Healthy elderberries are ripe and ready for harvesting
Now that it’s fall with definitely colder nights this year with a few frosts already, it’s time to start thinking about making your elderberry tincture. It’s perfect timing, since the plant has had colder weather to send all those nutrients into the berries and the first round of flu has happened with the kids going back to school.
Elderberries are an incredibly strong bioflavinoid and anti-oxidant. Many of you have read about the latest and greatest bioflavinoid- goji/acaci berries. They are all the same thing-wonderful bioflavinoids, just like elderberries, but, these grow right in our backyard and are free for the picking. Elderberry enhances your immune system to fight off those bugs much more effectively!
Elderberry trees are thin, mid-sized trees that look almost like tall bushes that branch out with narrow, long leaves and have an umbrella-like berry formation at the end of the branches. The berries are purply blue and quite small–about the size of peppercorns. You often see them growing along a roadside, but, those you don’t want to pick due to the absorption of chemicals from passing vehicles.
However, they are plentiful and easy to pick if you go for a hike in the surrounding area or you may find them growing in a neighbour’s yard. Pick about 8-12 umbrellas of berries from the ends of the branches and rinse under water. Remove the berries from their umbrella braches and pack a quart jar with the berries. Pour your favorite liquor on top, I typically use overproof vodka, since it extracts the active ingredients of plants the best, but, you can use brandy, rum, whatever you like.
If you want to make one for children, you can use glycerite instead, but, the glycerite doesn’t extract the active constituents as well, so, the glycerite is about 30% the strength of a tincture.
Cover the jar with a sealer lid and set on a saucer and sit it on a sunny counter or in a window. Every week, turn upside down 4-5 times and return to the saucer for at least a month until the liquid is a dark purple colour. At this point, you can strain off the berries and pour the liquid into a bottle. I use the brown 500ml tincture bottles, since the top seals well, but, any sealer bottle will do. You can take a ½ tsp of the tincture in smoothies or in water each day. If you wish to eliminate the alcohol, you can put the ½ tsp in tea/boiled water and the alcohol will evaporate.
Bioflavinoids maximize the immune function by increasing the number and activity of white blood cells. This allows the immune system to be more vigilant for viruses, bacteria and other microbes that need to be eliminated from the body and speeds up the production of white blood cells to fight infections.
Elderberries also help to minimize the immune system’s production of histamine and all other inflammatory metabolites by stabilizing it. Therefore, they reduce allergy symptoms of runny noses, scratchy eyes, sinus congestion, skin rashes, asthma and any other over-reaction of the immune system.
Another benefit is strengthening the walls of arteries and veins, so, taking the tincture will reduce varicose veins, hemorrhoids and ulcerations, prevent arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis and decrease high blood pressure. I always use them in any cancer, since they help the immune system to function properly.
NOTE THAT THEY DO NOT OVER-STIMULATE THE IMMUNE FUNCTION AND, THEREFORE, DECREASE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CHEMOTHERAPY OR RADIATION! THEY HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE! YES, THEY INCREASE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CHEMO AND RADIATION AND HAVE THE ADDED BONUS OF MINIMIZING THE SIDE EFFECTS OF HEART AND VESSEL WALL DAMAGE!
I also use them to improve eye function, eyesight, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
As you can see, there are many uses for this spectacular small tree, so, get out there in that wonderful sunshine and bring a bag with you to collect your fall harvest. Prevent & treat all those flus this winter, especially whooping cough, by getting that elderberry tincture brewing!
Brenda Gill is a naturopath practising in Rossland, BC.