Cold & Flu Season Herbal Recipes Nourishing Staples Real Food Tips

How To Make Elderberry Tincture

November 11, 2016

Learn how to make and use an elderberry tincture to effectively battle viruses and boost the immune system!

How To Make Elderberry Tincture ::Learn how to make and use an elderberry tincture to effectively battle viruses and boost the immune system!

Preface: I am not a medical doctor. Use your own discretion, momma gut instinct, and research to make a decision if the natural remedies discussed in this post are for you. Obviously if you or your child is not responding to natural remedies well, or symptoms become worse, seek medical attention. Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

I will never forget the year I was sold on using elderberries during the fall and winter seasons.

It was my oldest’s first year of preschool. She was 3 1/2. And my goodness the little germy bugs that float around preschool rooms are enough to make your skin crawl! I had used elderberry syrup on and off up until then, but with our new found school schedule, and accompanying germ-fest, I came to heavily rely on the virus fighting capabilities that elderberries brought.

My youngest just happened to get a cold while I was writing this! She's bouncing back fast!

{My youngest just happened to get a cold while I was writing this! She’s bouncing back fast!}

Every week or so there were emails home about croup bugs, hand foot and mouth viruses, flu, strep, and on and on and on….

We rode out that first year of school with just a couple minor colds, and I was sold. Yes there is a whole lot more to kids staying healthy during the school year than just elderberry syrup. But with as young as my first born was, and as unexposed as she had been (no daycare as a baby), it is pretty amazing she came out of that year with just a couple colds!

How To Make Elderberry Tincture ::Learn how to make and use an elderberry tincture to effectively battle viruses and boost the immune system!

Elderberries have been known for centuries for their immune boosting abilities, and have been shown in studies to enhance immune system function for defending and fighting against disease.

Elderberries boost the production of cytokines, which are the body’s “messengers” for immune system defense. They are also filled with antioxidants for reducing inflammation in the body from being sick or under attack.

How To Make Elderberry Tincture ::Learn how to make and use an elderberry tincture to effectively battle viruses and boost the immune system!

While we love our elderberry syrup, making an elderberry tincture just plain saves this busy momma time!

A tincture is simply a liquid extract of whatever herb you are looking to use. The herb components are extracted into alcohol or vegetable glycerine. Because it is so concentrated, the dosages are smaller, and you won’t be in the kitchen simmering elderberry syrup every 2 weeks to keep up with a houseful of school aged children!

How To Make Elderberry Tincture ::Learn how to make and use an elderberry tincture to effectively battle viruses and boost the immune system!

Is it safe for children?

I happen to adore using tinctures for whatever ails my kids! It is so much easier to take than using a tea because the doses are so small and concentrated. The alcohol per dose is very minimal, however if that still doesn’t sit well with you, you can use vegetable glycerin for your tincturing. (I have not used vegetable glycerin for tincturing, so I apologize I don’t have a good source to recommend.)

How To Make Elderberry Tincture ::Learn how to make and use an elderberry tincture to effectively battle viruses and boost the immune system!

Extend the shelf life of your elderberries!

Elderberry syrup lasts in the fridge about 2-3 months. Tinctures last up to 5 years. If you get to the end of the cold and flu season and find yourself with elderberries left, it is best to tincture them up to maintain their potency. I have found a 9 month old half-used bag of elderberries I forgot in the back of my cupboard only to open them up and find them moldy. Tincturing takes the guess work out of shelf life.

How To Make Elderberry Tincture ::Learn how to make and use an elderberry tincture to effectively battle viruses and boost the immune system!

What you will need to make elderberry tincture

This is the best part! Brace yourselves…this is too easy!

That’s it! And in less than 2 minutes you will be on your way to your own elderberry tincture!

Instructions for making elderberry tincture

  • Fill your jar with about 1 cup of dried elderberries, cover the elderberries with the alcohol, and put the lid on.
  • Gently shake the jar and leave it in a dark cupboard for 6 weeks. Gently shake the jar every day or so (I keep mine right by my coffee mug in the cupboard so I remember to do this most days of the week)
  • After 6 weeks, strain the elderberries with a fine mesh strainer or thin kitchen towel and then pour the elderberry extract into your dark dropper bottle. Keep the elderberry tincture in a dark cupboard at room temperature. (PS! While you are waiting 6 weeks for your tincture to be ready, you can make elderberry syrup to use in the meantime!)

