The elderberries ( Sambucus canadensis) are ripe, so yesterday I picked enough berries to make the first batch of tincture. Elderberry has a long history in herbal medicine. It is used as a super immune booster, and as a cure for colds, coughs, and the flu. Because it is full of antioxidants, as well as flavonoids, it can be very useful in fighting off bacterial and viral infections. The presence of flavonoids help to protect against cell damage. Elderberry is high in vitamins A and B, and contains lots of vitamin C. We use elderberry in two ways. We either make a tincture or we make elderberry cough syrup. We make a tincture using fresh berries and alcohol. A tincture is a heavily concentrated extract made from steeping ( but not boiling) medicinal herbs or plants in either alcohol or glycerin. To make an elderberry tincture, I fill a mason jar with half of the picked berries. I then fill the rest of the jar by pouring 100% vodka over the berries, leaving about an inch or so of head room. I close the jar and shake it up. The jars get labled and put in a cool, dark place for about 4-6 weeks. Our pantry stays pretty cool and it is rather dark, so this is a good place to store any of our tinctures. After 6 weeks, we strain the contents of the jar through a fine cloth, and discard the berries. We then pour the remaining tincture ( just liquid) into another (sterilized) mason jar. Again, we label the jar and store it in the pantry. When we feel a cold or flu symptoms coming on, we take about a teaspoon of the elderberry tincture three times a day. It definitely helps. To make cough syrup, we put 1 cup of the elderberries into a pot with 4 cups of water, a couple of cinnamon sticks and 1-2 piecies of raw ginger. We bring this to a boil and then turn the heat down to simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced by one half. We strain this through a fine cloth, discarding the berries and cinnamon stick and what is left of the ginger. Once it has cooled a bit, we mix the liquid with 1 cup of honey. This goes into a mason jar and is stored in the fridge. When we have a cough, it’s what we go for. Keep in mind that Sambucus Canadensis, the American elderberry, is the edible variety. There are red elderberries, Sambucus racemose, which are poisonous. If you are planning to make a tincture or a cough syrup from elderberries….be sure you have the right variety. Ours are growing wild here on the property, but you can purchase elderberry at various nurseries. I am happy to say that this year, unlike some others, we got to the elderberries before the birds did. We are still waiting for some of the berries to ripen, and these will be picked for cough syrup. However, I just want everyone to know….I’m not planning on getting any colds or the flu this winter. Wish me luck!