Elderberry Tonic for Cold and Flu Prevention

Reader Contribution by Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt
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Photo by Adobestock/elfgradost

Elderberry, Sambucus, is a seasonal berry that fruits in time for the prevention of cold and flu season. A member of the Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae), elderberries are perennial shrubs with pithy stems that are typically found in valley bottoms or along streams.

Leaves are oppositely arranged on the stems with 5 to 9 strongly pointed and sharply toothed leaflets that are 2-5 inches long.

Flowers are white with many tiny flowers in clusters.

Fruit is in the form of pea-sized berries that ripen from green to dark blue or black with a waxy coating.

Health Benefits of Elderberries

North American, European, Western Asian and North African cultures have known the medicinal properties of the elderberry plant for thousands of years. The health benefits of the plant are widespread:

  • Antioxidant
  • Lowers Cholesterol
  • Improves Vision
  • Boots Immune System
  • Improves Heart Health
  • Fights Bacterial and Viral Infections

Most notably, the fruit ripens in time to make an elixir to prevent and treat the common cold and flu.

Elderberry Tonic Recipe

(adapted from Wellness Mama)

Photo by Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt

Tip: Freeze freshly picked elderberries in clusters after harvesting to simplify the de-stemming process.


  • 2/3 cup Elderberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3-1/2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp fresh or dried ginger root (or powder)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves or clove powder
  • 1 cup raw honey


  1. Pour water into a medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the liquid reduces to almost half (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  3. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
  4. Discard the elderberries (feed to chickens or compost) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.
  5. Add 1 cup of honey and stir well. (Note: honey is added after the mixture has cooled to keep raw enzymes intact).
  6. Pour mixture into glass jars to be stored in the fridge for up to three months.

Photo by Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt

Recommended Tonic Dose

Prevention (can be taken daily)

  • Kids (13 months-12 years old): 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
  • Adults: 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon


Take the normal dose every 2-3 hours until symptoms disappear.

Don’t get caught off guard by cold and flu season this year. Prepare this easy elderberry elixir for a natural alternative for flu prevention and recovery.

Special Notes:

1. NEVER give Elderberry Tonic to infants 12 months/under.

2. Elderberries can be used as any other berry for pies, jams, breads, stuffing, etc.

3. Consuming raw elderberries causes extreme GI distress in many people. Try a few berries raw before overindulging.

Elderberry Resources

1. Benoliel, Doug. Norwest Foraging. 2011. Skipstone.

2. Elderberry Benefits and Information

3. Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant

4. How to Make Elderberry Syrup for Flu Prevention

Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt, a dedicated forager and outdoor enthusiast, is a blogger for Mother Earth News. Published articles include: Build a DIY Cider Press in the 2015 September/October issue of GRIT and a forthcoming article on 5-Minute Mayonnaise in the 2015 Best of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Lyndsay and her husband, Jordan, are launching on a year of international rock climbing and trekking starting in October 2015. Follow their adventures at A Faithful Journey. Read all of Lyndsay’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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