How To Make Elderberry Tincture ::Learn how to make and use an elderberry tincture to effectively battle viruses and boost the immune system!

So how do I dose my elderberry tincture out of my 4oz bottle?

Adults (considered over age 12) ::

  • When ill or at the sudden onset of illness: 2 droppers 3 times per day (2 droppers is about 1 teaspoon)
  • When healthy but the kids are sick (or there is a lot going around the classroom): 2 droppers 1 time per day

Children (ages 5-12) ::

  • When ill or at the sudden onset of illness: 1 dropper 3 times per day (1 dropper is about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • When healthy but there is a lot going around the classroom: 1 dropper 1 time per day

Children (ages 2-4) ::

  • When ill or at the sudden onset of illness: 1/4 to 1/2 dropper 3 times per day (1/2 dropper is about 1/4 teaspoon or about 5-10 drops)
  • When healthy but there is a lot going around daycare or their sibling’s classroom: 1/4 to 1/2 dropper 1 time per day (or about 5-10 drops)

(Please note that under the age of 2, I tend to keep any elderberry useage to tea or elderberry syrup (using molasses or maple syrup instead of honey if under the age of 1). If you are nursing, you can take the tincture yourself and the herb will transfer to your breastmilk. While I do use some tinctures with my babies for teething or calming, I try to keep it limited because of the alcohol and their underdeveloped livers under the age of 2.)

Tips for taking elderberry tincture

  • Tinctures can taste strong. I have found that my kids don’t bat an eye at them because they have been taking tinctures for various reasons since infanthood (such as teething tinctures and calming tinctures), and they are just used to them. Below are some things to keep in mind.
  • Tinctures work best held under the tongue for about 30 seconds. Obviously young children do not do this, but as my girls have gotten older we make it a game by humming the ABC’s or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while we hold it. You can dilute the tincture a little to tame the alcohol too.
  • You can mix the tincture with a spoonful of raw honey, yogurt, or applesauce if you think the kids will take it better that way.
  • You can dilute the tincture in a warm cup of water with raw honey to make a “tea”.
  • While herbs work best on an empty tummy, just get it in when you can! I do shoot for in between meals, but in a houseful of busy kids that just doesn’t always happen.

More natural remedy posts you might like ::

How To Make Elderberry Tincture ::Learn how to make and use an elderberry tincture to effectively battle viruses and boost the immune system!

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  • Reply Emily @ Recipes to Nourish November 14, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    I love how easy this is! I need to make some to have on hand. You take such good care of your littles! xo

  • Reply Tips To Keeping Kids Healthy During The Holidays - Raising Generation Nourished November 27, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    […] the holidays I like to give elderberry syrup or elderberry tincture a couple times per week. If the girls are run down or ill they get it daily until they recover […]

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  • Reply Nikki September 9, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    This will be my first year to try making a tincture. Do you bother with trying to find organic alcohol? Is that even a thing? I am rather unfamiliar with alcohol on the whole 🙂 Is it gluten free?

  • Reply Heather September 11, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    I was wondering if you have the teething tincture recipe posted. I couldn’t find it when I was searching. Thanks

  • Reply Angie September 14, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    I have celiac disease so I can’t have vodka or brandy, so you think tequila would work? I know there are a few gluten free vodka’s but the ones I have tried still made me sick.

    • Reply Renee Kohley September 15, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Angie! You can use vegetable glycerine. Or an herbalist friend of mine also said that apple cider vinegar works nicely too!

    • Reply eileen harringtom December 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm

      potato vodka is gf

  • Reply Tina Hoffman September 20, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    I have fresh elderberries, how do I use them in this recipe?

    • Reply Renee Kohley September 20, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Hi Tina! It is the same process using fresh elderberries. You’ll probably want to use more like a quart jar to make enough 🙂

  • Reply Tina October 17, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    I am 3 1/2 weeks into my tincture. I used fresh elderberrys. I tried some and it taste like vinegar. Is that OK?

