• Elderberry tinctures have become increasingly popular due to their immune-boosting properties, especially during cold and flu season. For elderberry entrepreneurs, mastering the art of making tinctures is essential for creating high-quality, effective products. This guide will walk you through the process of making elderberry tinctures, legal requirements, ratios, types of alcohol to use, and packaging.

Understanding Elderberry Tinctures

What is an Elderberry Tincture?

An elderberry tincture is a concentrated herbal extract that is considered a dietary supplement. It’s made by soaking elderberries in alcohol to extract their medicinal properties. Tinctures are known for their potency and long shelf life, making them a popular choice for herbal remedies. It’s important to note that ‘tincturing’ is sometimes used as a verb to describe all extraction processes. However, using another solvent, like glycerine, is not a tinctures, but a glycerite.  For example, these are traditional herbal definitions for various extraction methods:

  •  Tincture- vodka based
  • Elixir- brandy and honey based
  • Oxmel- Apple cider vinegar and honey based
  • Glycerite- glycerine based

Starting the Tincture Making Process

1. Gathering Ingredients and Supplies

To start making elderberry tinctures, you’ll need the following:

  • Elderberries: Fresh or dried elderberries work. Ensure they are organic and free from contaminants.
  • Alcohol: The type of alcohol you choose can impact the tincture’s effectiveness. Common options include:
    • Everclear (190 proof): Known for its strong extraction capabilities and long shelf life. Requires dilution with distilled water.
    • Vodka (80-100 proof): A standard choice that effectively extracts vitamins and minerals
  • Glass jars: For maceration (soaking the herbs).
  • Amber dropper bottles: For packaging the final product.
  • Labels: For detailing the contents and date of production.

Methods of Tincture Making

There are two primary methods for making tinctures: folk and mathematical. For commercial purposes, the mathematical method is preferred due to its consistency.

2. Folk Method

  • Step 1: Fill a glass jar halfway with elderberries.
  • Step 2: Pour alcohol or glycerin over the elderberries, filling the jar to the top.
  • Step 3: Seal the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks. Shake the jar daily.
  • Step 4: Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. Transfer the liquid to amber dropper bottles.

3. Mathematical Method

  • Step 1: Weigh the elderberries and calculate the desired ratio of herb to solvent. A common ratio is 1:5 (1 part elderberries to 5 parts alcohol).
  • Step 2: Measure the appropriate amount of alcohol based on the weight of the elderberries.
  • Step 3: Combine the elderberries and alcohol in a glass jar, seal tightly, and store in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks. Shake the jar daily.
  • Step 4: Strain and bottle as in the folk method.

Legal Requirements

The legal requirements for selling elderberry tinctures vary by location. It’s essential to research and comply with local regulations. In some states, it’s categorized under cottage law. In other states, it’s prohibited all together. In most states, it’s considered a dietary supplement.

1. Licensing and Regulations

  • Dietary Supplements: If you plan to sell your tinctures as dietary supplements, you must follow FDA guidelines, which include Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
  • Local Health Department: Contact your local health department for specific guidelines. Some states, like Colorado, allow the sale of tinctures under cottage laws, exempting small producers from certain regulatory requirements.

2. Alcohol-Based Products

  • Licensing: Selling alcohol-based tinctures may require additional licenses.

Ratios and Alcohol Types

1. Choosing the Right Ratio

The ratio of herb to solvent is crucial for the potency and effectiveness of your tincture. Common ratios include:

  • 1:5 Ratio: For standard tinctures (1 part herb to 5 parts solvent).
  • 1:2 Ratio: For more potent tinctures.

2. Types of Alcohol

  • Everclear (190 Proof): Excellent for extracting a wide range of medicinal compounds and offers long shelf life.
  • Vodka (80-100 Proof): Effective for general use and easy to obtain.
  • Brandy: Adds a smoother flavor and is used in elixirs when mixed with honey.
  • Vegetable Glycerin: A suitable alternative for alcohol, especially for children’s tinctures, offering a sweeter taste and a shelf life of 1-2 years.

Packaging Your Tinctures

1. Bottling

Use amber dropper bottles to protect the tincture from light and extend its shelf life. Ensure bottles are sterilized before use.

2. Labeling

Labels should follow cGMP FDA guidelines.

Additional Tips and Resources

1. Education and Resources

Whiles it’s not required to be a clinical herbalist to make tinctures, if you’re selling them to the public and indicating them for health and wellness uses, it’s good business to have a deeper understanding of plants, body functions and the intersection of the two. Expanding your knowledge through reputable herbal schools can greatly enhance your tincture-making skills.

Check out our article “Do You Have to Be an Herbalist To Start an Elderberry Business” for broadening and deepening your herbal wellness education.

2. Considerations for Selling

  • Glycerites: While not a true tincture, creating an elderberry glycerite is an alternative to offer a dropper-style proudct to your consumers. It could be more ideal for broader market appeal, including children and those avoiding alcohol. Glycerites will require a longer extraction period, a lesser-extraction capability, and shorter shelf life than alcohol-based tinctures.
  • Shelf Life: Tinctures made with high-proof alcohol like Everclear can last indefinitely.

Starting an elderberry tincture business involves understanding the intricacies of herbal extraction, legal requirements, and effective packaging. While you don’t need to be a certified herbalist, gaining knowledge through reputable courses and resources will help you produce high-quality, consistent products. Whether you choose alcohol or glycerin as your solvent, ensuring proper ratios and following a reliable method are key to your success.

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