In this step-by-step how to make elderberry syrup post, I’ll walk you through my favorite recipe for elderberry syrup.
Elderberry syrup is a delicious and delightful way to boost your family’s immune system and help fight off the common cold and even flu virus!
During flu season, if you ask Facebook mom groups, or natural-minded people for a preventative or treatment for colds and flus they’ll tell you elderberry syrup.
It’s medicinal qualities have been touted for years. It’s even sold at drug stores!
In this recipe, I’ll walk you through how to make your own elderberry syrup for an easy, delicious flu-time medicine.
What is Elderberry Syrup?
Elderberry syrup is a delightful herbal concoction made from dried elderberries and raw honey.
In it’s base form, a tea is made from elderberries (the berries from an elder tree), cooled, and then mixed in with the honey.
Oftentimes other immune-boosting herbs are added as well including Echinacea.
Black elder trees (sambucus nigra) are native to North America and Europe, grow up to 30 feet tall and produce large bunches of dark purple berries.
If you’re lucky, you may even have some wild elders in the woods near you.
There are red elderberries, but black elderberries are what we use in medicine as the red fresh berries can be toxic.
There is a lot of myth and folklore about elder trees, which speaks to their importance in human culture.
I find that a lot of folklore evolves to pass on the significance, sacredness, and utility of plants. There’s a lot of myth around elder trees, faeries and witches.
Elder trees were used to protect a home from evils (such as sickness?) and cutting down an elder tree without the Elder Mother’s permission would place a curse (or sickness?) on you.
Elderberry Syrup Benefits
I was first introduced to elderberry syrup more than 10 years ago.
A local wine maker made elderberry wine and syrups and basically promised that it would cure whatever ailed you.
While the wine was absolutely delicious, I was skeptical about the promised medicinal benefits.
However the more research I did, the more I was impressed.
This study, from the Journal of International Medical Research, though only 60 patients, showed that those suffering from influenza A and B reduced the length of their symptoms by 4 days and saw significant improvement in comparison to a placebo group.
These patients were taking 15mL four times a day.
This study looked at the phenolic content of different elderberry drinks like syrup and elderberry juice and concluded “Therefore, elder beverages could be important dietary sources of natural antioxidants that contribute to the prevention of diseases caused by oxidative stress.”
For more resources on Elderberry Syrup, check out the World Health Organization’s selected monographs (and search for Flos Sambuci), the American Botanical Counsel’s Clinical guide to Elder Berry.
Medicinal Benefits of Elderberry
Elderberries are the dried fruit from the black elder tree (Sambucus nigra). Other common names for this tree are bore tree, bourtree, common elder, elkhorn and sweet elder.
During the beginning of Summer you’ll start to see clusters of white, lacey flowers on top of the elder trees that slowly turn into plump black berries.
The elder flowers, bark and the berries have traditionally been used in medicine dating back to the 4th century BCE and Hippocrates (the Father of modern medicine).
Elder is often called “the medicine chest for the country people”.
Elder flowers are rich in vitamin C, flavanoids, essential oils, mucilage, tannins and the hydrocyanic glycoside sambunigrine.
The berries are rich in vitamins A and C, antioxidant flavanoid compounds and iron and it’s active constituents include anthrocyanins, tannins, and sambunigrine.
Elderberry are used to treat colds, flus and other respiratory infections due to their diaphoretic and antiviral properties.
Elderberry also inhibits the reproduction of viruses so it can stop a cold or flu in it’s tracks.
Elderberry is also anti-inflammatory.
Medicinal Benefits of Honey
Just as water or alcohol can be used to extract medicinal constituents of plants, so can honey. Honey’s medicinal value is almost miraculous. Jars of it were found in pyramids in Egypt – more than 3,000 years old – still in perfect condition.
That is because it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-oxidant, and anti-fungal.
In a lab, honey has been shown to be effective against E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus, but there haven’t been enough studies to show if it does when ingested by humans.
It’s my personal go-to when treating wounds in my animals – it keeps the wound clean, promotes healing, and reduces the risk of granulation tissue from forming.
In addition to wound healing, it is a potent prebiotic, and regular consumption of honey has been proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and some types of cancer.
It promotes eye health, lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol, lowers triglycerides, and is as effective as a cough suppressant as over the counter cough medicines – without the scary side effects.
Honey has also been proven scientifically to help suppress coughs. In several studies involving children, honey was more effective in suppressing coughs than dextromethorphan (a common cough suppressant found in drugs) and diphenhydramine (an antihistamine).
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
Not only does this recipe give a great way to treat your family yourself, but it’s economical too. Starwest Botanicals has 4 oz of dried elderberries for $7.42.
Last year we bought elderberry syrup from the local grocery store, but I simply feel like the homemade stuff work so much better.
There is a caution against using fresh elderberries because they contain alkaloids and cyanogenic glycosides, which may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as well as depression of the central nervous and respiratory systems so it’s best to stick to dried.
To make this easy recipe for making your own homemade elderberry syrup, you’ll make a strong tea out of the dreid elderberries, cinnamon sticks, ginger and echnicea and hot water.
There are lots of other immune-boosting herbs you could add as well. Garlic, fresh ginger and whole cloves come to mind.
When I was living in Mexico, the local women would make a tea out of cinnamon sticks and a clove of garlic to treat colds and flus.
Strain out the solids with a mesh strainer and allow to come to room temperature and then mix in the honey.
As a word of caution, children under a year of age should never be given honey. For children under one, you can always replace the honey with maple syrup, which has it’s own medicinal benefits.
Because the water content is high, it has a short shelf life. For immediate use you can keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
To make a bigger batch for longer storage, you can freeze 1 Tbsp at a time in ice cube trays. It doesn’t take much elderberry syrup to be effective.
Take 1 Tbsp daily as a preventative or 2 tsp every three hours at the first signs of flu symptoms.
While I haven’t made them in my personal experience, Learning Herbs has a recipe for elderberry gummies as well which may be a more palatable natural remedy for children.
For more immune-boosting herbal recipes, check out Herbal Academy’s Introductory Course. They have an entire unit devoted to how the immune system works and how to treat common dis-eases like the cold and flu!
- 1 cup dried elderberries
- 6 cups water
- 2 Tbsp dried echinacea
- 2-3 sticks cinnamon
- 1/4 oz ginger
- 1 1/2 cups honey
- Add elderberries, echinacea, cinnamon and ginger to the 6 cups of water.
- Simmer gently until the liquid is reduced by half.
- Strain out the solids and allow to cool slightly.
- Add the honey and stir to combine.