    • Reply Renee Kohley October 21, 2017 at 9:06 am

      Hi Tina! I’ve never tinctured fresh elderberries before, so I’m not sure what to expect from the result, but I know that it is safe to do. If you see any fuzzy molds it isn’t good. Be sure the berries are completely covered by the alcohol too.

      • Reply Tina October 22, 2017 at 12:36 am


  • Reply Haley January 7, 2018 at 12:00 am

    Hi! The link to the pain tincture isn’t working. Do you have another link by chance?

    • Reply Renee Kohley January 7, 2018 at 9:07 am

      Hi Haley! I’m scouring the post for the link you are talking about – where are you seeing that? I need to change that out – my friend that wrote the post for making the pain tincture has her site down and I will contact her about where that post might be! Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

  • Reply Catherine January 15, 2018 at 7:37 am

    I thought elderberries had to be boiled to not be considered poisonous?

    • Reply Renee Kohley January 18, 2018 at 10:16 am

      Hi Catherine! The elderberries just can’t be consumed – they can be tinctured to extract the properties and then you discard the berries.

  • Reply Nancy June 12, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    I made the recipe with 100 proof vodka. Is that okay? I’ve been taking about a teaspoon a day, but afterwards, I start getting a headache. Do you think it’s because the vodka is too strong?

    • Reply Renee Kohley June 23, 2018 at 8:33 pm

      Hi Nancy! Taking a tsp per day shouldn’t make a headache, unless you are sensitive to either the vodka itself (some people cannot tolerate it at all), or the elderberries. You could try tincturing in glycerine instead if the alcohol doesn’t agree with you.

      • Reply Deb August 22, 2020 at 9:35 am

        Do you use any kind of honey or sugar in making this to make it?

        • Reply Renee Kohley August 22, 2020 at 2:11 pm

          Hi Deb! No, this is a tincture, not a syrup. It is a very concentrated liquid meant for small, potent servings. You could make an elderberry syrup with honey if you want a sweeter, more syrup like consistency and flavor.

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  • Reply Sue November 1, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    Looking for premade pack for sale for the syrup. Any info?

    • Reply Renee Kohley November 5, 2018 at 11:44 am

      Hi Sue! I don’t use pre-made elderberry syrup, so I’m not sure of any brands to recommend. I do buy this tincture a lot when I can’t make elderberry tincture myself ::

  • Reply Connie November 7, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    I strained my tincure into the brown bottles. Is there anything I can do with the berries?
    Thanks 😀

    • Reply Renee Kohley November 11, 2018 at 8:49 am

      Hi Connie! From what I understand the berries are not fit for eating, so you could make a weak tea out of them steeping it in hot water, or just toss them in the compost.

  • Reply sue November 28, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Hello! I am looking for the best price for the dried berries- amazon has a lb for $45. Does that sound right? I thought that I saw someone bought 15 oz for $18. Maybe price goes up in winter?

    • Reply Renee Kohley December 1, 2018 at 10:06 am

      Hi Sue! I do feel like the price fluctuates with the higher prices during the flu season. I typically buy on Amazon in the summer.

      • Reply Deb August 22, 2020 at 9:38 am

        Can I dehydrate the berries and use them or should I just use them fresh. I picked 2 gallon bags of them and have them in my freezer.

        • Reply Renee Kohley August 22, 2020 at 2:10 pm

          Hi Deb! Dehydrate them before tincturing 🙂

  • Reply ffeebbee December 27, 2018 at 6:11 am

    Just made my first elderberry tincture after making elderberry syrup every year since my children were young. I’m so thankful for your clear instructions and that it will keep for so long (Ive had a very nasty tummy from a cup of hot elderberry syrup that had gone mouldy 🤢). Picking the berries and making it myself also has such a feel good factor it therapeutic in itself. Thanks.

  • Reply Chandra Walton October 31, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    My vodka was refrigerated, but I still used it cold. It’s in the cupboard now so hopefully that’s ok.

  • Reply Kathleen April 11, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Renee –
    Thanks for the info. I have dried elderberries from 5 years ago. They have been stored in a dark cool place in an air tight bag. They still smell very strong and I see no evidence of mold. Do you think it’s still ok to use?

