How to Make Elderberry Syrup

A reader shares a medicinal elderberry syrup recipe that you can make at home to help ease the symptoms of a cold or flu at a fraction of the cost of buying it from the store.

| October/November 2018

  • elderberry-syrup
    Making your own elderberry syrup is both rewarding and cost-effective.
    Photo by Getty Images/Madeleine_Steinbach
  • elderberries
    Elderberries, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and honey come together to create a healthful syrup.
    Photo by Carrie Williams Howe
  • elderberry-syrup
    Strain out the berries and spices using a fine-meshed sieve or colander and discard.
    Photo by Carrie Williams Howe

  • elderberry-syrup
  • elderberries
  • elderberry-syrup

If you’ve walked into a health food store lately, you’ve no doubt seen a proliferation of syrups, tonics, and homeopathic medicines made with elderberries (Sambucus nigra). These products are meant to prevent and treat cold and flu symptoms and to boost your immune system, and often include honey as well. 

It’s no surprise that herbalists everywhere are combining elderberry and honey. According to information on the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center website, “Some evidence suggests that the chemicals in elder flower and berries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, including the sinuses, and help relieve nasal congestion. Elder may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-influenza, and anticancer properties.” Honey is likewise well-known for its medicinal qualities — it can soothe a sore throat and calm a cough, and it’s thought to boost immunity and fight allergies.

While I’m a huge fan of herbal medicines, and I’ve found success with some of these elderberry supplements, I’ve had two complaints when I shopped for them in the store: cost and ingredients. A small jar of elderberry syrup can cost upward of $20, and many products contain alcohol, which doesn’t taste good to me and makes me not want to give the product to my children.

Rest assured, you can make a great elderberry syrup at home with just a few simple ingredients and a little bit of time. This is especially true if you grow your own elderberries or keep your own bees!



If you don’t have fresh elderberries on your property, or you can’t get them from a local farmer, look for a reputable source of dried elderberries, such as an herbalist or a natural foods store (a good online source is Mountain Rose Herbs). We grow our own black elderberries, the most common elderberry in North America. Many types of elderberries can be toxic when raw, so cook the berries thoroughly.

Here’s a simple elderberry syrup recipe that will keep for a couple of months in your refrigerator. You can dole it out in spoonfuls just like cough medicine, or you can stir it into your morning juice or tea (stick to a dosage of about 1 teaspoon for kids or 1 tablespoon for adults). Just to be safe, consult your doctor before taking elderberry syrup, because it may not be suitable for you. 

Barbara
10/28/2019 10:53:17 AM

I add my homemade elderberry syrup to my morning yogurt. Also my powdered probiotic. Usually just add homey but I'm anxious to try this recipe!!


Lea
10/28/2019 9:41:37 AM

I also learned to make elderberry syrup using the Learning Herbs Home Medicine Kit. My issue, however, with making elderberry syrup is that I live alone and it makes so much!! I don't mind giving it away IF I know the recipient will actually use the syrup. So, what I started doing is making an elderberry tincture instead. I simply took the dried elderberries and soaked them in vodka for several weeks; strained and placed the tincture in dropper bottles. This makes the elderberry concoction shelf stable and very easy to use - just add a couple of droppers full in a glass of water and drink it down.


islander
12/11/2018 10:24:35 AM

This is going to look extra awkward amongst all these spam comments, but I learned to make EB syrup from the Learning Herbs starter course. It also teaches you to make a salve, an alcohol tincture, and a tea infusion. It's a bit pricey at full price but goes on sale every once in awhile at up to 50% off, and I think it's a great way to get started with herbal medicine if you have no experience and don't know anyone who can teach you. It was just enough to get me over the initial learning curve and into a place where I felt comfortable growing, drying, preparing and using my own herbal remedies at home, with a variety of preparations. They also occasionally send out emails with recipes for new things, which I usually find annoying from companies, but I usually open and enjoy theirs. This month I think it was a fir-scented lip balm, which was really straightforward since I've made a similar recipe before, but without heat-infusing the oil in evergreen first. Super simple idea but I wouldn't have thought to do it myself without the prompt, and I live in an evergreen forest. :) I don't have elderberries in the home garden yet, but I'm hoping to soon. I'm sure the bees are hoping I do too.




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