#Elderberry Harvest Time in Western North Carolina #Medicinal #Herb #Permaculture


One really needs to keep a close eye on his elderberry bushes at this time of year. The flowers turn into green and then ripe black berries in a short time.

I’ve now harvested most of my elderberries over the past two weekends. (See photograph to the left.) I could have easily missed the harvest if I didn’t check.

Missing the elderberry harvest would have been disappointing. Last winter, my wife and I used the tincture of elderberry to completely avoid any colds and flu. The elderberry is an amazing medicinal herb. I cannot believe I lived half my life before I discovered the medicinal benefit of elderberries. Nearly free too.

Watch this blog for an update on the progress of my elderberry tincture production.

How I Made My St. John’s Wort Tincture

The St. John’s Wort plant has been medicinal for human beings for thousands of years. I blogged about the mythology of this wonderfully beneficial, friendly perennial plant here.

It is remarkably easy to extract medicinal benefits from herbaceous plants like St. John’s Wort into a tincture.To produce the tincture, all one needs is spirits, a canning bottle or two, and the recently harvested flower blooms. Here are the steps I followed to produce the St. John’s Wort tincture:

  • Fill a jar with recently harvested flowers;

  • Cover the flowers with spirits, such as a 100-proof, flavorless vodka;

  • Depress flowers below the surface of the spirits with a weight (e.g., a small rock);

  • Steep the flowers for about eight weeks. (Agitate the container once per week or so);

  • After eight weeks, strain the vegetable matter from the fluid retaining the spirits (tincture);

  • Store tincture in a dark cool location until needed.

The tincture produced here displayed a bright, sunny quality. The plant itself represents light so this is not surprising. It is a plant designed to lift human spirits.

Tincture of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

We planted the hypericum perforatum about four years ago. It began blooming in the late spring around this time two years ago. 

The plant is named after St. John the Baptist of the Bible. However, it predates him by centuries and was used by the ancient Greeks for treating a variety of maladies, including insanity and venomous bites.

Folklore attributes mystical qualities to the hypericum perforatum plant. It is a positive spiritual force, connected to the sun and light. Christians say the flowers resemble a halo. Pagans say it has the power to ward off evil spirits. Indeed, the Latin name from ancient Greece is derived from something like “away apparition.” Way way back, thousands of years ago, the Romans and Greeks used the plant in spiritual ceremonies.

Modern scientific man questions and is skeptical of the old beliefs of our ancestors, particularly as they relate to the woo woo. But I am not a person who easily discards the wisdom of many generations. Who is to say that we modern people are wiser than our ancestors? In my opinion, we moderns don’t behave much like we have an overly generous quantity of wisdom.

Nevertheless, recent scientific studies have shown that the hypericum perforatum plant is efficacious in treatment of mild depression. Herbalists still use it for treatment of traumatic injury and other health problems. 

With all these things going for the plant, we have been harvesting the yellow flowers this spring and producing a tincture. The process of making a tincture is simple. Just harvest and macerate the flowers and place them into a jar with alcohol for about a month. The alcohol draws out the medicinal qualities of the plant, and stores them in the alcohol until the medicine is needed. 

I love my St. Johns Wort bush. I would like more of these in my garden. I cannot confirm the woo woo qualities of my hypericum perforatum plant. But when I sit down near my St. John’s plant, and look at the pretty yellow flowers growing across the bush, I am happy to be near it. 

Elderberry Tincture Helped Me Prevent Flu and Colds Twice So Far This Winter

Katrina and I live out in the country now. It’s natural that we would turn to some herbal remedies for run-of-the-mill health problems like winter colds and the flu.

So far this year I have experienced the beginnings of a cold or the flu on two or three occasions. I dosed myself as described below with homemade elderberry tincture and my symptoms went away. I never got the cold or the flu!

Tinctures are very simple to make. They just take time and planning and knowing when to look for signs that the herbs are ready for harvest.

I planted several elderberry bushes a few years ago and the plants have done well. One of the bushes here is now producing a large quantity of berries in the late summertime. When the berries turn black and juicy it is time to harvest.

To harvest the elderberries you just need a pair of pruning clippers and a pint glass canning jar. Pull the stems through your hands and scrape the berries between your fingers to the jar. Cram them down into the jar until it is full of berries. Squish the berries down and cram as many as you can into the jar. It takes about 5 minutes to gather enough.

Then, pour 100 proof plain (tasteless) vodka into the jar with the berries until full. Close the jar and put it somewhere dark. Every week for four weeks, shake up the jar. At the end of four weeks, the tincture is finished.

That’s it! You made medicine! Strain out the stems and pulp and put it away for when you need it.

When you experience a wintertime scratchy throat or the beginnings of the sniffles, take a tablespoon of the tincture three times a day for a few days. Scientific studies have established that elderberry tincture works. It worked on me and it didn’t cost anything. No side effects either.