    • Reply Renee Kohley April 28, 2020 at 6:38 am

      Hi Kathleen, yes they should be ok. They do lose their potency over time, so just keep that in mind as you are dosing.

  • Reply Miranda April 30, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Wondering, after tincture is made, can the elderberries be useful any other way?

    • Reply Renee Kohley July 22, 2020 at 2:55 pm

      Hi Miranda! I know it is hard, but they do need to be tossed! Raw elderberries are toxic when eaten!

  • Reply Melissa Hernandez May 29, 2020 at 11:31 am

    Hi Renee-
    Question for you. I just ran out of my first batch, the second has two more weeks until it’s done. Is it ok to drain after 4 weeks?
    Thank you!

  • Reply Katherine Underwood July 1, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    Is there anything you can use the used elderberries for?

    • Reply Renee Kohley July 22, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      Hi Katherine! There really isn’t! Elderberries are actually toxic to eat the actual berry! Just toss them!

  • Reply Candace Faith July 31, 2020 at 8:07 pm

    Hello Renee, I just harvested some fresh elderberries, I read that they are poisonous uncooked, so I guess you can cook and make jam or something? If I want to make your tincture, do I have to dry them first? if so what is the best way to do that?

    • Reply Renee Kohley August 1, 2020 at 1:35 pm

      Hi Candace! To tincture the berries, you’ll want to dry them first – I’ve used a dehydrator. You could use a very low heat oven. You do not want to eat the berries at all – they are not good for eating cooked or fresh.

  • Reply Amy August 12, 2020 at 12:03 am

    I started a batch on 3/01/20. It got pushed to the back of cupboard and I just found it. Is this ok to use once I strain the elderberries out?

    • Reply Renee Kohley August 22, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      Hi Amy! Yes that should be fine – if there is anything “fuzzy” on the top you can toss it but the alcohol should have kept any bacteria away.

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  • Reply Suzanne August 27, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Can I use fresh elderberries to make the tincture? They are in my freezer right now. Do I need to cook them before adding the alcohol?

    • Reply Renee Kohley September 2, 2020 at 11:44 am

      Hi Suzanne! To tincture fresh elderberries, you need to dry them out first in a dehydrator, or lowest setting in the oven. You can make elderberry syrup from fresh elderberries if you prefer to do that.

  • Reply Leona April 12, 2022 at 6:34 am

    Thank you so much for your recipe. I look forward to making it soon. I was going to make the syrup and I still may. I like the idea of the tincture lasting longer, as I don’t get sick very often, but when I do it comes on hard and heavy!! Thanks too, for sharing where to purchase the products you use.

  • Reply Yolain August 16, 2022 at 5:53 pm

    We used dried elderberries, but they soaked up the vodka. Do you add a bit more to keep them covered with liquid? Thank you!

    • Reply Renee Kohley August 20, 2022 at 2:41 pm

      Hi Yolain! Yes, you will probably have to “top it off” once or twice to keep them covered!

  • Reply Ann October 13, 2022 at 2:09 pm

    What I usually do is make a stronger tincture and add it to the elderberry syrup for emergency cases.I make my elderberry syrup using Richo Cech’s recipe,from Plant Medicine book,then add enough tincture (1:4 ratio instead of 1:5) to bring my syrup close to 25% alcohol (not more).I understand that a 20% to 25% alcohol is enough for preservation. This way my syrup will be extra potent and will last longer, so I don’t need to worry about mold in case no one gets sick (my family only get very mild colds once every few good years-I am blessed!).The reason I make it though is to share with friends,as we don’t have any other family around here.I have quite a few friends that work in medical field,so I love sharing this syrup with them.

  • Reply Joni horton January 14, 2023 at 8:24 pm

    Hi i was wondering if I could use a piece of parchment paper in between the jar and metal lid? Every where close to me has been out of the plastic lids.

    • Reply Renee Kohley January 16, 2023 at 10:21 am

      Hi Joni! That is a good question – I have never done it before, and I have not heard of it being made that way! Maybe do some research before you try!

      I have always gotten the plastic lids on Amazon if that helps you!

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