jar half way. If you have fresh berries fill the jar almost full.
  • Enough 80 proof minimum vodka to cover the berries.
  • A lid for the jar.
  • A dark place to let the jar of vodka and berries sit for a while.

elderberries vodka 2

Add the berries to the jar, add the vodka, put the lid on the jar, Shake it up and put it somewhere cool and dark. I put my jar in a paper bag on my baker’s rack. Give it a shake every day or two. Let it sit for 4-6 weeks. I let mine sit for 6 weeks.

After 6 weeks, strain out the berries and store the tincture in a dark jar away from sunlight. I usually put some tincture in a dropper bottle to use immediately and the rest in a dark jar in the frig.

You don’t have to store tincture in the frig, the alcohol will keep most anything from growing in it.

Tinctures made this way will last for several years.

Adults and children –  when you feel like you’re coming down with a virus, chest cold, etc., take 1 teaspoon every 3-4 hours til you’re feeling better.  Tinctures are strong tasting and you may want to add a teaspoon of tincture to a cup of warm water to get it down.  You can give children the elderberry tincture by putting a teaspoonful of it in a cup of hot water that is allowed to cool before the child drinks it. The hot water will evaporate most of the alcohol.

My husband keeps a tincture bottle of the elderberry stuff in his coat pocket all winter and when he feels like he might get sick he starts taking three droppers full every 45 minutes for the morning then every 3-4 hours after that.  A dropper full is about 1/4 teaspoon. The tincture by itself is strong tasting and burns my throat, so you might want to consider that before taking it without water.

Some people like to rinse the used berries and add them to oats or cookies, etc.  I have never done that but I guess you could. They smell a lot like currants so I might try them in some scones.

Another good tincture for colds and flus is Oregano Tincture.

Do you make Elderberry Tincture?  Have you used it and had good results?


  1. Jennifer B.

    Thank you, Sylvia. Have you listed the recipe for your elderberry syrup in a previous post? I think my kiddos would be more likely to take that. We do have elderberries a plenty on our property. I would like to make a syrup. I bought one at our local health food store, but I think it has too much glycerin and my daughter will not have anything to do with it, after the first dose I gave her. Blessing to you!

    • Jennifer B.

      Oops! Never mind. Just searched your site and found the elderberry syup post from 08/12. Thanks!

      • Sylvia

        Glad you found it! You may want to add a cinnamon stick to the syrup as it cooks to give it more flavor, Elderberry syrup isn’t as tasty as other fruit syrups and I have found that a little cinnamon makes it taste better to children.

  2. peacewing

    Thank you, Since I am not able to go out and find some, I will use the dried, will look at my co-op. My Doctor likes to say I am one big virus, lol, so I am thrilled to try this, warm loving hugs

    • Sylvia

      I hope you have great success with it Mona. Let me know if you need any help.