As a society we have externalized so much of what we need and want in our lives. Music, clothing, food, entertainment, health care. It's all purchased from outside of our family and our community. So what happens when we jam on the mandolin in the evening, sew some of our own clothes, bake our own bread, and make our own medicine? We come to life. On so many levels. Sure, I sometimes buy bread, most of our clothing come from the thrift store, and I have an Ipod, but to mix homemade and homegrown into every fold of our lives - even the smallest bits - can change everything.
That being said, making medicine is likely a daunting task to most. I broke down a simple fresh elderberry tincture into seven simple steps below. (Aside from chewing up a plantain leaf and placing it on a bee sting, this is almost as easy as medicine gets.)
I was very much "in the now" when I made this tincture, so there are no photos walking you step-by-step, but it is so easy I think you'll get it without the pics.
I chose elderberry because the elderberries are coming ripe, and because we use a great deal of elderberry tincture every winter. The procedure is as basic as can be. You really only need to be certain of your plant identification before you proceed, and you're golden. (Also avoid raw elderberries as they can cause nausea and vomiting. Don't ask me how I know this.)
Fresh Elderberry Tincture
1. Locate: Find a site with abundant wild elderberries (sambucus ssp.). We honor the wildcrafting rule of 10/1. For every ten plants (or flowers, or fruits, or mushrooms) in the immediate area, you may take one home. If there are fewer than ten leave them to propagate the area and check back another year. You can also purchase dried elderberries online or at your coop, but I prefer fresh.
2. Harvest: Pick your elderberries right on the umbels (umbrella-shaped berry clusters). The stems are hollow and the fresh clusters snap off with ease. Don't fuss with picking off the individual berries. We'll get to that at home. Gather the ripest, almost black berries.
3. Freeze: When you have a bag-full take the berries home and pop them in the freezer. When frozen the berries will crumble with ease off of the stem.
4. Separate: Crumble the berries off of the stem into a bowl and transfer to a quart jar. Fill the jar with berries to just below the shoulders. Allow to thaw.
5. Muddle: With a wooden spoon or kraut pounder break the berries open a bit. You don't need to pulverze them, but muddle them up a bit. Some seeds will become exposed, and they look a little like bugs - so don't freak (see photo above).
6. Steep: Cover to in inch or two above the berries with good brandy (in Wisconsin a basic decent brandy is Korbel, so that's what we use). Lid, label, and tuck away in a dark quiet corner for 4 to 6 weeks. Tip the jar over and gently shake every time you think of it.7. Bottle: Strain through a stainless steel colander lined with a thin cloth. Store in amber dropper bottles or glass jars in your medicine cabinet.
You can take a few drops of elderberry tincture often throughout the winter months. Dosage is as follows when feeling under the weather:
Adults 20 drops 2 - 3 times/day in water
Children 10 drops 2 - 3 times/day in water